Feedback: Deputy Said "He Messed Up"

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A Jefferson County sheriff's deputy took an opened bottle of alcohol out of a fellow deputy's patrol vehicle and threw it into a field.

That's according to the long-awaited reports about the Sheriff's Department's handling of Deputy Adam Hallett's case.

County Attorney David Paulsen released his findings to the county Board of Legislators, as did county Sheriff John Burns.

"Kind of jaw dropping, to be honest with you," said county Legislator Scott Gray (R. - District 13).

The reports, which have a number of redactions, (identities and information blacked out) were made public Wednesday afternoon.

They focus on Deputy Hallett and incidents which occurred on December 1, 2012.

According to the reports, Hallett, who is a K-9 handler, ended his duty shift at approximately 4:30 p.m. that day.

At around 9 p.m. that night, according to the documents, an unnamed woman called 911 to report that she and her husband noticed a marked sheriff's patrol vehicle parked on the side of County Route 72 in the town of Henderson.

She said the driver, later learned to be Hallett, was slumped over the wheel and appeared to be unconscious.

According to the report, the vehicle's engine was running and its parking lights were on.

The dog was inside the vehicle.

Several attempts were made to communicate with the driver before he rolled down the window.

The driver, who was initially described as unresponsive to the point he could not raise his arms, said he needed no help and said his name was Mark Hallett.

Another sheriff's deputy responded to the scene as did state police and an ambulance.

The responding deputy dismissed the ambulance and state police unit.

The deputy reported that Hallett had an open bottle of liquor in the vehicle and acted "somewhat intoxicated."

The deputy threw the bottle out of the vehicle and into a field, the report said.

The report redacts the name of the deputy.

However, the only deputy who has been publicly named as the first responder to the scene was Matthew Vaughn.

Sheriff Burns has said Vaughn will face disciplinary action.

Hallett and the K-9 were dropped off at a residence and the patrol unit, weapon and taser were taken to the Public Safety Building.

In Burn's report, the sheriff states that he was informed about the Hallett incident and that the deputy appeared to have been drinking.

Burns says he asked if the vehicle or any property was damaged and if there were any witnesses to Hallett driving.

He was told no on all points.

Burns says he instructed that Hallett be taken home.

He did not order a breathalyzer or blood test on Hallett, according to the report.

According to Burns' report, Hallett met with the sheriff on December 3 and "stated he messed up.  He stated he stopped at a friend's house for a short time and then drove out to County Route 72 where he pulled over off the side of the road to think."

Burns report states that he learned the responding deputy (Vaughn) had taken an open bottle of Red Stag Liquor from Hallett's patrol vehicle and threw it into a field.

Burns suspended Hallett without pay.

The next day, Burns met with an assistant district attorney, who, according to Burns, said there was no evidence against Hallett to support a criminal charge of driving while intoxicated.

The DA's office has reportedly distanced itself on the question of what could be charged.

Burns issued Hallett a ticket for having an open container in a vehicle.

On Tuesday night, county legislators decided to launch an outside investigation into the sheriff's department.

"We have an obligation to the taxpayers to make sure they're protected against these events," said  Gray.

"I certainly think their minds were made up before I even entered the doors," said Burns. "They apparently voted...unanimously to go to an outside agency and I have no problems with that. I'm open to it, and while we're at it, maybe we should expand the investigation."

He said he would elaborate on a possible expansion at a later time.

When asked if there is conflict between him and the board of legislators, Burns said, "I believe there's probably been conflict for a number of years, so one more is not going to hurt." .

Burns said he welcomes the involvement of an outside agency - specifically one with an understanding of the law.

"I don't feel that...any of the legislators understand any of the elements of what it takes, elements of the law, of what it takes to make an arrest," he said.

See Paulsen's report

See Burns' report

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Thursday, October 30, 2014
, Watertown, NY

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