Maricopa County attorney didn't charge former prisons director with aggravated assault. Here's why

By Matthew Casey
Published: Friday, February 16, 2024 - 7:38am
Updated: Friday, February 16, 2024 - 7:43am

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Arizona Department of Corrections Director Charles Ryan
Alexandra Olgin/KJZZ
Charles Ryan in 2018.

After an armed standoff with police at his Tempe home, the former director of the state Department of Corrections was not charged with aggravated assault.

The Maricopa County attorney has kept a promise to explain that decision.

Tempe police said Charles Ryan pointed a gun at officers during a standoff at his home in 2022.

But County Attorney Rachel Mitchell said body camera footage does not show Ryan pointing the gun directly at officers in a deliberate way.

“He’s got a gun in his hand. He’s moving it around. And so at some point that it crosses over the officers,” Mitchell said.

Mitchell decided, based on a trove of body camera footage, Ryan’s medical records, and talks with Tempe police leaders, that prosecutors could not prove Ryan intended to make officers fear for their lives.

Ryan pleaded no contest to a gun charge, which prosecutors wanted labeled a felony.

Then Ryan’s defense lawyer tried to have his client’s crime designated a misdemeanor.

Mitchell said Judge Geoffrey Fish made the appropriate decision by calling the offense a felony.

“I trusted the judge to take a look at the entirety of the case just as we had done,” Mitchell said.

Fish put Ryan on two years of supervised probation for disorderly conduct with a gun.

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