A double standard in Delafuente case?
Clarkdale chief defends investigation in officer domestic assault case
See Editorial: Claims against Clarkdale smacks of cops protecting cops
CLARKDALE — A sentencing memo submitted to Yavapai County Judge Michael Bluff by the defense attorney of a police officer convicted of domestic assault includes a letter accusing the Clarkdale Police Department of handling the officer’s arrest differently from other cases
Cody J. Delafuente, who was a Cottonwood police detective when he was arrested off-duty in October 2018 by Clarkdale police, was sentenced recently to three years probation by Bluff, along with restitution and other provisions, but no jail or prison time.
More importantly, perhaps, Bluff did not designate Delafuente’s plea agreement to two counts of aggravated assault-domestic violence as felonies, clearing the way for him to possibly continue in law enforcement.
Letters attached to the memo attest to Delafuente’s character, abilities and talents as a police officer and describe the nature of his relationship with the victim, to whom he was married, as observed by family, friends and acquaintances who saw them together on more than one occasion.
The memo also points out the victim initially called police, but then changed her story once an officer arrived, stating Delafuente was not responsible for her injuries, then changed it again five days later when she went to the Clarkdale police to allege Delafuente assaulted her.
One letter included in the memo was from William Steele, an officer with the Clarkdale Police Department on shift in 2016 when a call came in about alleged domestic violence at Delafuente’s home.
Steele wrote that he requested he not be one of the officers to respond to the call, as he was friends with Delafuente. He wrote that Sgt. Nicole Florisi was “unhappy with my desire to avoid that circumstance,” but she still approved having Steele not respond to the call.
Steele added that even when he was attending the Northern Arizona Regional Training Academy in late 2015, Florisi advised him to “watch himself” around Cottonwood police officers. He also stated that he noticed Florisi and Clarkdale Chief Randy Taylor expressed a “negative opinion” of Cottonwood police and of Delafuente in particular.
As he got to know Delafuente, Steele wrote, he “shrugged everything off as small-town drama.”
Steele wrote that Florisi, in charge of press releases, typically took days to put one together, but a release about Delafuente’s arrest was quickly assembled. Steele had already left the Clarkdale Police Department by that time to pursue other options.
Chief Taylor said the department believes in transparency in all issues. He wrote a letter to the Verde Independent to specifically address the issues covered in Steele’s letter.
“Our case against Mr. Delafuente stands alone on the detailed investigatory work done by all officers involved,” Taylor wrote. “We were saddened to see Mr. Steele choose a path of disparaging remarks and personal attacks against our department. Sometimes, emotion can override the logic and rationale supported by good, solid police work. That can be especially challenging when a personal friend or acquaintance is involved.”
Taylor wrote that in fairness to Steele, his letter is dated October 2018, perhaps written before Steele had all the “necessary information” to write a well-informed letter regarding Delafuente’s culpability. Taylor pointed out that Delafuente admitted guilt by changing his plea on two of the charges.
Taylor also takes issue with Steele sharing, in a letter that ended up in a public court file, information about a 2016 call to Delafuente’s home.
“Some information that was shared with him was in his capacity as a police officer,” Taylor wrote. “It is unfortunate he chose to provide information outside the bounds of that investigation. As for the misleading information Mr. Steele provided in that letter, we acknowledge his view, but we stand behind our investigation, our department and all of our officers.”