Saturday, October 06, 2012

Political news briefs of the (mostly) legal variety

Some of this has been covered elsewhere, but merits inclusion here because of timeliness and topicality -

- LD17 State Representative Ben Arredondo pled guilty in federal court on Friday on some felony mail fraud charges related to a sporting events tickets bribery scam and a "scholarship fund" that was used to pay education expenses for some relatives of his.  According to news reports, his sentencing will take place in January.  A copy of the plea agreement is here, courtesy AZCentral.com.

With the felony conviction, Arredondo becomes ineligible to serve in the legislature.  When the seat officially becomes vacant, the Democratic Party precinct committeemen (PCs) of the current LD17 will meet to nominate three candidates to fill the seat for the remainder of Arredondo's term.  The Maricopa County Board of Supervisors will then interview and select one of the candidates for the appointment.

- John Mills, a former staffer at the Arizona House of Representatives, is the subject of a federal indictment on wire fraud charges, relating to his alleged use of campaign funds for personal purposes.

...While the two, Arredondo and Mills, have been convicted and/or accused of some serious crimes, the crimes are still relatively small time. 

The "buzz" in Arizona's political circles is that this is just the beginning and that more investigations, indictments, and convictions of "large fry" are in the federal pipeline.

- Arizona has had governors indicted* (and convicted) while in office, a state treasurer resign in disgrace (before he could be indicted), and a state mine inspector who was indicted on fraud and theft charges. 

And just in the last couple of decades.

However, to the best of my knowledge, we've haven't had an Attorney General who was the subject of a corruption investigation.

Enter Tom Horne.

He's now facing civil charges (which could result in fines, as opposed to the prison time that criminal charges could bring) stemming from some alleged campaign finance violations. A close aide of his, Kathleen Winn, headed up an independent expenditure committee during the 2010 election cycle. That independent committee spent more than half a million dollars opposing candidates.

Or should I say, "candidate".

The only candidate that the committee expended funds opposing was Felecia Rotellini, Horne's opponent in the race for Attorney General that year.

There was evidence (aside from the obvious - a Horne associate running an "independent" committee that focused solely on attacking a Horne adversary) that there was operational and fundraising coordination between Horne, hence the charges.

Fun fact: All of the independent expeditures were funnelled through Lincoln Strategy Group, which is run by infamous GOP operative Nathan Sproul. Who's having problems of his own these days.

Even before this, Horne had ethical issues - like a receiving a lifetime ban from the Securities and Exchange Commission for things like fraud and deceiving clients, like concealing a bankruptcy on a financial disclosure form, like hiring women who are close, personal friends to taxpayer-funded jobs for which they may be slightly less than qualified for (that's kind of a convoluted way of saying that he allegedly has used taxpayer money to support his girlfriends).

And to top it all off, during the FBI investigation that led to the current legal difficulties? Horne was driving a car that collided with another car, and after doing so, drove off. He committed a hit-and-run.

In full view of two FBI agents who were following him as part of the investigation.

And where did the accident occur?

At the address of his (alleged) girlfriend.

Ooopsie.

*Actually, multitasker that he was, Ev Mecham was indicted, impeached, and the subject of a recall election, all at the same time. However, including all of that would have made the sentence waaaaay too long. :)

- Cochise County Sheriff Larry Dever was legally intoxicated, speeding, and not wearing a seat belt at the time of his fatal car crash.  All of which goes to illustrate that no one is immune to the laws of biochemistry or physics, not even those who enforce the laws of man.  If you are going to consume alcohol (or any other intoxicant), don't drive; when you drive, drive in a manner that is safe for the conditions (Dever was driving at more than 60 mph on a gravel road designed, and designated, for a lower speed); and when you get into a motor vehicle, wear your damn seat belt.

Having said all that, we should not lose sight of the fact that this is a huge tragedy for Dever's family and friends, and my deepest condolences go out to them.

- Apparently, one of the candidates for the Arrowhead Justice of the Peace office, Melanie DeForest, has withdrawn from the race.  According to a source, a press release was sent out late this week announcing the withdrawal, however, I haven't seen the press release nor did DeForest return a call seeking confirmation.  However, I trust my source on this.

DeForest is the "incumbent" in the race in that she currently holds the office.  She was appointed to the office when her predecessor Philip Woolbright was removed from office over ethics violations.

Woolbright was removed from office too late for a normal election process (collect nomination signatures, turn them in and be placed the primary ballot, win the primary, and go on to the general election), so the race is a "write-in" only one on the November ballot.  There are nine declared write-in candidates, but DeForest was considered to be the favorite, both because she was already in the office and because she has the support of the Arrowhead Justice Precinct/NW Valley "establishment", such as it is - the treasurer of her campaign committee is Miles Keegan, the constable of the Hassayampa Justice Precinct, and her non-"Melanie DeForest" campaign contributors, per her most recent campaign finance filings, are John Keegan, a former JP in the Arrowhead precinct, and Chris and Martha Mueller.  Mr. Miller is "Judge" Mueller, the Hassayampa JP, and Martha is his homemaker wife.

Note:  Woolbright is scheduled for a bench trial on Thursday on a charge stemming from the incidents that were part of the ethics violations (Maricopa County Superior Court case number CR2012005432).  However, that may change if either side in the case moves for a continuance.

The Arizona Republic has a story on DeForest's withdrawal from the race.  Apparently she "enhanced" her resume, claiming certain educational and employment achievements that cannot be documented.

- Speaking of Maricopa County Superior Court cases, Jon Levenson, the former constable in the Kyrene Justice Precinct agreed to a plea deal in his insurance fraud/conspiracy case (CR2011-007713).  He plead guilty to one charge, Conspiracy to Commit Arson of an Occupied Structure (his own house), while two other charges were dropped.  He was sentenced to serve four months in Maricopa County Jail, but based on my reading of the plea agreement, the jail sentence is suspended and he will serve two years' probation instead.  I've reached out to someone who knows more about this stuff than I do (you know, a lawyer-type person :) ).  I'll update if appropriate.

Update on 10/7 - turns out that I did, in fact, misread the linked plea agreement.  The normal sentence for a Class Two felony is much harsher than four months in county lockup; the four months in county is *part* of the suspended sentence, along with the two years' probation.  Apologies to readers for my misreading of the plea agreement.  End update...

2 comments:

cpmaz said...

Previous comment removed because it was spam.

Thomas Scharrer said...

You must not have read Tom Horne's Wikipedia page he looks worse than most criminals and I believe he was disgorged from trading and yes he has been part of a corruption investigation.