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January 10, 2013

Grand Traverse deputy takes plea deal

Domestic violence charge dropped as part of the deal

TRAVERSE CITY — A Grand Traverse sheriff's deputy had a domestic violence charge dismissed as part of a plea deal.

Sheriff's officials have yet to determine what, if any, discipline they'll hand out to Ryan Scott Salisbury, 35.

Salisbury pleaded guilty Wednesday to a misdemeanor count of disturbing the peace for his role in a Dec. 6 incident at Union Street Station in Traverse City. He initially was charged with disturbing the peace and a misdemeanor count of domestic violence.

Salisbury will receive a delayed sentence as part of the deal. If he completes a series of court-ordered terms during the next year, the disturbing the peace conviction will be vacated. He also won't be charged with any other crimes tied to the bar incident.

Antrim County Prosecutor Charlie Koop handled the case as a special prosecutor. He said Salisbury didn't receive special treatment. The type of plea deal Salisbury received is commonly offered in domestic violence cases, Koop said.

"It's the same offer that would have been offered to any other defendant in his situation," he said.

Authorities previously said Salisbury assaulted his girlfriend by striking her with an elbow to the neck, and he also made contact with a man sitting near Salisbury's girlfriend. Koop said it appears Salisbury shoved his girlfriend aside as he confronted a man who sent her texts over a period of time.

"The girlfriend was really not the target of his actions," Koop said. "(She) happened to be standing between where the deputy came in and this guy."

Koop said there were some problems with the case. Some witnesses changed their stories, he said, and the two alleged victims claim they aren't victims at all.

"We've got witnesses who don't want to testify, we've got both victims claiming they were never touched, and we have a 30-second incident in a bar," he said.

Witnesses initially told Traverse City Police Salisbury yelled profanities at his girlfriend and appeared to make a punching motion toward her after elbowing the woman in the neck, according to a police report. He also made contact with the man nearby, witnesses said.

The male victim initially told police he was reluctant to talk about the incident because he was intimidated by Salisbury, a report shows.

Salisbury's girlfriend denied being injured and repeatedly asked the court to lift a no-contact order in the case. On Wednesday, she told a judge she didn't feel threatened by Salisbury and the bar situation "had nothing to do" with her.

Sheriff Tom Bensley said his office's review of the situation continues. He wouldn't say what disciplinary action could or will be taken, and he wouldn't comment on Salisbury's disciplinary history — or lack thereof — at the department.

"When we've completed our internal investigation as quickly as possible, we'll take the appropriate action," he said.

Salisbury has worked for the department for about 10 years. He is currently a K-9 handler. He was on paid suspension for a few weeks but has been on unpaid suspension since Jan. 2, Bensley said.

Salisbury's attorney, Dena Horvath, said Salisbury wants to keep his job. He pleaded guilty against the advice of his attorneys, Horvath said. She believed Salisbury would be acquitted of all charges had he gone to trial.

In late 2011, Leelanau County assistant prosecutor Doug Donaldson declined to issue a domestic violence charge against Salisbury for an alleged assault on a different woman in Grand Traverse County. That woman, Salisbury's then-wife, asked Donaldson not to charge.

Koop said Salisbury's history is problematic considering his profession.

"I have a snapshot of his behavior in two situations involving a wife and a live-in girlfriend," he said. "That snapshot says to me that this officer has a behavioral issue that needs to be addressed."

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