sentenced

No jail time for Flagstaff cop in bar groping

2012-09-06T09:05:00Z 2012-09-06T22:16:13Z No jail time for Flagstaff cop in bar gropingBy ERIC BETZ Sun staff reporter Arizona Daily Sun
September 06, 2012 9:05 am  • 

After being convicted by a jury earlier this summer of sexual abuse for groping a woman in a bar, ex-DPS Officer Robb Gary Evans walked out of a Coconino County Superior Courtroom on Wednesday morning having been sentenced to two years of probation.

Evans received credit for the four days of jail time he served in Coconino County jail.

Prosecutors contended that he drank eight beers and then drove himself to the Green Room, where he flashed his badge in an attempt to get into a concert for free. While inside, he walked up behind the victim, who was a friend of a friend, put his hand up her skirt and then ran his fingers across her genitals.

When bouncers threw him out, Evans told them he was a cop and they would be arrested.

The 43-year-old former Arizona Department of Public Safety officer was facing between six months and 2 1/2 years in prison, but the crime was eligible for probation. He will not be required to register as a sex offender, according to the sentence.

The judge said she considered the defendant's lack of a criminal record and strong community support in her sentencing.

She also advised the victim to be more vigilant.

BAD THINGS CAN HAPPEN IN BARS

A jury convicted Evans of sexual abuse, a class 5 felony, on July 2.

DPS fired Evans shortly after his criminal conviction and following an internal investigation, according to officials.

The judge sentencing Evans, Coconino County Superior Court Judge Jacqueline Hatch, said she hoped both the defendant and the victim would take lessons away from the case.

Bad things can happen in bars, Hatch told the victim, adding that other people might be more intoxicated than she was.

"If you wouldn't have been there that night, none of this would have happened to you," Hatch said.

Hatch told the victim and the defendant that no one would be happy with the sentence she gave, but that finding an appropriate sentence was her duty.

"I hope you look at what you've been through and try to take something positive out of it," Hatch said to the victim in court. "You learned a lesson about friendship and you learned a lesson about vulnerability."

Hatch said that the victim was not to blame in the case, but that all women must be vigilant against becoming victims.

"When you blame others, you give up your power to change," Hatch said that her mother used to say.

VICTIM HOPES OTHERS STAND UP

The victim, a local Flagstaff professional, told the court that she had been harshly criticized by members of the community and even friends who accused her of ruining the defendant's life by pursuing prosecution.

"I sincerely hope this trial will prevent other women from being victimized in the future," she said. "I am more exhausted than I have ever been. I stood up for what happened to me for reasons bigger than me."

Evans also pinched another woman on the buttocks an hour before sexually abusing the victim in this case, according to a witness. The judge ruled before trial that the incident would be prejudicial if it was allowed to be admitted as evidence.

When asked for comment, Coconino County Attorney David Rozema said that the victim's character and commitment in this case were a key part of the prosecution and subsequent conviction by the jury.

He said that more victims are now reporting sex crimes and called their courage "exemplary."

"Victims need to feel safe to report and assist prosecution," Rozema said. "They bear no responsibility for the actions of those who commit sex crimes against them. Offenders alone must be held accountable."

VERDICT QUESTIONED

Before the sentencing, character witnesses for the defendant questioned the jury's guilty verdict.

Prosecutors criticized that testimony, which was given in person and by letter, as trying to cast Evans as the victim of some conspiracy by detectives, prosecutors, bouncers at the Green Room and the victim herself. Some 25 letters were submitted on Evans' behalf, many from current and former law enforcement officers.

Deputy Coconino County Attorney Jonathan Mosher said that he was not asking for any greater punishment for Evans because he was a cop, but simply that he not be granted any less of a punishment, either.

A woman who said she was a former intimate partner of Evans told the judge that the behavior was completely out of character for the defendant.

"His losses at this point go farther than anything that could be handed down here," she said.

The woman said Evans has lost his job and will likely lose his house because of it. She also said that because he's now a felon, he will have lost the ability to hunt, which numerous "hunting buddies" told the court was one of Evans' chief passions.

His defense attorney said he was also disturbed that he would no longer be able to vote.

ASKING FOR LENIENCY

"These people put their lives on the line every day," Evan's former partner said. "I hope you'll be lenient on him. To me, this is one way we can give a little back to those in law enforcement who give so much to us everyday."

Others also asked for leniency.

"I don't necessarily agree with the way this case got to be here," former Flagstaff Police Lt. Randy Weems told the judge.

Weems was recently a candidate for Flagstaff chief of police.

"This is the second time in 25 years that I feel the system didn't work," he later added.

Evans' defense attorney, Bruce Griffen, picked up on that same line of argument, referring to it as a "very disputed case."

"Sometimes, the bigger you are, the harder you fall in this line of work," he said.

Griffen did concede that his client likely should not have been in a bar that night and been so intoxicated, but he said Evans had not entered a bar since his arrest.

Judge Hatch expressed her concern with the amount of alcohol Evans drank that day and said that "Joe blow" would have been considered dangerous if he were driving.

"As a law enforcement officer you're held to a higher standard," Hatch said. "If you didn't want to be held to a higher standard you shouldn't have become a law enforcement officer."

In addition to probation, Hatch sentenced the defendant to 100 hours of community service and prohibited him from possessing or consuming alcohol during his probation.

If Evans breaks any part of his probation, he could still be sentenced to as much as 2 1/2 years in prison.

Eric Betz can be reached at 556-2250 or ebetz@azdailysun.com.

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