Mon, Dec. 09

Delafuente gets three years probation in domestic assault case

Cody Delafuente

Cody Delafuente

COTTONWOOD — Cody J. Delafuente learned his fate Monday: pleading guilty to two “undesignated” felonies won’t cost him his career in law enforcement.

Monday, Yavapai County Superior Court Judge Michael Bluff sentenced Delafuente to three years probation, zero jail time and a series of fines and fees, designating the two crimes to which Delafuente pleaded guilty as non-felonies.

Bluff accepted the guilty pleas of Delafuente, 28, a Cottonwood police officer who is on paid administrative leave, to two counts of aggravated assault-domestic violence, stemming from an October 2018 in which his then-wife was injured.

State statute permits certain crimes to remain undesignated felonies, giving judges latitude in terms of imposing felony sentences and designating crimes at the time of sentencing. Delafuente, his father and brother all testified at Monday’s sentencing hearing.

A tearful Delafuente pointed out his father and grandfather were in law enforcement, and his brother is entering the field soon. “My whole life has been geared toward serving and protecting others,” Delafuente said in court. “For the past year, I’ve been thinking of all my brothers who are risking their lives every day, along with my girlfriend and family, who’ve supported me.”

The family left the courthouse as a group and didn’t take any questions from The Verde Independent. Delafuente initially faced charges of kidnapping, aggravated assault, assault with intent to injure and preventing or interfering with emergency telecommunications.

The charges stemmed from an incident involving his wife. He pleaded guilty Sept. 4 to the two amended charges, two counts of aggravated assault-domestic violence, which are listed as Class 6 felonies in Arizona, but Bluff chose to sentence Delafuente as a non-felon. Delafuente told the court he wanted Bluff to designate his crimes in a way that would allow him to continue his career in law enforcement.

Cottonwood Police Chief Steve Gesell issued a brief statement.

““We have anxiously awaited the court’s decision in this case,” Gesell said. “Monday’s hearing will allow for the completion of our administrative investigation, which has been in a less-than-desirable holding pattern for some time. Once received, we will examine the facts and take the appropriate personnel action.”

A sentencing report and a sentencing memo, both mentioned several times in court Monday, were not available.

Delafuente was placed on administrative leave twice — in the weeks after his arrest, before he was “demoted to a position answering phones, and helping dispatch,” in the words of his attorney, Jason Karpel of Phoenix — and again after he signed his plea agreement in early September, pending the outcome of Monday’s sentencing.

The other charges against Delafuente have been dropped — a common element of plea agreements for defendants facing multiple charges. Delafuente had been a detective with the Cottonwood Police Department when he was arrested in October 2018 following an investigation of domestic violence toward his then-wife at a home in Clarkdale.

Delafuente didn’t speak long at Monday’s hearing, nor did his brother, whose first name was inaudible. His father, who said his name is Dominic, spoke longer, saying his son got into law enforcement to help people — and had “put himself in a situation to be able to help someone.”

“I was a deputy with the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office for 23 years, so it’s very different to be on this side, with my son charged,” his father said in court. “It’s made me reflect on the whole judicial system. My son has always tried to do the right thing, when he was in the Marines, and as a police officer.”

Delafuente’s charges carried a wide range of sentence possibilities, ranging from probation to maximums of 18 months in state prison and/or a $150,000 fine.

Coconino County Assistant Attorney Eric Ruchensky, the prosecutor assigned to Delafuente’s case, didn’t push for prison or jail time, but used the extent of the victim’s injuries — including a broken nose — in imploring Bluff to go with a heavy approach to sentencing.

Delafuente will have to undergo screening for possible entry into a domestic violence program. Bluff waived the common 30-day deadline the prosecution has to come up with total restitution requested, which is capped at $100,000.

Karpel talked at length about what he’d learned about Delafuente, as a person, and his family in the pursuit of his client’s defense.

Karpel pointed out that after the Cottonwood Police’s internal investigation, Delafuente was allowed to stay on the force, albeit in a role that didn’t involve initiating contact with the public.

“Cody has been adamant that these few moments of bad judgment should not be the only reflection of who he is,” Karpel said in court. “The consequences of this will extend beyond those imposed by the court, and are not just financial or in terms of taking classes. He wanted a plea agreement — against counsel’s (my) advice — because he wants to face and deal with those consequences.”

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