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Diversion Program surpasses 1,400 successful cases

FLORENCE – More than 1,400 people have successfully completed the Diversion Program since it returned to the Pinal County Attorney’s Office in 2017.

The Diversion Program provides a path for some defendants to earn the ability to avoid a potential conviction, while learning tools to prevent similar problems from reappearing later in life.

The mission of the diversion program is to “…reduce recidivism, advance justice, and promote community safety through the use of evidence-based programs and effective community supervision tailored to the risks and needs of each individual.”

One recent participant who successfully completed the program is Jarrett, a man who lives in Florence.

“I think I’ve only had one traffic ticket,” he said. “I’ve never been in trouble before.”

That changed one day last year, after an incident left Jarrett facing an assault charge.

“[I was] terrified,” he said. “Terrified.”

Jarrett feared going to jail.

“The true gravity of the situation I put myself into became real,” he said.

Jarrett became eligible for the Diversion Program, which consists of a variety of requirements, such as treatment and/or community service, tailored to each individual participant.

“I just felt like I probably deserved jail but I don’t think jail would have done me a lot of good,” Jarrett said.

The Diversion Program encourages positive behavior change in order to deter any possible future incidents.

“Not everybody is eligible for Diversion,” said Diversion Officer Nicole Buccellato. “Normally, it’s first time offenders that have a chance of, once their record is clean, living a productive adult life.”

Buccellato worked with Jarrett to come up with a plan for his individual case.

In general, Buccellato said the goal is to try and find the root cause of what sparked a particular incident.

“A lot of factors go into that, what happened on that night, what do they admit to,” she said. “They could have a substance abuse problem where they only possibly…hit their partner or break things when they’re drunk. So, rather than send them straight to [domestic violence] classes, we may have them do a substance abuse class first.”

Jarrett was given a plan to follow.

“She came to the conclusion that my drinking was the catalyst for the problem that I put myself into,” Jarrett said. “Which, at that time, I thought was a bunch of crap.”

Jarrett said while hesitant at first, he warmed up to the Diversion Program and was enrolled in a recovery program and attended private counseling.

“To my surprise, when I put my nose down and called the alcohol program, it surprised me how intense it was,” Jarrett said. “It made me immediately realize, by talking to the people, that I did have an issue going on.”

Buccellato noted Jarrett’s success while going through the Diversion Program.

“I don’t think he missed one treatment,” she said. “Never was late on one payment.”

The Diversion Program can also include community service. A back-to-school drive several weeks ago netted dozens of backpacks and other supplies provided by participants. The supplies then went to the Casa Grande Alliance, which distributes those items to the community.

Buccellato looks forward to helping each participant she meets become successful in the program.

 “I’ve lived in Pinal County my whole entire life,” she said. “This is my neighborhood, this is my area and these people are in this county, which affects all of us.”

Jarrett successfully completed the Diversion Program and has advice for others who might be as hesitant as he was at first.

“Get honest with yourself, please,” he said. “You didn’t get into that predicament, or whatever predicament you’re in, for no reason at all.”

It is rare for defendants to be unsuccessful in completing the Diversion Program. Since 2017, prosecution has only resumed on 292 cases.

Jarrett is looking forward to his future.

“Back to my old life, minus the drinking,” Jarrett said. “Got my wife back, got my life back, my son is happy, I’m good.”

Community group helping pick up trash

CASA GRANDE – The Pinal County Attorney’s Office would like to extend a special thank you to community members who are going above and beyond to pitch in and pick up trash in their neighborhoods. 

One such group is located in Casa Grande. 

“This is our town,” said resident Megan Sanders. “We should take pride in it.”

Sanders helped start a grassroots group that organizes a community cleanup every few weeks around Casa Grande. The group, titled Rooster Club Desert Clean-Up, decides what locations to target and consists of more than 200 members, and counting, who have joined their Facebook page. 

“It was, ‘it needs to get done and if no one else is going to do it, we’re going to step up and do it,” Sanders said of the initiative to begin the cleanups. 

The group’s latest cleanup occurred this past Saturday, at the intersection of McCartney Road and Pinal Avenue in Casa Grande. 

“A lot of us that have founded the group are the ones who have bought trash bags,” Sanders said. “We’ve paid for dump fees.”

Sanders’ son Brody, 12, also takes part in the cleanup effort. 

“It’s been really fun,” Brody Sanders said. “It’s a good way to bring the community together.”

As you might imagine, the group comes across all sorts of trash and improperly disposed of items during their cleanups. 

“Mattresses, shelving…couches,” Sanders said. “Pillows, trash, stacks of bills that should be shredded.”

That’s not all. 

“We found a whole entire boat,” Brody Sanders said. 

That brought about a little laugh. 

“Yeah, there was a boat,” Megan Sanders said. 

The group is planning another community cleanup in September, although the exact location is yet to be determined. They are looking for others to join, and have seen increased interest as their effort grows and after they were recently featured in a local news story. They hope to continue making a difference while also encouraging those who are dumping the trash and debris to stop. 

“We as adults can do better,” Sanders said. “Ultimately, that’s what I hope, is that if we each do a little bit better, there will be less and less trash.”

Pinal County is actively working to ensure residents have adequate information on how – and where – to properly dispose of items. Pinal County is also working to enhance measures to target offenders. Additional information and resources will be rolling out in the coming weeks to further address the issue.

‘Water Days’ in Arizona City

The Pinal County Attorney’s Office would like to thank the Arizona City Fire District and Chief Jeff Heaton for putting on ‘Water Days’ for kids in the community throughout the Summer. The event is held three days each week during the Summer and provides families a great option for food and fun.

The Pinal County Attorney’s Office is proud to sponsor lunch for the kids on Fridays throughout the month of July.

County Attorney Kent Volkmer and other agency staff stopped by the event last week. Pictures and video from the visit are below. The kids had a great time!

 

Good Samaritan Drug Law

Reminder: Arizona has a Good Samaritan drug law that can help save lives. The statute protects victims of overdose as well as those who call for medical help while present during an overdose.

According to the Arizona Department of Health Services, there have been more than 9,800 suspected Opioid deaths statewide since June 2017.

During a drug-induced overdose, time is of the essence. Do not be afraid to call for help.

Below is a message from County Attorney Kent Volkmer.

Pinal County Attorney’s Office Statement on Child Abuse Allegations

FLORENCE, Ariz. (March 18, 2019) – Pinal County Attorney’s Office is evaluating the child abuse allegations against City of Maricopa resident Machelle Hobson, 47. We were first alerted to the police investigation and underlying allegations by City of Maricopa Police Department. On March 15, 2019, Hobson, and her two biological children 27-year-old Logan Hackney and 25-year-old Ryan Hackney, were taken into custody by local law enforcement.

Pinal County Attorney’s Office takes child abuse allegations very seriously. We are conducting a comprehensive review of the investigation to determine the most appropriate way to proceed forward with formal charges. While the allegations are highly disturbing and alarming, all three defendants are innocent until proven guilty.

“Children are our community’s most precious resource, and this office is committed to holding those individuals who choose to harm them fully accountable for their actions,” County Attorney Kent Volkmer said.

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Why PCAO will have a presence at the 54th legislative session

FLORENCE, Ariz. — On Monday, January 14, 2019, the Arizona legislature held its opening ceremony.  Arizona Representative (R) David Cook invited both Pinal County Attorney Kent Volkmer and Pinal County Sheriff Mark Lamb to the 54th legislative session.  During the ceremony, Governor Doug Ducey made his fifth State of the State speech to attendees.

We will have representatives from Pinal County Attorney’s Office at Arizona’s 54th Legislative session to listen and answer questions on laws that may have an impact on Pinal County.  We asked County Attorney Kent Volkmer to explain why it is important for PCAO to have a presence during the 2019 legislative session.

 

Pinal County Man Sentenced to 280 Years for Child Pornography

sentence, jury, prison, child pornography, conviction, Pinal County, Pinal County Superior Court, Michael Huntoon,

Michael Huntoon gets 280 years in prison for child pornography

January 17, 2019

FLORENCE, Ariz. – A jury found 40-year-old Michael Huntoon guilty of ten counts of sexual exploitation of a minor and dangerous crimes against children.

At sentencing on January 9th, the court imposed a presumptive sentence of 28 years for each of the ten counts against him.  In total, Huntoon was sentenced to 280-years in prison.

“This office is committed to putting predators behind bars and keeping our communities safe.  Sentences like these ensure that Mr. Huntoon and those like him will never perpetrate another crime on another child,” Pinal County Attorney Kent Volkmer said.

In 2015, Phoenix and Chandler Police Departments uncovered Huntoon’s actions while they were proactively investigating on a peer-to-peer file sharing network known for the distribution of child pornography.  On the file-sharing network, they discovered downloadable images and videos exploiting children.  After close examination, detectives discovered the source of the information came from Huntoon’s computer.

The Phoenix Police Department, with the assistance of the Pinal County Sheriff’s Office, searched Huntoon’s Apache Junction residence.  During the search, law enforcement seized a laptop, cell phone, and tablet belonging to Huntoon.  Detectives from the Phoenix Police Department forensically analyzed those devices which resulted in the discovery of thousands of images of minors, as young as five-years-old.  Law enforcement officers arrested Huntoon on October 28, 2015.

“Cases like these are built by the seamless collaboration of multiple jurisdictions and police agencies.  By these agencies working together, men like Mr. Huntoon are systematically identified, prosecuted, and held accountable for their crimes against our most vulnerable,” Volkmer said.

Report child exploitation to the Arizona Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force at 623-466-1835.  Additionally, you can file a report online on the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children Cybertipline or call your local police agency.

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