An out-of-town prosecutor has taken over the sex-crimes case against the University of Arizona’s former pharmacy dean.
The Pima County Attorney’s Office, which has handled the case against Jesse Lyle Bootman since charges were filed 18 months ago, recently transferred it to a prosecutor in Maricopa County after Bootman’s lawyer claimed the local law-enforcement establishment is biased in favor of the victim.
It’s the latest twist in a legal saga that’s been inching through the courts since late 2015 with no end in sight.
Bootman, 66, has pleaded not guilty to charges of sexual assault, sexual abuse, aggravated assault, kidnapping and drugging the alleged victim with a prescription sleep aid.
Police said the alleged victim sustained a broken nose and other injuries in what authorities described as a “brutal” attack at Bootman’s rented home in the Catalina Foothills.
Pima County Attorney Barbara LaWall, in a May 10 court filing, said she believes her office has acted properly in handling the case.
“However, to avoid even the slightest appearance of impropriety, PCAO has determined that it will send the case to the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office for prosecution,” the court filing said.
Defense lawyer Joshua Hamilton of Tucson had asked the court to remove the local prosecutor “due to conflict of interest and appearance of impropriety.”
Hamilton, in an April court filing, maintained the alleged victim has a “special relationship” with local police and prosecutors because she was a key witness in a high-profile criminal case many years ago.
“She worked hand-in-glove with detectives while the case was being investigated and while it was prosecuted,” said the defense complaint.
The claim the county attorney’s office is biased is one of more than 20 pretrial motions the defense has filed, some of which question the credibility of the complainant and the actions of police and prosecutors.
For example, the defense also recently asked the court to ban the alleged victim from testifying against Bootman, claiming she misled police about the extent of her previous relationship with the defendant. The court has yet to rule on that request.
So far, four different judges have overseen the case, two of whom were replaced at the request of Bootman’s attorneys.
Bootman was dean of the UA College of Pharmacy for nearly 30 years before the university removed him from the post and banned him from campus in the wake of criminal charges.
He remains on paid administrative leave while his case is before the court, earning a $253,000-a-year professor’s salary.
If convicted, he stands to lose both his UA job and the pharmacist’s license he has held for 40 years.