On Thursday, Pro Tem Justice of the Peace Daniel Washburn acquitted State Sen. John Huppenthal (R-Anger Management Issues) on misdemeanor theft and political sign tampering charges.
Washburn is a Republican activist and candidate in Pinal County. Huppenthal is a state senator and likely candidate for State Superintendent of Public Instruction next year.
This was not a really shocking verdict (the sign tampering statute's language refers to the signs for a candidate, and the sign in question was not "for" a candidate) but the fact that Washburn took so long to find something to hang an acquittal on the theft charge was a little surprising.
While the ruling cannot be appealed by the prosecution, the grounds for the acquittal on the theft charge seems weak.
The Judge found that the state hadn't proven that the sign in question belonged to the Arizona Democratic Party, and that was enough to acquit.
My understanding of the law (which isn't great; if a real lawyer wants to chime in with some insights, that would be fine) is that theft occurs when someone takes property that doesn't belong to him, not when that someone takes property that belongs to a specific owner.
Another weakness of the verdict is that it was based in part on the property manager giving Huppenthal permission to take the sign down.
Well, while Huppenthal testified that he was given permission, the property manager testified that she said "I don't care."
Only in Arizona could "I don't care" be synonymous with "I give you permission."
I guess we can file all of this under "IOKIYAR" - It's OK If You're A Republican.