Former Arizona director of corrections could face multiple felony charges after confrontation with police

Editor’s Note: This story has been updated to clarify Ryan’s role at Abu Ghraib. We regret the error.

Charles Ryan once reigned supreme over Arizona’s sprawling state prison system, serving for a decade as director of the state Department of Corrections.

Now retired, Ryan could face jail time himself.

On Wednesday, the Tempe Police Department announced it had submitted multiple felony charges against Ryan to the Maricopa County District Attorney for review, after Ryan got into a standoff with police on Jan. 6.

The department recommended that Ryan be charged with two counts of aggravated assault on a police officer as well as one count of unlawfully discharging a firearm. Department spokeswoman Natalie Barela said Tempe police would not yet offer additional details.

According to the department’s initial account of the incident, Tempe police were called to Ryan’s resident’s home on the evening of January 6, after receiving a call that Ryan suffered a self-inflicted gunshot wound and that he was armed.

In the long ensuing standoff, Ryan pointed a gun at the first officers to arrive at his home and then barricaded himself inside his home, police said. Eventually, after Tempe called his SWAT team and negotiators, Ryan surrendered.

He was hospitalized with a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the hand, authorities said.

On Wednesday, Jennifer Liewer, spokeswoman for the Maricopa County District Attorney’s Office, confirmed in a statement that the agency had received the charges.

“There is no current timeline as to when a review of the facts and evidence in the case will be completed or when a charging decision will be made,” she said, adding that the department would not no further comments, as the investigation was still ongoing. .

A conviction for aggravated assault of an officer using a deadly weapon is a Class 2 felony and carries a sentence of up to 12.5 years in prison. Illegal discharge of a firearm is a less serious charge, but still a felony, punishable by several months to two years in prison.

Although it appears to be his first time on the other side of the law, Ryan’s tenure as head of corrections has been mired in controversy.

A series of scandals plagued Arizona’s prison system while he was in charge. These included the suicide of an incarcerated man that guards videotaped, a botched execution and a continuing failure to improve a dysfunctional prison health system, which had cost the department over $1 million in court fines by the time Ryan announced his retirement in 2019.

ryan too worked as a correctional counselor for US detention operations in Iraq during the early years of the Iraq War – working closely, as its critics point out, the military leaders who oversaw the horrors of Abu Ghraib.

Ryan did not immediately return a request for Phoenix New Times Wednesday afternoon.

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