A judge could decide this week the fate of former chief deputy Christopher Radtke. He confessed to misusing anti-racketeering funds totaling half a million dollars.
Once second in command in the Pima County Sheriff's Department, Ratdke violated the trust of the community. The FBI charged him with conspiracy to commit money laundering and theft, but he worked out what many are calling a super sweetheart deal.
As part of that plea deal, Radtke admitted guilt, but only theft of a few thousand dollars. He did have to give up some information. He confessed how he did it, nameless superiors were involved, and the crime spanned more than 18 years.
The question now: Will the judge accept the agreement at his sentencing scheduled May 5th?
Radtke walked into federal court facing several felony charges -- possibly 80 years in prison and $1.5 million in restitution, but the U.S. Attorney's office in Utah reduced those charges to three misdemeanors of theft. No prison time. No restitution.
"I was taken aback. I was thinking there must be more to this story," said Judge Rick Romley, the former Maricopa County attorney for nearly two decades. Romley was the prosecutor of the AZSCAM case in the1990's, the largest public corruption scandal in Arizona.
Romley believes Radtke's plea agreement does *not match the crime. "It's a super sweetheart deal, but you know what it is Valerie, I just don't understand it. I do not understand why this deal was given. This is outrageous. I mean I've seen people who have stolen 500 dollars from Circle K get prison sentences. Here we're getting a law enforcement official -- hundreds of thousands of dollars."
The U.S. Attorney's announcement of the plea deal makes no mention of a probe into the conspiracy -- into the superiors involved. "What happened to the conspiracy charge? Where are these other people and why aren't they being held accountable?" said Pima County Sheriff's Department union leader Sgt. Kevin Kubitskey, who is one of the first whistleblowers.
"Why would you offer a plea without getting something in return. It's almost never happened," said Kubitskey.
Romley and other attorneys who've weighed in over the past few months agree. "It's outrageous. He's even keeping his state pension and it's just wrong," said Romley.
KGUN9 reached out to US Attorney John Huber. but was told he won't talk about the case until after Radtke's sentencing.
The magistrate judge hearing the case pushed the previous sentencing date of April to May. "It was told to me that is was because there's a lot to this case and the judge wants to be extremely well versed," said Kubitskey.
"We are law enforcement and you will lose the public confidence and trust and there is nothing worse to a law enforcement agency than to lose that. They will never trust you and it will be very hard to regain that trust," said Romley.
That burden now falls on the new sheriff's lap. "Even today, even though you have a different sheriff. They're wondering have they really gotten to the bottom of it," said Romley.
Romely says Sheriff Mark Napier should call for outside entities to look into the 18 years of money laundering. "I would ask the state Auditor General to come in and do a audit of the RICO account. They have the authority to do that. Just because you've had a federal charge brought doesn't mean a state charge can't be brought. I'd ask the Arizona Attorney General to
KGUN9 asked Napier. He responded, "I think I'd like to see what happens on Friday first. And take care of that. Take that off the table because we don't know what the course of this might be after Friday."
Napier says a rejection of the plea agreement could change the course of the federal case. "And in the strongest terms possible, I hope the judge doesn't accept the plea agreement -- rejects it summarily. It is a bad agreement. It's in the bad interest of this county and I hope that the judge rejects that," he said.
KGUN9 has learned the judge received letters from whistleblowers and community members asking him to reject the plea deal.
Meantime, the Pima County Attorney's Office, which administers the RICO funds, has put new procedures in place to prevent future fraud. The office is now asking for receipts of all expenditures.
KGUN9's investigation into this FBI case continues.