Phoenix Law Enforcement Association

Rich Chrisman’s Attorney Speaks Out

On Monday, April 4, 2011, the management of the Phoenix PD terminated Officer Richard Chrisman.  This was done without the benefit of a completed PSB investigation for Rich and his attorney to review.  PSB personnel communicated to Rich and his PLEA Rep that the decision to terminate was not theirs.

PLEA will be holding a Member Appreciation Barbeque at the PLEA office on Thursday, April 7th, with donations accepted at the door to benefit Rich.  CLICK HERE for a copy of the flyer which contains times.

In addition, PLEA received the following communication from Rich’s attorney who asked that it be posted for the benefit of and to provide information to the PLEA membership:

An open letter to the members of PLEA:

I am Richard Chrisman’s criminal attorney.  In the weeks and months since the shooting on October 5 a lot of information and, sadly, misinformation has been put out to you and the public.  It started with the County Attorney hurriedly indicting Richard and releasing a PSB tape showing alleged misconduct by Rich over four years ago; conduct that had been known to the County Attorney and the Police department since it had happened.  Although it may have shown bad judgment on the part of the officers involved, it had nothing to do with the Oct. 5 shooting.  But it did serve Mr. Romley’s purpose in agitating the community and polarizing the public against Rich.  But Mr. Romley did not stop there.  He allowed a deputy County Attorney who was and still is on probation from the State Bar of Arizona for his misconduct in a murder trial to co-present Rich’s case to the Grand Jury, and then denied to the media he had done so.  There are several other instances, but the above should give you some idea that Mr. Romley did not want this case tried to an impartial Grand or Petit jury.

Let me digress a bit.  Chandler police officer Dan Lovelace was also indicted by Mr. Romley for allegedly murdering an unarmed woman while he was on duty.  The judge sent the case back to the grand jury which refused to indict Dan; so Mr. Romley filed a direct complaint.  Dan was tried by a jury and acquitted on all charges.  Mr. Romley’s deputy that prosecuted the case was asked by the media after the verdict for his comments:  He said, “It just goes to show you how hard it is to convict a police officer in this County.”  I was Dan’s attorney in that case and I have spoken to many of the jurors.  They not only believed he was Not Guilty, they believed he was totally innocent.  And many have spoken publicly to that point.  However, the public and the media took the same approach to Dan’s case as they are taking to Rich’s:  How could he shoot an unarmed person?  Fortunately Dan’s union stood behind him.

Recently many of you, your wives, your loved ones, and others in the community have questioned how PLEA could support Rich; from the start; but now that he is fired, the rhetoric has escalated to degrees that really frighten me.  Rich is only charged; nothing more.  He is presumed innocent under the law and he should be presumed innocent by you, its citizens.

Since PLEA announced that it was holding a BBQ to support Rich, the public clamor has become even more contentious.  Many people cannot understand why his Union would still support him, suggesting, I guess, that if the Police department fired him, he must be guilty; that the Brass must know what they are doing.  If that were so, then there would be no need for unions in the country; we could just trust the brass to look out for the rank and file.

First let’s discuss money.  PLEA has not paid a dime of my fees; nor will they.  Nor did the Chandler Police Union, which supported Dan all the way, pay a dime of my fees.  When an officer joins PLEA, as in other police unions, the union through a contract with PORAC [a company based in California], guarantees an officer legal representation if he or she is charged with a crime, allegedly, committed on duty.  Most of you have no idea how many officers I  have represented over the years, as have many other lawyers.  Most, and I do mean most, are never convicted.  Many are never even charged.  Why?  I would like to think it is because of good lawyering, but really I would suggest that it is because officers are easy targets of false allegations.  Many of these defenses were hugely expensive [lawyers are not cheap].  Had the officer had to pay himself, the cost would have probably been out of his or her reach.  But for the Union and it’s agreement with PORAC, many of these cases would not have turned out so favorably or if they did, the officer would have been in serious debt for a long time.

There is so much in the Richard Chrisman case that is unknown to you and the public and most of it is favorable to Rich and his reasons for shooting Daniel Rodriquez.  Certainly Officer Sergio Virgillo has made statements that have been leaked to the public that cast Rich in a poor light.  However, a look at some of the evidence casts a serious doubt about the accuracy of Officer Virgillo’s statements: about the veracity of his statements.  For example, the tox report, which strangely took the County Attorney four months to give to us, shows a methamphetamine and amphetamine level in Daniel’s blood that is extraordinarily high.  It proves what Daniel’s mother told the police:  Daniel was very high on Oct. 5 and had been for some time.  This is inconsistent with Officer Virgillo’s version of the events as he watched them from outside the trailer; for that’s is exactly where he was when the situation started escalating.  According to Officer Virgillo the dog made him afraid; and the pepper spray bothered him, so he left his fellow officer inside the trailer to handle the situation.

And Officer Virgillo was speaking on his personal cell phone at the time Rich was knocking on Daniels door.  Officer Virgillo received a personal call as Rich started knocking on the door [this was the second time, after they had been there once, returned to the trailer where mom was, and at her direction, returned to get Daniel out of her trailer].  Officer Virgillo spoke for about a minute and hung up.  Officer Virgillo has said that the dog and Daniel were shot in the next minute. Officer Vergilllo has said that after “hands on”; after pepper spray; and after being tased twice; Daniel calmly said, basically, “Ok, guys, you’re right.  I’m going to ride my bike over to my dad’s.”  Rich told the officers at the scene that Daniel tried to take his gun from him.  Which makes more sense:  A suspect high, very high, on meth suddenly calms down and says he’s leaving; or that same suspect does not calm down and goes for an officer’s gun?

There is more, a lot more, that could be discussed.  For example, one officer extremely familiar with the investigation has told the prosecuting attorney that if both officers had been “hands on” this shooting would never have happened.  But neither he nor Chief Harris wanted to hear that.  However, the point of this letter is not to prove Officer Virgillo is wrong or that Officer Chrisman is right, but to point out that there is a great deal of evidence all of you have not been privy to and do not know and that maybe at this point Rich deserves to be supported and to let the Criminal Justice system sort this out.