Leon's Empty Day in Court

Tomorrow the former governor's lawyer will argue before the state Supreme Court that the impeachment of Evan Mecham was illegal and ought to be overturned. Mecham's attorney also represents the assassin of Martin Luther King Jr., James Earl Ray.

Like the Jews in Skokie, Illinois, faced with Nazis marching down main street, people of moderate intentions in Arizona have had to confront their own emotions regarding the constitutional protections afforded Evan Mecham and Leon Woodward. Is it really okay for the state police to terrorize a family as long as the head of the household supports Mecham?

Any restriction on free speech " . . . must be based on more than fear, on more than passionate opposition against the speech, on more than a revolted dislike for its contents . . . ."

Former Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas wrote that.
It is astounding that moderates and liberals in Arizona are prepared to forget those eloquent words when it comes to Evan Mecham and his followers.

No one said boo when DPS moved in with a heavy hand and arrested two of Mecham's witnesses during last year's impeachment hearings.

And now there is little outrage over the campaign of harassment directed at Leon Woodward and his family.

Douglas also said that " . . . the right to be left alone is the beginning of all freedom."

Apparently, County Attorney Richard Romley figures the violation of that fundamental right of Leon Woodward's is worth only a small fine.

The courthouse at 125 West Washington has an elegant, stately exterior, but that is only the veneer. The inside of the building is combed with depressing hallways where troubled individuals seek justice. Leon Woodward arrived alone for his day of reckoning.

The plea agreement took only four minutes in front of visiting Judge Walter Bloom.

Before Leon Woodward knew what hit him, justice was done.
Responding to the suggestion that Van Jackson was getting away with a very nasty crime, County Attorney Romley told me there was no other way to charge the guy. He offered to show me the book of statutes to buttress his position. Weeks ago I asked a former county attorney to review the police report on Van Jackson. He later sent an eighteen-page memo outlining a variety of charges that could have been filed against Jackson. He advised that in order to make the officer willingly talk about who else within DPS was involved in the campaign of terror, prosecutors should have offered Jackson immunity from prosecution in return for the full story. Otherwise, Jackson should have faced jail time.

Instead, County Attorney Romley lightly slapped Van Jackson with two petty misdemeanors and then pleaded those out. Not surprisingly, the former DPS officer is sticking to his story that he acted alone. Of course he did not act alone is the opinion of the former county attorney who'd read the evidence in the Phoenix police report.

After the plea agreement was approved by Judge Bloom, I caught up with Van Jackson and his attorney Jerry Stahnke in the courthouse offices.

I informed them that I had just obtained a summary from the state police of DPS' internal investigation.

Van Jackson told his superiors he was parked in front of the Woodward home when the Phoenix police arrived to investigate the death threats.

If Van Jackson was in his car in front of the Woodward home, then who made the two harassing calls to Leon that the Phoenix cop overheard after his arrival?

Van Jackson's attorney was so startled that he actually stuttered, "N . . . N . . . No comment."

Van Jackson looked at me, smiled broadly and winked. Two days later, James Keppel, chief of staff for County Attorney Romley, explained that he has reopened the investigation into what happened to Leon Woodward at the hands of DPS. Keppel said that he intends to interview every witness connected with the case during the next thirty days.

One cynical view is that Keppel's investigation is merely a smoke screen to cover Romley's actions. After doing the interviews, the county attorney can say that nothing new surfaced but at least they left no stone unturned.

We will all know in a month.
Then we will see if Van Jackson is still smiling.

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