BY LINDA BENTLEY | APRIL 25, 2012
County attorney declines to prosecute Freeman in mule assault incident
‘A bully will usually escalate their attacks after a perceived victory. The town has a responsibility to end this before someone gets hurt.’
CAVE CREEK – In the March 28 edition, Sonoran News reported about an incident that occurred on March 25 during which Gerald Freeman (r), 71, drove his pickup truck into the back of a mule ridden by John Fisher, which knocked the mule down to a sitting position.
The incident occurred on property owned by Don Sorchych, Freeman’s neighbor.
Maricopa County Sheriff’s deputies filed a long-form incident report charging Freeman with one count each of endangerment and threats, class 1 misdemeanors, and reckless driving, a class 2 misdemeanor.
Last week, despite there being three witnesses to the incident, including Fisher, the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office declined to prosecute Freeman.
According to the incident report and the deputy’s interviews with Fisher, former Councilman Terry Smith and Val Rae Wenderoth, the three were riding to scout an area suitable for a horse trail for the town of Cave Creek.
Smith told the deputy they were riding on Morning Star Road on Sorchych’s property, for which they had permission, and then on the way back were riding eastbound on the south side of the road just east of the power pole but west of Sorchych’s driveway.
Smith said he heard a car coming up fast from behind and when he turned to look he saw a white pickup truck that just hit Fisher’s mule.
He said an older man, later identified as Freeman, got out of the truck and started waiving papers at Fisher.
As the three continued riding to where their truck and horse trailer were parked at Morning Star and Old Stage roads, Smith said Freeman followed them.
Freeman got out of his truck snapped a bunch of pictures and placed the papers he was waiving on the windshield of Smith’s truck.
Fisher told the deputy he was just out and along for the ride with Smith. He told the deputy he too heard a vehicle coming up from behind and heard it speed up as it got closer.
As Fisher turned around to look, a white pickup truck hit the back of his mule.
He said the man then got out of his truck and started yelling at him about trespassing and was waiving papers at him.
Fisher said he then rode his mule to the intersection of Morning Star and Old Stage roads where Freeman took multiple pictures and left the papers he was waiving on the windshield of the truck.
He took down the license plate number of Freeman’s truck.
Fisher said he’d never met Freeman before and didn’t know why he rammed him.
He said Freeman’s actions caused him to fear for his life and told the deputy he doesn’t carry a gun but if he had one he would have used it in protection of his life.
At that point, Fisher wasn’t sure if the mule, which he stated he purchased for $3,000, sustained any injuries but said he might get it checked out by a vet.
When Sorchych showed up, he verified the incident occurred on an easement located on his property. He verified Smith’s statement about having permission to be on his property.
Wenderoth corroborated what Smith and Fisher told the deputy and said she saw Freeman’s pickup truck speed up and hit the back of Fisher’s mule.
She said they rode to get away from Freeman, who followed them.
Freeman refused to allow the deputy on his property to conduct an interview and spoke to the deputy from the inside of his five-foot high security gate.
Freeman told the deputy there were riders on the easement, which he claims is exclusive to his property and said there was a lawsuit pending concerning the easement and the town of Cave Creek.
He said the people that were on his easement had been there before “sticking it in his nose” that it wasn’t his driveway.
Freeman stated he told them to take notice of trespass but they ran from him. He said he followed them, took pictures of them and their truck and trailer and then put the notice on their truck.
Freeman said he wanted to file charges for trespass and explained the easement was for his exclusive use and even Sorchych, despite it being on Sorchych’s property, had no right to use it.
Freeman told the deputy he didn’t hit the mule and claimed the mule backed into his truck.
When the deputy asked Freeman how close he was to the mule when he parked his truck, as the mule was traveling downhill, at first Freeman said two feet, then three feet. He subsequently said it was three to four feet.
Freeman told the deputy there was no damage to his truck.
The deputy then contacted Jane Reed, a neighbor near the northwest corner of Morning Star and Old Stage roads.
Reed told the deputy she had not heard or witnessed anything out of the ordinary that day and said she knew both Freeman and Sorchych but didn’t know any of the other parties.
However, she said Freeman came close to hitting her approximately nine years ago while she was riding her horse near the same location.
Reed also said a friend of hers was chased away from the same location about a year ago by Freeman wielding a shovel.
The deputy stated no arrests were made and all the information was forwarded to MCAO for review, including Freeman’s allegations of trespass, since there was no third-party witness to the crime.
Freeman recently threatened the town with being dragged into a lawsuit when Sorchych deeded a portion of his property with the easement as a deed of gift to the town, causing a split council to rescind the action.
John Hoeppner expressed his disagreement to council when it voted to return the deed of gift and, after reading about the mule incident, wrote, “Again, I would urge the council to reconsider and take control of the easement for reasons of public safety. A bully will usually escalate their attacks after a perceived victory. The town has a responsibility to end this before someone gets hurt.”