SHOW LOW—Embattled chiropractor Dr. Kenly Ries pleaded guilty Tuesday to endangering a 10-year-old child by allowing an intoxicated family friend to drive both Ries and the child from a ski outing at Sunrise in Greer on Feb. 13, 2020. According to the plea deal, on Tuesday, Ries pleaded guilty to one “undesignated Class 6 Felony” of endangerment, meaning that if he successfully completes three years of intensive probation, the charge can be designated as a misdemeanor.
The October 2018 incident
Ries’ years-long legal jeopardy started after an October 2018 domestic violence incident in which he admitted that he attempted to choke the mother of his four children. In that case, arrangement was made whereby Ries pleaded guilty to a Class 5 Felony, but if he successfully completed a three year period of probation, the felony charge would be dismissed. At the time, he also pleaded guilty to one domestic violence misdemeanor charge of disorderly conduct. One of the terms of that probation was that Ries not consume alcohol.
The February 2020 incident
Then on Feb.13, 2020 around 7 p.m. a Pinetop-Lakeside police officer was in a car in the Safeway parking lot. The officer noticed a GMC pick up truck in the McDonald’s drive through lane honking its horn. The vehicle pulled out of the line and positioned itself along side another vehicle and the officer’s heard words exchanged. Then the pick-up parked diagonally in a handicapped parking spot.
Police made contact with the driver who was identified as a very intoxicated Ries family friend with the last name of Bowers. The man was arrested and later was found to have a blood alcohol level over twice the legal limit — at 0.166 percent. Puzzling in this case is the fact that according to court records, Ries was charged with a DUI with a minor in the car, but Ries wasn’t driving, he was a passenger and it’s not a crime to be a passenger under the influence. It’s possible he was charged as an accomplice, but accomplice liability in a DUI case is almost unheard of. In any event, the DUI charges against Ries are slated to be dismissed once Ries is sentenced on the endangerment charge.
But it was undisputed that Ries had been drinking that February afternoon, and the Navajo County Attorney’s Office moved to revoke his probation on the October 2018 case because Ries had consumed alcohol in contravention of his probation terms. The revocation matter was resolved by Ries admitting to the violation and he was placed back on probation with the same terms as before but the Class 5 Felony attempted choking charge was entered of record against him.
So the probation revocation matter was resolved, and on Tuesday, the parties appeared in the courtroom of Superior Court Judge Ralph Hatch on the endangerment allegation. The state was represented by career prosecutor Joel Ruechel (pronounced “Rickle,”) and Ries’ attorney Ronald D. Wood of the Wood Law Office in Show Low. The matter was set for 11:30 but didn’t get underway until 11:40 because, according to courtroom chatter, Wood was delayed in Snowflake.
Ries appeared in business casual dress, slacks and a polo shirt. He is a slender, fit man and appears to carry a lot of strain. Judge Hatch began the change of plea proceeding and Ries answered the court’s questions in strong voice, “Yes, your honor.” Prosecutor Ruechel declared what the state’s evidence would be, namely that Ries endangered a minor by allowing the intoxicated Bowers to drive from Greer both Ries and the child. Ries said that the prosecutor’s recitation of the events that night fit “pretty much to a T.” Hatch point blank asked Ries if he knew the Bower was intoxicated and Ries said he didn’t.
That’s when Defense Counsel Wood reminded the judge that Bowers was charged as well and that Bowers had been in Hatch’s court a number of times and it’s clear, suggested Wood, that Bowers’ natural demeanor is similar to one who is intoxicated. That was hard to picture, but in the end the judge found a “factual basis” for Ries’ guilty plea because Ries knew Bowers had been drinking and had asked him to drive Ries and the child, and that spells reckless endangerment, concluded the judge.
The parties have stipulated to no prison time, a $500 fine and a term of intensive probation for three years. Under sentencing laws, Reis could receive up to one year in the county jail, not prison. But that, as well as other terms of probation, is up to the judge. If Ries gets in more trouble after this, he will have violated probation in two felony cases and with Ries’ history, a prison term of years is almost a certainty.
The Board of Chiropractic Examiners
Because Ries has a professional license, both his professional and personal actions can be reviewed by a regulatory authority; in this case, the Board of Chiropractic Examiners. The board got wind of Ries’ troubles and held a hearing on March 31 on the issue of whether they would open formal disciplinary proceedings against him. Ries has a reputation as a most capable chiropractor, and it seems he also has very good judgment in hiring lawyers.
With regard to the board’s proceedings, Ries was represented by David G. Derickson, of David G. Derickson, P.C. who is said to have once served as a Maricopa County Superior Court judge sometime throughout his 51 years as an attorney in Arizona. Criminal lawyer Wood is known around the superior courts as being able to pull a rabbit out of a hat from time to time on behalf of his clients.
The eloquent Derickson started his presentation by telling the board that he knows lots of alcoholics, and in his view, alcoholics have a “life problem” at the heart of the alcohol problem. Ries’ life problem centered around an unhappy union with the mother of his children and that problem has been resolved, Derickson told the board. He noted that there are no patient complaints against Ries, and Ries was not driving while intoxicated in February, 2020.
The board seemed sympathetic to Ries and voted to forego a formal complaint although one board member objected because in that member’s view, Ries clearly has a problem with recidivism. Instead, the board will place Ries on probation with the same terms as his current probation from the October 2018 incident and the terms expected to be imposed by Judge Hatch after the February, 2020 incident.
Sentencing is set for July 1.