A state senator on Tuesday said he asked a judge to
postpone a plea bargain date for a 19-yearold man accused in a Mesa rape because minorities get a raw deal in the justice system.
The postponement request, which came in a letter from Sen. Jack C. Jackson, D-Window Rock, to Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Mark Aceto, was inappropriate, an advocate for the victim in the case said.
"It’s clearly an attempt at influencing a judge because of his position, otherwise it wouldn’t be signed ‘Senator,’ " said Stasy Click, the victim’s advocate on the case who also leads the Victims Legal Assistance Project at Arizona State University.
Jackson faxed the letter Monday, which is when Matthew Apachee was scheduled to plead guilty to offenses stemming from a Nov. 7, 2002, rape of a Mesa college student in an apartment in the 1400 block of South Stapley Drive.
The state accuses Apachee, who claimed to police the sex was consensual, of assaulting the woman after she passed out while Elias Stevens, 18, videotaped.
Stevens pleaded guilty to sexual assault and attempted sexual assault April 23 and has agreed to testify against Apachee, according to court records.
"The parents of Mr. Apachee are my constituents from Legislative District 2 . . . ," Jackson wrote. "They have requested my assistance to appeal to the court for postponement of the plea bargaining date for Mr. Apachee due to concerns of inadequate evidence and lack of proper investigation."
Aceto delayed the hearing until Thursday, but he did it at the request of Apachee’s defense attorney, who stated that he wanted time to speak with supervisors in the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office, Click said.
She said the letter, which the judge handed out to the attorneys, was never mentioned in court.
Apachee’s trial is set for May 29 if he doesn’t plead guilty Thursday.
Jackson said he wrote the letter to get Apachee some "justice" because minorities usually get a raw deal in criminal cases.
Apachee, who was going to Arizona State University at the time of his arrest, is from Lupton on the Navajo Reservation.
Jackson said he has not read the police reports and that all the information he has came from the family.
He refused to answer further questions, saying Apachee’s family asked him not to because they didn’t want the case to have any publicity.
Bill FitzGerald, spokesman for the county attorney’s office, said Jackson also wrote a letter to Maricopa County Attorney Richard Romley.
FitzGerald said late Tuesday that the letter, which may be different from the one sent to Aceto, was not immediately available and that he had not seen it.