URBANA – A Champaign County sheriff's deputy was criminally charged Thursday with official misconduct and disorderly conduct for harassing his estranged wife and a male friend of hers.
Ryan Garrett, 30, of rural Tolono, was suspended with pay on Dec. 17 from the job he's held since November 1997. Sheriff Dan Walsh said that he's requesting that the merit commission fire Garrett. A hearing before the commission is set for March 2.
State's Attorney Julia Rietz said she filed the criminal charges against Garrett on Jan. 23 and issued a summons for him to appear in court on Thursday.
Garrett entered a plea of innocent and asked for a preliminary hearing, which Judge John Kennedy set for March 14.
Two counts of official misconduct allege that on May 22, 2005, while in uniform and in his squad car, Garrett threatened a 24-year-old Champaign man, who was seeing his estranged wife, in order to prevent contact between the two of them and that he used words to the effect: "I'm a cop. Watch your back."
Those charges are Class 3 felonies punishable upon conviction by penalties ranging from probation to two to five years in prison and mandatory removal from his job as a deputy.
The third count accuses Garrett of felony disorderly conduct. It alleges that on Nov. 24, he falsely transmitted to a fellow deputy a report that there was a person driving under the influence in Champaign.
Rietz said Garrett was off duty when he alerted fellow deputy J.P. Reifsteck that there was a car behind the Worden-Martin dealership in Champaign. Reifsteck learned that it was Garrett's wife, Mary Garrett, behind the wheel with her friend about 2 a.m.
After consulting with a supervisor, Reifsteck had a Champaign police officer come to the scene. The Champaign officer had Mary Garrett, who admitted she'd been at a local bar, perform field sobriety tests, which she passed, then sent her and her friend on their way.
Rietz said Mary Garrett then contacted sheriff's Capt. Kris Bolt and Lt. Tim Voges, both of whom hold supervisory positions over Garrett, on Dec. 2, to tell them what had happened. They began an investigation which resulted in Garrett's suspension with pay on Dec. 17.
"Both the sheriff and I are very troubled by Deputy Garrett's action. He abused his authority as a police officer and that will not be tolerated," Rietz said.
Other than to say he was requesting Garrett's removal from his job, Walsh refused to comment.
Garrett's attorney, Tony Novak of Urbana, said Garrett grew up in Villa Grove, attended Parkland College, served in the Army National Guard and as a state trooper in Louisiana before being hired by the Champaign County sheriff's office.
"He has faith he's going to get fair treatment from the system and a just outcome," Novak said.
Novak also represents William Alan Myers, 26, a Champaign County correctional officer who was charged last fall with aggravated battery and obstructing justice in connection with an incident with a former jail inmate. Myers is accused of inappropriately using a Taser gun on the inmate on Nov. 14, then lying to his boss about it.
On Wednesday, Myers' case was continued to the next felony pretrial call of March 23.