Arizona DPS sues fingerprint board over accused child molester’s card

Jul 1, 2020, 10:59 AM | Updated: 11:01 am
fingerprint card...
(Photo by George Frey/Getty Images)
(Photo by George Frey/Getty Images)

PHOENIX – The Arizona Department of Public Safety is suing another state agency to keep an accused child molester from getting a fingerprint clearance card that would allow him to work with kids.

DPS Director Col. Heston Silbert filed a lawsuit last week against the Arizona Board of Fingerprinting, which gave a clearance card exemption to Brett James Smith, who has been arrested multiple times and been incarcerated in Illinois and Indiana.

“He’d been arrested no less than, that we know of, 10 times, for crimes involving inappropriate touching and interactions with children, up to and including child molestation, and had actually done some jail time over it,” Silbert told KTAR News 92.3 FM’s The Mike Broomhead Show on Wednesday.

DPS had initially denied the clearance, but the board issued a good cause exception.

The lawsuit, which details the 37-year-old Smith’s criminal history, asks for the exception to be overturned and for the board to hold a new hearing.

It says Smith, who has changed his name from Brett James Zagorac, has been solicited private tutoring services in Gilbert and Chandler.

“He violated court orders and moved to Arizona and changed his name from what was a unique last name that was very easily searchable, which is how parents would figure out who he was. … He would give them a false name to tutor their children privately or to teach,” Silbert said.

DPS rejected his application as Zagoroc for fingerprint clearance in 2018, according to the lawsuit, and the board denied his application for a good cause exception in 2018.

He applied again in 2019 after changing his name and again was denied by DPS.

However, according to the DPS lawsuit, an administrative law judge appointed by the Board of Fingerprinting recommended approval of Smith’s subsequent application for a good cause exception, and the board adopted it in January of this year.

The lawsuit lays out the argument that the judge didn’t apply the law properly in the case. Silbert said it’s possible the board didn’t have all the information at their disposal when they approved the exemption.

Silbert said it would be “a gross exercise of authority” to give Smith a clearance card. He also said he is now being sued by Smith’s attorney because he won’t sign off on the exception.

“I was told that I needed to sign the card … but as director of the Department of Public Safety I always say ‘refer to our patch on the side where it says public safety.’” Silbert said.

“I have a responsibility to the citizens of Arizona, and certainly to the children of Arizona, to do my very best to ensure they’re safe.”

Silbert said his department had to hire outside counsel to file the lawsuit against the board because both agencies are represented by the Arizona Attorney General’s Office.

Lifetime Windows & Doors

We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Pass it along to the KTAR News team here.

Arizona News

Arizona Sen. Nancy Barto, R-Phoenix, left, speaks during a news conference after the Supreme Court ...
Associated Press

U.S. Supreme Court: Arizona can enforce genetic issue abortion ban

The U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday allowed enforcement of a 2021 Arizona law that lets prosecutors bring felony charges against doctors who knowingly terminate pregnancies solely because the fetuses have a genetic abnormality such as Down syndrome.
19 hours ago
(File Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)...
Associated Press

Arizona Gov. Ducey signs bill directing $335M to build border fence

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey signed legislation Thursday that directs $335 million in state cash to construct virtual or physical fencing along the border with Mexico, part of a $564 million border security funding package that is the most ever spent by the state.
19 hours ago
(KTAR News Photo/Luke Forstner)...

Suspects in shooting of Phoenix officer indicted on first-degree murder charges

Two men accused of shooting a Phoenix police officer earlier this month have been indicted on three felony charges each, authorities said Thursday.
19 hours ago
Protesters shout as they join thousands marching around the Arizona Capitol after the Supreme Court...
Kevin Stone

Proposed Arizona ballot initiative to ensure abortion rights running out of time

Proponents of a ballot initiative to amend Arizona’s constitution to guarantee abortion rights have a week left to gather enough signatures to put the issue before voters this year.
19 hours ago
(AP Photo/John Locher)...

Peoria joins other Valley cities in implementing first stage of drought management plan

Peoria on Wednesday became the latest Valley city to announce implementation of the first stage of its drought management plan.
19 hours ago
(Instagram Photos)...
Kevin Stone

Phoenix Mexican restaurant Ladera Taverna closing, will reopen as The Vig

Ladera Taverna y Cocina is saying adios this weekend after six years in Phoenix’s Sunnyslope neighborhood and will be converted into another location of The Vig.
19 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

Dr. Richard Carmona

Great news: Children under 5 can now get COVID-19 vaccine

After more than two years of battle with an invisible killer, we can now vaccinate the youngest among us against COVID-19. This is great news.
Carla Berg, MHS, Deputy Director, Public Health Services, Arizona Department of Health Services

Update your child’s vaccines before kindergarten

So, your little one starts kindergarten soon. How exciting! You still have a few months before the school year starts, so now’s the time to make sure students-to-be have the vaccines needed to stay safe as they head into a new chapter of life.
Carla Berg, MHS, Deputy Director, Public Health Services, Arizona Department of Health Services

ADHS mobile program brings COVID-19 vaccines and boosters to Arizonans

The Arizona Department of Health Services and partner agencies are providing even more widespread availability by making COVID-19 vaccines available in neighborhoods through trusted community partners.
Arizona DPS sues fingerprint board over accused child molester’s card