Sheriff’s Deputy Jason Mackey addresses allegations of dishonesty in court | TheUnion.com

Sheriff’s Deputy Jason Mackey addresses allegations of dishonesty in court

Jason Mackey, a Nevada County sheriff's deputy at the center of misconduct allegations, admits he made mistakes while with the Narcotics Task Force.

But, he said, those errors were rooted in inexperience and the resulting stress of learning on the fly, as opposed to dishonesty or lack of integrity as some defense attorneys have alleged.

At home, Mackey said, concern over his son's surgery for a hearing disability added to the stress and pulled him away from work, where he struggled to get up to speed in his new role with the task force.

That's what Mackey said was on his mind when he realized in mid-2015 he'd made a mistake on a search warrant, which meant a narcotics case had to be dismissed.

"It was my error. I located it," Mackey said. "That's why I asked to have the case dropped."

Only now, nearly three years since submitting that sealed search warrant to a judge, it turns out Detective Jason Mackey didn't make that mistake after all.

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The "error" not only led to the dismissal in 2015 of a narcotics case but also was part of an internal affairs investigation. Some defense attorneys have leveled ongoing accusations against Mackey in the wake of the case's dismissal. Glenn Jennings, the county's former assistant district attorney and a candidate for district attorney, has claimed during at least one campaign event that Mackey lied in the search warrant.

The allegations leveled by defense attorneys led in February to an evidentiary hearing that's occurred over five Fridays.

Overseeing the evidentiary hearing, Superior Court Judge Robert Tice-Raskin has made no decision on the allegations against Mackey.

On Friday, on the stand to speak on his own behalf for the first time, Mackey said the perceived error — that all involved parties had accepted as fact — didn't actually happen. Instead, he's human and has made mistakes.

But, asked Assistant District Attorney Chris Walsh, "have you ever intentionally lied about anything in the course of your career?"

"No, sir," Mackey said.

CORRECTING THE RECORD

Though he spoke in defense of his own actions, Mackey has not been charged with a crime and is not a defendant in the court case that involve a pair of misdemeanor marijuana charges. Defense attorneys want those charges dismissed, pointing to what they claim are problems with search warrants written by Mackey.

Mackey said Friday that the warrant which led to the accusations against him, which he penned in 2015 and isn't related to the evidentiary hearing, was the first sealed search warrant affidavit he filed as a new member of the task force. He said he has learned much since filing the warrant, due to several training opportunities that followed his appointment to the task force, and would not have sought the immediate dismissal of the case if he knew then what he knows now.

A draft of the warrant included what Mackey described as a "statement specific to something (an) informant had provided that was inaccurate."

Mackey was advised by Sgt. Justin Martin, Mackey's former superior in the Narcotics Task Force, to correct the information before submitting it to the court. Mackey said he'd made the changes, but when he reviewed a copy of the warrant prior to the case coming to court, the printed copy did not show the corrections.

"I was positive I'd made the corrections Sergeant Martin asked me to," Mackey said. "But I was looking at a document in black and white that showed I hadn't made the corrections."

Mackey asked Jennings, assistant district attorney at the time, to dismiss the case. Jennings did. And apparently until recent weeks no one had reviewed the actual warrant submitted and sealed in court. On March 16, Martin testified he recently examined the signed search warrant filed with the court, as opposed to the printed copy Mackey showed Jennings in May 2015.

The signed copy filed with the court is correct. It shows that Mackey followed Martin's commands and corrected a draft copy before a judge signed it, the sergeant said.

"That 100 percent proves that Mackey didn't lie," Walsh said at the time. "It's definitive proof."

WORK ENVIRONMENT

Mackey said "tolerated" was the best word to describe how he was treated as a new member of the Narcotics Task Force. His senior officer on the force, Detective Mark Hollitz, didn't mince words about whether he thought Mackey was a good addition to the unit, which is charged with "major narcotics investigations."

"(Hollitz) specifically stated he didn't believe I had the experience to be assigned to that position," Mackey said. "He made it a point to involve other people in the office and exclude me.

"He said he didn't believe I belonged there … He was very open about it."

Defense attorneys Heather Burke and Stephen Munkelt asked Mackey about text messages between him and Hollitz, including an exchange in which they said Hollitz admonished Mackey for mistaking a suspect's statement as an admission of butane honey oil manufacturing. The defense brought several exhibits before Mackey on Friday, asking for explanations for alleged errors or inaccuracies that drew reprimands.

Though he said he didn't recall several cases, Mackey said in one case he erred because he had "provided too much information over the radio." In other instances, he "wasn't able to clearly relate in plain text on paper" what he intended to state.

Burke asked Mackey if task force officers, including Hollitz, didn't want him because "they didn't believe you were trustworthy?"

"That's not what I recall," Mackey said.

Hollitz left his position in February 2017, weeks before accusations surfaced that he had a sexual relationship with a confidential informant.

Defense attorneys asked Mackey about memos documenting "oral consultations" from Mackey's superiors. One consultation centered on Martin's belief that Mackey had not made corrections to the search warrant as directed, resulting in the dismissal of the case. Martin also reportedly stated in an internal affairs investigation report that he could not "fix" Mackey.

An internal affairs investigation by the Sheriff's Office cleared Mackey of any wrongdoing.

Upon learning that Mackey had made the corrections, with the recent review of the sealed warrant, Martin apologized, Walsh said.

"Martin believed you had not corrected the items in the warrant," Walsh said. "He wanted to document the counseling because he felt you hadn't made the changes.

"It turns out, you had made the changes."

— Staff Writer Alan Riquelmy contributed to this report.

Contact Editor Brian Hamilton at bhamilton@theunion.com or 530-477-4249.