HOLBROOK—The domestic violence case against prominent local chiropractor Kenly Ries has concluded. Ries pleaded guilty on to one count of attempted aggravated assault, a Class 5 felony, and one count of misdemeanor disorderly conduct on July 11 in the Navajo County Superior Court. He was sentenced on August 1.
On Oct. 31 of last year, Ries came home to his domestic partner and their four children after having been drinking. He was late and began arguing with the mother of his children. He throttled her by the neck and broke down a door and was subsequently arrested. A grand jury indicted him on seven alleged crimes including kidnapping (restraining someone) two counts of aggravated assault, four misdemeanors including simple assault and three counts of disorderly conduct. The law says that a person commits disorderly conduct if that person engages in “fighting, violent or serious disruptive behavior.”
In Arizona, a misdemeanor assault happens when someone inflicts minor injury on a person. However, if the assault includes “pressure on the throat or neck” which impedes a person’s breathing, it is a Class 4 felony carrying a maximum sentence of 3.75 years in prison. In Ries’ case, although he pleaded guilty to attempted aggravated assault, a Class 5 felony; the plea agreement stipulated that the judge would not yet accept that guilty plea and would not enter a judgment of guilt.
Instead, if Ries completes three years of probation with mandatory counseling and other terms, that charge will be dismissed and there will be no record of a felony conviction.
On Aug. 1, the courtroom of Judge Ralph Hatch was packed for the afternoon docket. It was noisy and hot. Ries appeared smartly dressed in a blue suit and waited for his case to be called with a couple presumed to be his parents. He appeared to expertly knead the back of the woman’s neck apparently to relieve her stress. The victim, stylishly dressed was also present with the victim’s advocate and the lead investigator on the case, Show Low Police Detective Phillip Uhall. Ries’ attorney Ronald Wood wore baggy jeans.
Once the judge had called the case, Prosecutor Joel Ruechel alerted the judge to the victim’s impact letter which she submitted to the probation department as she was instructed to do, but the letter didn’t make it into that department’s pre-sentence report; judges use the information in the report to arrive at an appropriate sentence. Ruechel handed the letter to the judge who read it silently on the bench. Hatch asked the victim if she wished to add anything. She declined, saying, “I think I’m good.” The prosecutor asked the court to follow the plea agreement.
Attorney Wood seemed full of venom. He claimed the letter probably wasn’t even written by the victim, but drafted to be used in the Ries’ upcoming family law case and contained “many secrets” relevant to the child custody issue. Inexplicably, he then took aim at The Independent, claiming that the newspaper “publishes his (Ries’) picture after every court date,” and sneering that the paper is “doing its best to avoid the facts.”
(Editor’s note: The Independent sent a reporter to Wood’s office in May inviting comment. After consulting with Wood the receptionist said they would have “no comment,” not even whether Wood was representing Ries at the proceeding before the Arizona Board of Chiropractic Examiners.)
Wood eventually asked the judge to follow the plea agreement. The victim decided to speak up after all, and said that Ries had not touched her before but that he had to “get rid of alcohol and drugs he used throughout the relationship” of 14 years. She mused that one day she hopes for “civility with co-parenting” but for now, she wanted no changes to the order of protection she received, which prohibits contact.
Then Ries spoke and almost stepped in it. After apologizing to the court and the victim, he remarked that although it takes two to make a relationship succeed, that it also “takes two to make a relationship fail.”
To that, Judge Hatch glanced at the documents before him and pointedly remarked to Ries that “It takes only one to screw it up.”
In the end, Hatch followed the plea agreement placing Ries on three years of supervised probation for the misdemeanor including terms of no contact with the victim (unless approved in writing by the court,) no alcohol consumption, domestic violence and anger management counseling, 120 hours of community service, one day in jail with credit for one day of time served, $274 fine due in one month, and $155 in various fees which Ries said he’d pay that day.
The parties made clear on the record, and the judge underscored, that if Ries violates his probation, he’ll end up with a felony conviction and face a maximum of 2.5 years in prison. The judge and the prosecutor wished him well.