THERE GOES THE "JUDGE"

DID AZSCAM RUIN THE CAREER OF STEDINO SQUEALER GARY BARTLETT? DID GARY BARTLETT EVEN HAVE A CAREER?

Cantelme's bitter relationship with Ortega extends at least back to the Eighties, when the police administration and firefighters lined up on opposite sides of the issue of political redistricting. The hatred grew between these two and, at one point, Cantelme was the only non-police officer to march in a protest against Ortega's personnel policies. And if Cantelme was targeted in AzScam, it wasn't the first time: Shortly after the march, Cantelme found himself indicted on cocaine charges as a result of a police investigation.

What ever the reality was of Bartlett's thin connection to Cantelme, Bartlett had made out to Stedino that he and the firefighter were blood brothers.

Bartlett is quoted in police transcripts as telling Stedino that Cantelme and firefighter Duane Pell were dirty" and crooked," that Cantelme had been guilty as shit" of cocaine use, and that, because of Bartlett's skillful investigation of Cantelme's drug charges, Cantelme and Pell owed me [Bartlett] their lives." They would do anything he asked.

I don't think there is any question that Bartlett made them think he was close to Duane and me," says Cantelme. Duane Pell and I were Ruben Ortega's enemies and if he could use Gary Bartlett to try to get something on us, he would absolutely do that. I have no question in my mind at all."

And what was the reaction of law enforcement when, in the weeks after Bartlett's hiring as a lobbyist for legalized gambling, it turned out that the big man was of no earthly use? When he was not able to so much as introduce Stedino to a single bribable legislator, including Don Kenney, was the advisability of the sting thought out again?

Bartlett, of course, does not see his termination from Stedino's employ quite the way that Stedino himself has characterized it: Bartlett has said since the sting first became public that he and the undercover agent parted ways because Bartlett refused to do anything illegal, including try to bribe legislators. He says, and a few of his close friends corroborate, that he regarded his deal with Stedino from the beginning purely as legitimate lobbying, and was horrified by Stedino's methods. He says that he had already decided to quit on the day Stedino fired him. (Becky Kurtz, printer Russ Kurtz's wife, says Bartlett told her this before going over to his final showdown with Stedino.)

Whatever the reasons that Bartlett became disconnected, it didn't change the sting. Stedino simply substituted Ron Tapp, a Republican bail bondsman, for Bartlett. Tapp was the lobbyist for bail bondsmen, and by this time his political connections may have appeared more legitimate to Stedino than Bartlett's (Tapp did later succeed in delivering Kenney, who was ousted from the legislature and convicted). But Tapp didn't come equipped with a list of specific legislators he thought could be bribed or whom he knew had been bribed in the past, either.

That is how much the men who created the sting" still wanted it to happen.

THESE DAYS Gary Bartlett stands at the end of a long, unpleasant road that, whatever the contributions of the County Attorney's Office, is largely of his own making. Within a few days, he will undergo sentencing for his conviction on tax charges. Even if he doesn't go to prison, his standing as a member of the judiciary" is damaged forever and, as a convicted felon, he cannot even work any longer as a private investigator, the employment that has apparently kept his body and soul together since he came to Arizona.

Also, if the Attorney General's Office has anything to do with it, he will go to prison. Despite a presentencing report that recommended probation, despite the fact that Bartlett's wages had been withheld and his accountant's figures showed he owed no taxes (indeed, that, for some of the years he filed late, he was owed refunds), prosecutor Mark Dwyer has recommended a prison term of four to seven years.

Dwyer points out that, under state law, not owing taxes does not exempt a person from criminal charges: Anyone with an income of $5,000 or above is required to file or face the consequences. And at any rate, Dwyer is unconvinced that Bartlett owes nothing: He believes that an audit of the returns Bartlett has now filed will show otherwise. (He doesn't say why this audit has not already been performed; the tax investigation on Bartlett began in 1989.)

Dwyer has recommended such a stiff sentence for Bartlett, he says, because the circumstances are so aggravated. When he stopped filing, it was pretty deliberate; we think it was to try to stop paying child support to his ex-wife. He just flouted the system year after year," he says. And the fact that he was a professional person, a former judge, we think that he can't plead ignorance."

Bartlett's attorney, public defender Dan Shepherd, is not so sure that the story Dwyer tells is the whole story, however. I think Bartlett is being treated more harshly than the usual late-filer, at least in sentencing," he says, theorizing that Dwyer may be cooperating with members of the County Attorney's Office who want to pressure Bartlett into a plea bargain on the AzScam charges he faces. (Dwyer flatly denies this: As far as we are concerned, those other charges don't exist.") Lots of people don't file if they don't owe any tax," says Shepherd. It is bad policy to prosecute people criminally when they are not of criminal mind. They could just fine you civilly. And to insist on prison is just way out of line." He points out that in a similar case that was sentenced recently the defendants were granted probation, despite the fact that they owed taxes and there was much more money involved.

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