Former Moab police officer Joshua Althoff made his first court appearance on domestic violence charges on Tuesday, Feb. 14.
Althoff resigned from the police department in August 2016, following an internal affairs investigation based upon allegations that he and another officer consumed alcohol with minors and mishandled evidence after busting a party the year prior. The incident for which he faces misdemeanor charges in the district court occurred, according to the Grand County Attorney’s filing, “on or about September 28, 2016.”
The indictment, filed with the 7th District Court on Jan. 25, alleges that Althoff committed six counts of criminal behavior: one count of “Threatening or using dangerous weapon in fight or quarrel”; one count of “Assault, domestic violence”; and four counts of “Domestic violence in presence of a child” – one for each child allegedly present in the house during the incident.
At the Feb. 14 hearing, Althoff confirmed to Judge Lyle R. Anderson that he had appeared for booking at the sheriff’s office. His attorney, Stephen J. Stocks of Moab, requested that the preliminary hearing in the case be delayed until March 28 to allow for discovery of documents and Stocks’ already-scheduled vacation with family. Judge Anderson granted that request.
Stocks declined to comment on the case.
Through a Government Records Access and Management Act request, the Moab Sun News obtained a copy of the report made by Grand County Sheriff’s Office deputies regarding the incident. The court has not convicted Althoff of any of the charges made in this report, and the report itself is not proof of guilt.
According to that report, filed by Grand County Sheriff’s Lt. Kim Neal, the sheriff’s office first learned of the incident from a referral to the state’s Division of Child and Family Services on Tuesday, Sept. 27.
The report states that one of Althoff’s children was crying at school and told a school counselor that on the night of Sept. 26, Althoff had been yelling and hitting his wife, that his wife and children had cried, and that Althoff had pointed a gun at his own head. As a legally mandated reporter, the school counselor relayed these claims to a Child and Family Services caseworker, Valerie Shed, who listened to and recorded the child’s statements.
Shed initially referred the matter to the Moab City Police Department. Because the case involved a recently resigned former police officer, the city police deferred responsibility for the investigation to the sheriff’s office.
Neal, along with Sheriff’s Lt. Veronica Bullock, spoke with the school counselor and the caseworker, according to their report. Bullock and Shed then interviewed the child again. “The information from the original disclosure remained the same,” the report states.
The sheriff’s office contacted Althoff’s wife. According to the statements she made to investigators, the incident occurred around 3 a.m. on Sept. 27. She, Althoff and a relative had been drinking beers when a text message arrived on Althoff’s cell phone. The message supposedly read “night darling” or “nite darling” – the spelling varies in the report – prompting her to ask who it was from, and leading to an argument.
In her statement, Althoff’s wife says that Althoff “pushed her away with his open hand placed against her face,” and that she was not pushed to the ground, pushed against any object, or “hit.” She did confirm that Althoff had pointed a pistol at his head, reporting that he allegedly said, “With all this stress I could kill myself.”
According to her statement, she convinced Althoff to holster the pistol, and he left the house, saying that he was “going for a walk.” By morning, he had returned.
Althoff, when contacted by the sheriff’s deputies, agreed to surrender two handguns, the report states. He also agreed to the terms of a “safety plan” for his wife and children while the investigation proceeds, which stipulated that they would live elsewhere.
In Grand County Justice Court, Althoff faces unrelated misdemeanor charges of disorderly conduct, threatening violence, and intentionally damaging or defacing property. That charge resulted from an incident outside Club Rio on Aug. 5, 2016. According to the sheriff’s report from that incident, Althoff engaged in an argument with four individuals outside the bar, yelled threats at them, and punched the exterior wall before walking home alone. His arraignment for those charges is scheduled for March 1.
While awaiting the results of a Peace Officer Standards and Training investigation that will determine his ability to find future work as a police officer elsewhere, Althoff has been working for UPS and City Market, the Salt Lake City Weekly reported earlier this month.
Sgt. Brad MacFarlane, an investigations supervisor for Peace Officer Standards and Training, said – speaking only with regard to his role in the process – that in the investigation of any officer, both referrals from agency administrators and criminal charges would be considered.
“If I’m investigating an officer based on a complaint from an agency, and then a criminal investigation takes place, I would gather that information as well,” McFarlane said.
“If the officer resigns or is terminated or quits and then a criminal investigation takes place … we don’t just disregard it because they’ve left the agency,” he said. So long as the officer still possesses certification from the state, he said, he would proceed with an independent investigation.
Under Utah Code Title 53, Chapter 6, Part 2, a peace officer’s certification may be revoked or suspended if that officer “engages in conduct which is a state or federal criminal offense.”
Attorney asks for more time before hearings