Pinal County Attorney Lando Voyles met with the Coolidge Chamber of Commerce on April 17 to discuss a variety of issues his office is working on, including a new initiative to help veterans in trouble with the law.
Voyles is calling the initiative the Veterans Group, and will involve many of the police departments in the county, as well as the sheriff’s office. Officers and deputies have been asked to indicate on their crime reports whether the suspect is a veteran. If a report comes across a county attorney’s desk, and that indicator is present, the attorney has the ability to pursue other means of helping a veteran besides throwing them in prison. This will mostly be applied to cases where Voyles’ office could either purse prison time or probation.
“If you’re accused of murder, there’s not much I can do for you,” Voyles said.
Voyles has previously had tough words for criminals in Pinal County, running for the office on a platform of seeking prison time instead of probation for those who deserve it. He reiterated that commitment during his presentation to the chamber, but said veteran cases will be an exception.
“We started taking mandatory prison defendants and forcing them to prison, as opposed to dismissing the mandatory prison sentences,” Voyles said. “Now we have defendants who realize that this is the best they’re going to get.”
This initiative was drawn up due to the complex mental state of those returning to war, Voyles said. He believes there is more of a duty of law enforcement to help out those who have served in the military due to the problems they come back with.
“They have a different problem than most people have,” Voyles said. “They have come back from a war zone. They have post-traumatic stress disorder, and other illnesses where they can’t just be thrown into prison and be cured. We want to get them help.”
More specific details will be released later this week, according to the office’s spokesperson Jim Knupp.
“No one else has ever done this in Arizona,” Voyles said.
Other notes from Voyles’ presentation:
• The county attorney’s office has implemented a vertical prosecution system to replace the previous horizontal system. Under the horizontal system, an attorney would take a report from a police officer and review it, then send it to another bureau to take it to grand jury and get it either approved or rejected and a third attorney would take the case to court. Now, the county has been divided into sectors, and officers and deputies know which attorney to bring a case to for each crime. That attorney then charges it if there is sufficient evidence.
“This is bringing our deputy attorneys out to crime scenes, where they can work hand-in-hand with officers,” Voyles said. “We’re actually the first county in the state of Arizona to go fully vertical.”
• Voyles is looking to create a family advocacy center in San Tan Valley to support those 80,000 residents to try to replicate the success he said is coming from the center in Eloy. The office is looking for outside support and volunteers to get the center opened.