Fellow Nevada County Sheriff’s narcotics detective allegedly complained about Mackey in 2014
Editor’s note: This is part two of a look into documents released regarding Nevada County Sheriff’s Deputy Jason Mackey. Part one, “Documents detail alleged wrongdoing by Nevada County Sheriff’s narcotics detective,” appeared in Tuesday’s edition of The Union.
The Nevada County District Attorney’s Office earlier this month released its investigative file on Sheriff’s Deputy Jason Mackey, detailing some of the complaints surrounding the member of the Sheriff’s Narcotics Task Force.
The documents include an investigative memorandum by DA investigator Randall Billingsley, as well as notes from interviews that include three specific incidents brought forward by Deputy Mark Hollitz. The packet also contained a request for transfer due to Mackey’s “dishonesty, incompetence and lack of integrity” and documents provided by Hollitz to bolster his complaints.
But those documents only raised more concerns, say the attorneys who received the disclosures.
Stephen Munkelt and Heather Burke are just two of the defense attorneys who have been raising questions about Mackey’s credibility in relation to felony drug cases currently being prosecuted in Nevada County Superior Court.
Burke tangled with Assistant District Attorney Joe Alexander in court last week on a marijuana case involving co-defendants Mark Gonsman and Corey Connors.
Alexander said there was nothing in the documents that rose to a criminal level, and argued that complaints over the DA’s Office possibly withholding “Brady evidence” — information that could prove the innocence of the defendant or impeach the credibility of government witnesses — were no longer valid now that he had released the information being sought.
“Frankly, it’s silly,” he said, adding he wanted an evidentiary hearing to determine whether the documents were Brady material. “Do the accusations add up to a hill of beans, or not?”
Burke this week said she intends to file a motion to dismiss the case due to prosecutorial misconduct, which she expects to argue at the next court date, Jan. 3.
“The District Attorney’s characterization of this new evidence as ‘silly’ only raises more questions, and our community should be demanding answers,” Burke said. “If this new information, which proves the Sheriff’s Office has been aware of serious and repeated allegations against Deputy Mackey for an astonishing amount of time, were truly ‘silly,’ why didn’t the DA just disclose it to the defense attorneys?
“Why was it kept a secret, even from his own staff?” Burke continued. “Why was anyone who complained about Deputy Mackey transferred out of the narcotics unit? However the DA and Sheriff choose to spin the issue this time, it is clear Nevada County has a legitimate scandal on its hands.”
Fellow deputy shared concerns
The documents that were released by the DA’s Office include texts from March 2015 between Hollitz, who was on the narcotics task force with Mackey, and Sgt. Justin Martin, the head of the unit.
The texts appear to document long-standing concerns not just on the part of Hollitz, but from Martin as well.
In a series of texts that began in late March, Martin alludes to a “request for review and transfer,” apparently for Mackey, and asks Hollitz to hold off on giving the administration an ultimatum.
Hollitz replies that he asked for a meeting with Lt. Bill Smethers, who oversees the task force, and was “kicked” back to Martin.
“If they keep him and let me go, I will not lie if asked why,” Hollitz texted. “I will not be fired for Brady issues.”
In response, Martin texted Hollitz that he was “addressing the issue,” and that he wouldn’t stop until he could get it resolved.
“Even if you leave I am not going to stop trying to rotate him,” Martin wrote, adding that he wanted to continue documenting his case.
On April 1, 2015, Hollitz submitted a letter to Martin requesting a transfer. Hollitz complained about Mackey being dishonest, as well as not collecting evidence, Miranda issues and sharing confidential information with civilians.
Hollitz asked to be reassigned to the Major Crimes Unit, but was returned to patrol duties from his detective role.
In the letter, Hollitz states that he had shared his concerns for approximately six months with Martin, as well as Sgt. Guy Selleck, Martin’s predecessor on the task force, and with Smethers.
Undersheriff Joe Salivar said last week that “at some point in time, information came to the attention of the Sheriff’s Office that there was an accusation of dishonesty from one employee against another, which also appeared to involve personality conflicts.”
According to Salivar, those accusations were being informally investigated when the DA’s Office contacted his office regarding a similar accusation.
A memo sent by District Attorney Cliff Newell to Sheriff Keith Royal indicates that Newell met with Sheriff’s Capt. Jeff Pettitt in late May 2015 and then with Salivar and Royal in early June.
Newell wrote that “it was decided by the parties” that allegations of misconduct would be dealt with by the Sheriff’s Office.
In April of this year — nearly one year later — Royal said his office had launched a formal internal affairs investigation that took approximately seven months and generated a 900-page report.
“In the end, we found no misconduct,” he said.
Both Salivar and Royal said the allegations did not warrant reassigning Mackey out of the narcotics task force.
Such a transfer could be viewed as punitive, Salivar said, adding that the officer is entitled to due process unless there is gross negligence or something criminal.
To contact City Editor Liz Kellar, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 530-477-4229.
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