Published November 07 2012
Arizona deputy charged in beating of West Fargo man
Detective Timothy Abrahamson of the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Department was taken into custody without incident at his workplace on an arrest warrant for an aggravated assault charge filed in Cass County last Friday.
In a rare move, the Cass County State’s Attorney’s Office also granted immunity from prosecution to a Maricopa County sheriff’s deputy who allegedly rode to West Fargo with Abrahamson, in exchange for the deputy’s testimony.
In North Dakota, such immunity offers require approval from the Attorney General’s Office.
The victim in the assault, 41-year-old Jason Swart, lost part of his right ear in the attack and suffered serious facial cuts, bruising and swelling that “appeared to be consistent with multiple strikes to the face with some sort of weapon,” West Fargo Police Detective Derek Cruff wrote in a search warrant affidavit.
“It appears to me that it was a well-planned-out, longtime-planned-out event,” Cruff said.
Abrahamson, 41, who has relatives in the Thief River Falls, Minn., area, made his initial court appearance Wednesday afternoon and was being held in protective custody in jail on $20,000 bond as he awaited extradition to Cass County, said Sgt. Brandon Jones, spokesman for the sheriff’s department.
Abrahamson had been on paid administrative leave since West Fargo police contacted the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office a few days after the Sept. 16 assault. He was placed on unpaid leave after his arrest Wednesday.
Jones said he had no additional comment.
“I don’t know too much about it, unfortunately,” he said.
Assaulted in driveway
Court documents describe an affair that began with Facebook messages between Swart and Abrahamson’s wife, and a plot that culminated with Abrahamson allegedly driving to West Fargo and assaulting Swart in his driveway on Sept. 16.
According to the affidavit and charges unsealed Wednesday:
Police responded at 1:38 p.m. that day to Swart’s home on Parkway Lane for a reported assault.
Swart told police he had been out with family for lunch and returned home by himself. When he stepped out of his vehicle, a black, low-profile car with two men inside pulled into his driveway.
The driver, described by Swart as having bald fuzz-type hair and a goatee, got out of the car and asked him if he was Jason. The driver then told Swart that he had been receiving Swart’s mail and handed him a folder.
“Mr. Swart stated that he turned to open the envelope, and then realized he was lying on the ground in a pool of his own blood,” the affidavit states.
When he regained his composure, Swart realized the envelope, the driver and the black car were gone, Cruff said.
Affair found out
Swart told police he believed he was assaulted by the husband of a woman with whom he’d had an affair. He and the woman, a friend from high school named Trinity Abrahamson, had reconnected on Facebook. Cruff said Swart was single at the time.
In July 2011, they met at the Greater Grand Forks Fair. Swart learned that the woman and her husband were separated and talking about divorce, and that evening they went to a bar together and later had sex, the affidavit states.
About two to three weeks later, Swart received a text message from Trinity Abrahamson stating that her husband was aware of the affair and telling Swart not to talk to her again.
Swart told police that on April 6 he was contacted on Facebook by Trinity Abrahamson, who was using someone else’s account. She stated she wished to have contact with him again.
But Swart told police he didn’t notice the message until more than a month later, on May 18. When he responded, he received a response from the Facebook user saying she’d pass along the message.
Swart didn’t have any additional contact related to Trinity Abrahamson until Aug. 15, when her sister sent him a message on Facebook, Cruff said.
The message stated: “Do you have any idea of the pain you have caused my family in the last year? Do you have any idea what Trinity has had to go through because of you?”
Swart told police he’d never met Trinity Abrahamson’s husband in person and had only seen a picture of him on Facebook in 2011, and he believed his name was Todd.
Through their investigation, West Fargo police identified the man as Tim Abrahamson, who works in the narcotics division of the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Department.
The sheriff’s department has gained national attention in recent years for controversial Sheriff Joe Arpaio, the self-proclaimed toughest sheriff in America, and his rigid stance on illegal immigration. Arpaio was re-elected Tuesday.
In a photo lineup, Swart “immediately” identified Tim Abrahamson as the man who’d assaulted him in his driveway.
Through their investigation, West Fargo police learned that Tim Abrahamson had been off duty from Sept. 14 to Sept. 16 – the day Swart was assaulted – and was going on vacation Sept. 18-24.
On Sept. 18, Cruff tried but was unable to reach Tim or Trinity Abrahamson. Fearing for the wife’s safety, Cruff contacted her mother in Lake Bronson, Minn., who said she would try to make contact with her. The mother called back and said she’d spoken with Trinity Abrahamson’s son, who told her that Tim Abrahamson was in Seattle for work training.
At about 7:30 that evening, Trinity Abrahamson called Cruff from home and said she was with her husband. She sounded like she was on speakerphone, Cruff noted.
Trinity Abrahamson said her husband and Swart had never met before, that she had no problems with Swart and that “her husband had been with her the entire time over the weekend in Phoenix,” the affidavit states.
Phone records traced
Two days later, Cruff still hadn’t had any contact with Tim Abrahamson – but he did receive a call from an attorney representing him.
That attorney, Robert Kavanagh, was out of the country on Wednesday and unreachable by phone, according to a woman who answered the phone at his law firm in Chandler, Ariz. She said he was checking his email; a message sent to him wasn’t returned.
According to the affidavit, cellphone records obtained through a search warrant showed that on the day of the assault, which occurred at around 1 p.m., Abrahamson’s work phone had no activity until 10:41 p.m., when the phone was turned on and connected to a cell tower in Paxton, Neb.
Cruff noted it’s roughly a 10-hour drive from West Fargo to Paxton.
Abrahamson’s work phone was turned on again for 30 seconds at 5:04 a.m. the next morning and connected to a tower in Grand Junction, Colo.
Records for Abrahamson’s personal cellphone led police to a car rental business in Phoenix, where records showed he had leased a black 2012 Chrysler 300 two days before the West Fargo assault. The sheriff’s office leases undercover vehicles from the same business, Cruff said.
The Chrysler matched a picture of the suspect vehicle drawn by Swart, Cruff said. Records showed the car was returned at 8:51 a.m. the day after the assault, but investigators believe it was actually returned two days after the assault, on the morning of Sept. 18, and that a worker at the business predated the return to save money for Abrahamson.
The vehicle had been returned with slightly more than 5,000 miles, Cruff said.
According to court documents, Abrahamson had told the rental company he was going to South Dakota to visit a family member. He damaged the vehicle on the way back and paid cash to cover the repairs.
In Abrahamson’s cell- phone records, authorities found a recurring number belonging to a Maricopa County sheriff’s deputy, Steven Carpenter.
Cruff said the two men exchanged text messages the day before the West Fargo assault but then none for several days. However, the messages “go off the chart” after Cruff’s initial interview with Trinity Abrahamson, he said.
Carpenter’s cellphone records showed a connection to a tower in northern New Mexico six hours after his shift ended on Sept. 15 and another connection two hours after that near the New Mexico-Colorado border, leading police to believe he was on his way to West Fargo with Tim Abrahamson.
Abrahamson has his next court appearance in Arizona on Nov. 16, Jones said.
If convicted of the aggravated assault charge, he faces up to five years in prison and a $5,000 fine.
Key role in probe
Maricopa County has seen its share of political controversy in the past few years, including an alleged public corruption case in which Tim Abrahamson played a role.
In January 2010, he testified in grand jury proceedings related to public corruption charges Arpaio sought to bring against officials at odds with him.
The case hinged on allegations that county officials, an attorney and a judge tried to interfere with an investigation into the construction of a court building. County officials were accused of spending public money to sweep their offices for listening devices, according to media reports at the time.
Abrahamson was the key witness on the bug-sweep investigation, grand jury transcripts show.
The grand jury ultimately ended its probe, and no charges were brought.
Abrahamson, a seven-year deputy of the sheriff‘s office, previously was on the office’s Special Assignment Unit, which included SWAT training, and was an organized crime detective at the time of his grand jury testimony in January 2010, according to the transcript.
Readers can reach Forum reporter Mike Nowatzki at (701) 241-5528