HOLBROOK—Embattled Show Low chiropractor Kenly Ries pleaded guilty last Thursday to one count of disorderly conduct, a Class 1 Misdemeanor, in Navajo County Superior Court. He also pleaded to an amended count of attempted aggravated assault, a Class 5 Felony, but that charge will be dismissed if all goes well with a “deferred prosecution” arrangement.
This case started last year. A grand jury on November 6, 2018, charged Ries with kidnapping, two counts of felony aggravated assault, three misdemeanor counts of disorderly conduct and one of misdemeanor assault — all alleged to be domestic violence offenses related to an incident that occurred on October 31 at the Show Low home he shared with his then-girlfriend and mother of his four children.
Ries and his lawyer appeared at 8:15 a.m. in the courtroom of Judge Ralph Hatch who took the bench before the 8:30 start time. Ries signed and initialed each paragraph of the agreement and court staff hurried to make copies. The prosecutor was delayed, but the proceedings began shortly after he arrived.
As typical in any change of plea hearing, the judge made sure Ries understood the terms of the agreement, the range of penalties for each charge he would plead to, and the various constitutional rights he gives up by pleading guilty. Judge Hatch also inquired whether various victim rights had been observed and whether the victim in this case had any objections to the agreement. The prosecutor reported that there was no objection.
The judge is also is required to hear the “factual basis” of the charges to determine if the person pleading guilty really is guilty. This procedure in the criminal justice system exists in part to protect persons who may because of a psychological pathology, need to confess to crimes — like being the second gunman on the grassy knoll in the Kennedy assassination, or more recently, being the one who shot rapper Tupac.
When it came time for the factual basis, the prosecutor said that the evidence would show that Ries had come home late after a night of drinking. He argued with his domestic partner which escalated into alleged violence — him choking her, “kicking or pushing” in a door, pinning the victim in the bathroom and other acts which caused bruising on her arms, back and neck and bumps on her head.
The judge directly asked Ries if that is what happened. Ries hesitated, had a brief word with his lawyer and then answered, “Yes, sir.”
The terms of his supervised misdemeanor probation include consuming no alcohol, undergoing drug and alcohol testing, participating in substance abuse, domestic violence and anger management counseling, paying various fee assessments, restitution to the victim and remaining a law-abiding citizen. Ries will be sentenced on the misdemeanor on August 8.
Regarding the Class 5 Felony of attempted aggravated assault (choking the victim), Ries may not be sentenced at all because of the deferred prosecution arrangement. Such an agreement means that, although Ries pleaded guilty, the judge did not accept the plea, will not enter a judgment of guilt and there will be no record of a felony conviction. That’s important, because convicted felons typically cannot get or keep any professional licenses they have.
Instead, the court will look at this case again after the probationary period is over, and if Ries stays out of trouble and successfully completes probation, the entire felony case will be dismissed.
It is not so surprising that the victim had no objection to the terms. She and Ries must raise four children and avoiding a felony conviction means that Ries probably will keep is chiropractic license and that probably had some practical appeal to her.
If something goes wrong and Ries does not successfully complete the deferred program, he could serve six months to 2.5 years in prison and suffer a felony conviction, meaning he would be unable to vote, sit on a jury, possess a firearm and almost certainly lose his professional chiropractor’s license.
The disorderly conduct charge is a domestic violence offense and domestic violence convictions have hidden penalties as well. For example, even a misdemeanor DV conviction results in not only the prohibition from possessing firearms, but the inability to get or keep of a “fingerprint clearance card” issued by DPS and required for teachers, caregivers, nurses, to name a few of the professions in which such a clearance is required. Ries is self-employed, so he doesn’t have an employer that requires one.