BISBEE — Former Cochise County Jail chaplain Douglas Packer will spend the next 15 years in state prison, a judge decided Monday.
Looking almost gaunt in a red jail uniform, Packer, now 64, stood before Superior Court Judge Timothy Dickerson and declined to say anything on his own behalf when the judge asked. Packer pleaded guilty in November to kidnapping, four counts of unlawful sexual conduct and sexual abuse, charges that stem from the accusations of six women who said Packer sexually abused them when they were inmates.
Initially, Packer pleaded not guilty, but in November he changed his plea in order “to spare his victims further anguish,” his attorney, Jake Amaru, said at the time.
The plea deal offered to Packer by the state caused some consternation at the sentencing hearing Monday, though.
Packer was given credit for time served in the county jail, which was just over one year at 368 days. Dickerson said that would apply only to count one, the kidnapping charge.
Amaru, however, argued the time served should apply to each of the six counts, meaning each count would have had a year shaved off. But the sentences on each of Packer’s charges are consecutive, said Cochise County Attorney’s Office assistant prosecutor Lori Zucco. According to the plea agreement, the kidnapping charge carries a seven-year sentence, while the other five counts Packer pleaded guilty to each call for a two-year sentence.
”He was held on bond for each count, not just one,” Amaru argued.
But Dickerson disagreed, noting, “That would considerably decrease his sentence by several years.”
Zucco said the sentencing stipulations were clearly spelled out in the plea agreement. She said if Amaru insisted on continuing Packer’s sentencing hearing, the state would withdraw its plea offer.
Packer must serve at least 85 percent of the sentence, the judge said. Once he’s released from prison, Packer will be placed on lifetime probation. He must also register as a sex offender, a designation that will also follow him for the rest of his life.
Because of that, Amaru asked the judge if Packer would be able to see his grandchildren once he’s freed.
“He’ll be about 77 years old then, Judge, and I don’t see him as a threat,” the attorney said.
Dickerson granted the request.
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 or an impartial prosecutor, since Packer had worked for Cochise County.
At the time, Cochise County Superior Court Judge Laura Cardinal said that the county attorney’s office did not have a direct relationship with Packer.
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.The accolades ended on Jan. 5, 2019, when he was relieved of duty following allegations by two female inmates. Detention officer Lt. Christy Heisner notified superiors of the allegations after talking to the inmates on Jan. 4. Cochise County Sheriff’s Office 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 similar allegations. The allegations against Packer date back to 2014.The names of Packer’s accusers have not been and will not be released by the Herald/Review, as they are victims of sexual assault.