By Amy Silverman
By Olivia LaVecchia
By Monica Alonzo and Stephen Lemons
By Chris Parker
By Michael Lacey
By Weston Phippen
Kathy Elliget says she enlisted the help "of everyone and their dog" to bombard the County Attorney's Office with calls of complaint about Dick and Laurie Elliget's proposed plea bargains. Adds husband Larry, "It appeared as if they were giving Laurie a deal in order to help the Mesa Police Department with their internal investigation. I thought that they could nail her hard and force her to talk to Mesa. Come to find out that the bitch gets the same deal without having to talk to anyone."
Larry Elliget says Mesa assistant chief Mike Whalen ordered him into his office the day after the telephone-calling spree. "He told me the county attorney was complaining about my making extrajudicial statements, whatever that means," he recalls. "I said I hadn't talked to the media, which I hadn't, and that I'd talked to the County Attorney's Office because I was so mad at the plea. I said if they wanted to go after me, then go ahead and do it."
He says the department didn't discipline him.
FOLLOWING THE New Times probe, the Mesa Police Department announced that County Attorney Rick Romley would oversee Mesa's internal investigation of the Elliget case.
"We have complete faith in our internal investigation," police spokesman Mike Hayes told the Phoenix Gazette, "but because of the persistent allegations that we might be trying to hide something from the public, we asked for the county attorney's review."
Several Mesa cops tell New Times, however, that asking the county attorney to review their department's work is akin to asking the fox to guard the henhouse. They are incredulous an impartial agency wasn't asked to do the job.
"Wasn't it the county attorney who gave the Elligets such a great deal in the first place?" asks one officer, who says he fears reprisals if identified. "They had the diary in their possession and they knew what it could mean for the futures of a lot of cops, and that it had the names of high-ranking people in it, and what did they do? Nothing."
But another cop says he's hopeful the County Attorney's Office will uncover and disclose some truths about the Mesa Police Department. "Maybe they'll do something good because they have to," this officer says. "I mean, they've looked real bad in this case and in the Temple murders, and this gives them a chance to do the right thing. We'll see."
Deputy county attorney Paul Ahler is heading his office's investigation. "It's not the fox guarding the henhouse," he says. "My credibility personally, and the credibility of the County Attorney's Office, is at stake here." Several Mesa cops say the department's Internal Affairs unit has jump-started its seemingly moribund investigation into the Elliget affair. Prior to the New Times story, police sources say, a main source of information for the IA team was a short yes-or-no questionnaire about various aspects of the case.
"Now, it's like they're saying, `We ought to do something or else we're gonna look worse than we already look to the public,'" one cop says. "It's not like everybody here is dirty--we're not--but our image is taking a beating, as well it should."
Many, many people have been devastated by the fallout from the Elliget case. Cheri Staton--a security agent at a Tempe Smitty's store--is considering asking for a leave of absence because of stress.
"When people thumb their noses at law and authority," she says, "the whole system breaks down. That's what's happened in Mesa. It's ridiculous that people in the public trust can get away with crap like this. I don't mean Dick Elliget--he's gonna get his, I guess. I'm talking about the rest of those police officers who are involved in this mess."
"People on top realize their own heads could roll if things don't go their way."
"I asked Russ why he never said anything to his bosses about what was going on at the Elligets. He told me, quote, `They're part of it.'"
"When an assistant chief tells you something, there's not much argument you can make."
Asking the county attorney to review the Elliget case is akin to asking the fox to guard the henhouse.
"Wasn't it the county attorney who gave the Elligets such a great deal in the first place?" "It's not like everybody here is dirty--we're not--but our image is taking a beating, as well it should.