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MARK LEVY HERALD/REVIEW  

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Records in former jail chaplain's case to remain available to the public

BISBEE — A judge ruled on Wednesday that the four cases against a former county jail chaplain accused of molesting female inmates will remain open to the public.

The ruling comes five days after an attorney for former Cochise County Jail Chaplain Douglas Packer made an oral motion in open court asking that the cases be sealed so that people could not view them electronically. Defense attorney Jacob Amaru later told the Herald/Review that the public could attend court hearings and listen to the cases, but viewing them electronically could influence individuals that might serve on the jury.

However, Cochise County Superior Court Judge Laura Cardinal further ordered that according to the Rules of the Supreme Court of Arizona, “restricting remote electronic access to the registered users of the general public.” Cardinal’s ruling states that registered users in the general public “may apply to the Court for an order permitting access, and upon a showing of good cause, access may be granted.”

Additionally, the judge ruled that the Court would direct the Clerk of the Court, to “not display minute entries, case records, audio or video data online,” and “the Clerk shall restrict any entry into the electronic record that violates this order.”

Amaru had initially filed motions asking that his client be tried outside of Cochise County and by another prosecutor’s office. He said that because Packer had been a Cochise County employee, he did not think his client could have an impartial jury.

Amaru could not be reached for comment on Tuesday night.

Packer was a ministry volunteer at the county jail in Bisbee from 2008 until his hiring as detention center chaplain in 2012. He was recognized as Chaplain of the Year by the Arizona Detention Association in 2015.

That ended on Jan. 5 when he was relieved of duty following allegations by two female inmates. Detention officer Lt. Christy Heisner notified superiors after talking to the inmates on Jan. 4. Cochise County Sheriff’s detectives Todd Borquez and Jesus Davidson investigated and arrested Packer the next day.

On Jan. 14, Packer pleaded not guilty to the charges brought by two of the women. Bail was set at $250,000, but then increased to $550,000 when four other inmates came forward with allegations.

Court files show Packer stands accused of sexual assault, sexual abuse, kidnapping, aggravated assault, unlawful sex acts while employed within the county correctional facility and indecent exposure.

The accusations were made by six female inmates whose names have not been released. The allegations against Packer date to 2014.Cardinal agreed that a questionnaire would be sent to respective jurors in order to determine if any have been tainted by publicity about the case. But the judge also stated that media reports about Packer have been based on court proceedings and have been accurate. Cardinal also said the county attorney’s office had no direct relationship with Packer.