Scales of Justice

HOLBROOK—Taylor resident Joey Fish, 19, was sentenced on Tuesday in the Navajo County Superior Court to two years of misdemeanor probation, a $915 fine and 30 days in the county jail “deferred,” meaning if he complies with the terms of his probation, he won’t have to do any time at all. Fish has no prior convictions and has a job.

On July 1, a jury found Fish not guilty of two counts of kidnapping with the “intent to inflict a sexual offense,” and two counts of sexual abuse.

Instead, the jury found him guilty of two lesser counts of unlawful imprisonment, which can be either a Class 6 felony (the least serious of any felony) or Class 1 misdemeanor, (see below). Fish was indicted by a Navajo County Grand Jury on November 28, 2017, on the four charges, all concerning an incident in the boy’s locker room at Snowflake High School on November 20, 2017. Fish had held down a younger boy and groped his genitals — twice.

The sentencing began a little late, as Judge Dale Neilson worked through that day’s docket. Once it started, it was contentious. Although the jury flat out found no sexual motive to Fish’s actions, Prosecutor Robert Edwards wouldn’t let it go. First he wanted the court to designate the two guilty verdicts as felonies. The law says that unlawful imprisonment is a felony if the perpetrator keeps restraining the victim and doesn’t voluntarily release the victim to a safe place before the arrest.

Joey Fish


The judge noted that the sworn testimony at trial showed Fish had indeed voluntarily released the victim to a safe place (the boys’ high school locker room) before his arrest.

Not really, argued Edwards; Fish, he claimed, released the victim only when Fish got tired of doing what he was doing and only when he found out that a coach was on the way to break up the meleé. Besides, Edwards argued, the locker room wasn’t a safe place because Fish was in it.

Judge Neilson wasn’t buying it. Whatever the reason for the release, the judge reasoned, Fish voluntarily did so, and of course a boy’s high school locker room in an occupied school is a safe place. Neilson designated both crimes as misdemeanors.

Then Edwards kept hammering about the sexual nature of the event, citing a “psycho-sexual evaluation” Fish went through after the verdict in anticipation of being sentenced. Although Fish had told his parents that his actions were merely locker room horseplay (Edwards played portions of the parents’ recorded testimony from the trial), Fish has told the psycho-sexual evaluator something different, Edwards said. The prosecutor did not ask for prison time (prison is not available in misdemeanor cases) but he did ask for a sentence of at least 60 to 90 days in the county jail and asked the judge to require Fish to register as a sex offender.

That’s when things got a little weird. Defense Attorney Bruce Griffin seemed exasperated. He noted that this isn’t a sex case; that the jury explicitly found that it wasn’t a sex case, so Fish is not required to register as a sex offender. Edwards then implied that Griffin should mind his professional ethics because the law requires registration and Griffin is misleading the court by making things up. “Never have, never will,” retorted Griffin. Edwards then proceeded to read the sex offender registration statute which seemed to support his argument.

Neilson ordered both parties to “brief it,” meaning that the lawyers will prepare written arguments backed up by specific legal authority supporting their respective positions.

The judge then sentenced Fish to two years probation with the terms including having no contact with the victim, a fine of $915, $65 monthly probation fee (Fish said he could make payments of $100 per month) and 30 days in jail which Fish will not have to serve if by February 2020 he is compliant with his probation.

Regarding the sex offender registration, if the prosecutor is correct, the judge may amend the sentence with that term included.

Reach the reporter at

(8) comments


Having the “right” last name works very well in Apache and Navajo counties.


And this isn’t his first bullying offense.


Should have had a different visiting judge. This guy will eventually get his true sentencing as what goes around comes around. Sad for the victims very sad.


The smirk on his face in the picture pretty much speaks volumes.

che guevara

The outcome of this episode and the affront to the citizens of the county were already baked into the cake from the onset . You have an elected judge from a small clannish community which is to a very large extent governed by a theocracy . What could possibly go amuck ? The worse part of this is that the having beat the rap , this individual has been further empowered , thereby compromising the security of the local citizenry , and signifies yet another step towards the creation of a monster . This makes one wonder if perhaps the lad was himself the recipient of such vulgar treatment by an authority figure in his life , and subsequently transferred this pathology in the same manner of aggression towards someone who he determined was vulnerable . This public spectacle of the criminal case is just the tip of the iceberg .


What a smug looking kid. Seems to have a pretty warped mind. Only time will tell what direction this kid is going to go. Peace to the victim and his family.

che guevara

Editor ; Is there any particular reason why my comment was not posted ? This seems to be happening on a semi - regular basis . My postings always stay within the guidelines , therefore your personal dislike should not come into play . Such a degree of unwarranted censorship will only result in people not renewing their WMI subscription when it comes up for renewal . I believe that the issues that I raised on this particular matter have significantly more substance than the array of short quips that you decided to post . Much the same can also be said for the comments that I had posted on another editorial the week before last -- and which you decided not to post either . Again , this is a surefire way to lose subscribers . I also have to wonder why at all the comments section is even available if it is subject to the capricious whims of one individual's personal tastes . Legitimate journalism shouldn't be so focused upon protecting the status quo .


Not defending breaking the law. However, please know that this young man was an incredibly bright and memorable student of mine while at Taylor Intermediate. His life could go in a good way given guidance and care. Hate to read about all this. Deserving, at his age, to be labelled a sex offender? Maybe I'm wrong, but this seems awfully harsh and might serve to steer Joey in a sad direction. His "smerk" has long been one of his coping mechanisms. As a retired educator, I pray for all those involved. In my humble opinion, Joey needs positive discipline, mental and spiritual encouragement. Get him out of that community and off to post graduate training? Though I feel for the other boy that was hurt and shamed, how awful, life goes on. Please let it so those young men can get back on track. Hope this doesn't hurt or offend. I just have high hopes for the Joey in my memories, a funny racy minded young kid who had his whole life ahead if him. As it is written, we all fall short. Forget? No. Forgive? Yes.

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.