State Bar reopens investigation of 2 Flagstaff attorneys
FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. (AP) — The State Bar of Arizona has reopened its investigation of two Flagstaff attorneys representing a man charged in a fatal shooting on the Northern Arizona University campus.
The State Bar probe and the criminal case against Steven Jones are separate but related matters. A judge cited the initial probe in the latest delay of Jones’ retrial, now scheduled to start in March.
Jones is charged with murder and aggravated assault in the October 2015 shooting that killed 20-year-old Colin Brough and injured three other students. A jury in Jones’ first trial deadlocked on the charges.
One of the victims’ mothers, Kimberly Prato, alleged two of Jones’ attorneys, Ryan Stevens and Bruce Griffen, had a conflict of interest because they met with her son early on in the case. Prato’s son, Nick, was shot in the neck.
The State Bar dismissed the allegations, citing a lack of clear and convincing evidence the attorneys violated ethical rules. But the bar instructed the attorneys to ensure their conduct adheres to those rules going forward.
Prato appealed to the Attorney Discipline Probable Cause Committee under the Arizona Supreme Court, which reversed the dismissal last week and ordered the State Bar to investigate further.
Prato declined comment.
A brief order from the committee doesn’t say what led to its decision, and its proceedings aren’t public.
In court documents filed in Jones’ criminal case, Stevens and Griffen have denied a conflict exists. They met and communicated with Nick Prato over two months before joining Jones’ defense team. Griffen was out of the office Monday, and Stevens declined comment on the reopening of the investigation “out of respect for the process and people involved.”
Rick DeBruhl, a spokesman for the State Bar, could not elaborate on the investigation or give a timeframe for when any recommendations would be resubmitted to the committee. The process is administrative but similar to a state prosecutor asking law enforcement to gather more information on a case and report back, DeBruhl said.
The most likely scenarios in any case sent back to the State Bar for further investigation are: the dismissal is upheld, the committee asks the State Bar again to dig deeper, or a probable cause hearing is held, he said.