A judge on Monday blocked release of a grand jury probe of the 15-day hostage crisis at a state prison, a review the public paid several hundred thousand dollars to conduct.
Colin Campbell, presiding judge of Maricopa County Superior Court, ruled Monday there is no legal authority for publication of what grand jurors learned about the 15-day hostage standoff in January at the Arizona State Prison Complex —Lewis west of Phoenix. Campbell said grand jury procedures are secret for a reason, and he could find no overriding public reason to bend those statutes.
Campbell chided state lawmakers who asked for the grand jury probe and Maricopa County Attorney Richard Romley for agreeing to set up the inquiry.
He also accused Melvin McDonald, the private lawyer hired by Romley to head the investigation, of "misconduct" for filing a public motion to release the report.
McDonald said, "There was no intention on my part to do anything improper."
He noted that the grand jury probe — and his desire for a published report — were already matters of public record.
McDonald said he believes the cost of his time and that of investigators, which is being billed to Maricopa County, will run between $300,000 and $400,000.
He said that does not include the cost of grand jury transcripts that Campbell ordered so he could read what took place before issuing his order.
Senate President Ken Bennett, R-Prescott, who had sought the investigation, said he was disappointed that lawmakers and taxpayers won’t find out more about what happened in January when two inmates armed with homemade weapons took two guards hostage.
One guard was released after several days; the other was raped repeatedly before the prisoners eventually surrendered.
Gov. Janet Napolitano formed her own commission to investigate what led to the crisis.
But Republican legislative leaders, seeking their own inquiry, asked Romley to help.
Bennett said he and House Speaker Jake Flake, RSnowflake, based their request to convene a grand jury on Romley’s advice.
Romley was out of town Monday and could not be reached for comment.