'No credible evidence'

Feds clear Billison in pistol-wielding investigation

By Bill Donovan
Special to the Times

WINDOW ROCK, February 9, 2012

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A n investigation by the U.S. attorney' office has closed the book on the investigation into a claim that John Billison, director of the Navajo Nation's Division of Public Safety, misused his service weapon.

"It is my conclusion that there is no credible evidence from which to conclude that John Billison pointed a gun at Patrick Willie in his residence in Window Rock during a poker game in 2009," said Patrick Schneider, an assistant U.S. attorney for Arizona.

Schneider said his office reached this conclusion after talking to others who were at the poker game, who said nothing of that nature occurred.

The only person who has stepped forward to say it happened is Willie, who waited two years to bring the incident to anyone's attention and reversed himself at one point, according to Schneider and the FBI.

"Indeed Patrick Willie, the alleged victim, has told investigators that he made up the incident in an effort to help his friend, Robert Platero, who had recently been fired by John Billison," Schneider wrote.

Willie, a retired police officer, claims he was playing poker at his house with Billison and three others and that Billison, who had been drinking, got angry because he was losing and pulled his service pistol out and threatened him.

Willie first told his story publicly in November after telling the tribal police. Platero, an investigator in the Crownpoint Police District, had been assigned to investigate it. He later dropped the investigation for fear of retaliation from Billison, but Billison then put him on leave, citing his alleged failure to pursue the investigation.

Willie, when first approached by federal agents, recanted his story and then, a couple of weeks later, recanted the recantation, saying he did it because he was afraid.

Gallup attorney Dave Jordan, who represents Platero in a complaint against the police department, said he is puzzled by a number of things in Schneider's letter.

First, it errs in stating that Platero was fired. He is still on leave and has gotten no indication when the Internal Affairs investigation into the matter will be resolved, Jordan said.

Platero, along with five other NNPD investigators, has filed a complaint against Billison with the Office of Navajo Labor Relations, claiming that Billison has used his office to intimidate and fire police personnel with whom he has differences.

Jordan also questioned Schneider's statement that Willie was doing this because he's a friend of Platero's.

"This surprised me because Willie has never said he was a friend of Platero's," Jordan said. "In fact, during his interview (with Internal Affairs), he said he had been a friend of Billison's for a long time."

Schneider said this motivation explains why Willie didn't make the accusation until two months ago.

"The timing of the allegation by Willie, which was rebutted by all available witnesses and subsequently recanted by Willie, supports the conclusion that this unsubstantiated allegation, two years after the supposed incident, was intended to disparage, disgrace and retaliate against John Billison for the personal action he had taken against Robert Platero," Schneider said.

Jordan said he still believes that Willie was telling the truth about what happened at the poker game.

"I fish out liars for a living," Jordan said, pointing out that liars have a hard time keeping their facts straight when they tell a story over and over again.

Willie has added many details about what happened that night and has told it to various federal and tribal investigators, as well as to Jordan, and has never varied in those facts and details, Jordan said.

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