By New Times
By Connor Radnovich
By Robrt L. Pela and Amy Silverman
By Ray Stern
By Keegan Hamilton
By Matthew Hendley
By Monica Alonzo
By Monica Alonzo
ù While crack cocaine ravaged American cities, Romley and Phoenix Police Chief Ruben Ortega focused their troops on pot smokers, forming the Maricopa County Demand Reduction Task Force--the vaunted Do Drugs/Do Time program. The task force's most famous action was a showy bust of 30 or so marijuana users at a Paul McCartney concert at Sun Devil Stadium in April 1990. The McCartney sweep still sets the tone for the task force, which was designed to win the drug war by spooking "casual" drug users.
After two years, about 90 percent of the Do Drugs/Do Time cases were reefer-related. And only one alleged crack user had been funneled into the task force's drug-treatment program. Because the task force is funded with an untold fortune in seized drug money, neither Romley nor Ortega (who retired from the force last year) are much accountable to taxpayers.
Nearing the four-year mark in the Romley administration, can the county attorney claim success for his vanguard drug program?
For now the public's only regular measurements of the program's success are the billboards around town that tally the Do Drugs/Do Time arrest total. As this story went to press, the billboards were flashing that 18,774 Do Drugs/Do Time arrests had been made.
ù At the same time Romley was conducting his war on tokers, he co-held a $40,000 lien on downtown's most notorious crack den, Club 902. In 1989--the inaugural year for Do Drugs/Do Time--police made 127 arrests at the bar. Though half of those arrests were narcotics-related, Romley blithely continued to collect $800 a month on the lien. Press reports of the Romley/crack-bar connection finally forced the state to close the joint, but Romley never divested himself of a financial interest in the building.
ù After interrogating the daylights out of four suspects and ostensibly solving the cold-blooded murders of nine people at a Buddhist temple west of Phoenix, Sheriff Tom Agnos passed the case to Romley's office. The suspects, from Tucson, were held for two months without any physical evidence of their crimes. After weeks of confident talk about the weight of their case against the alleged perps, Romley's people had to release the Tucson men--after a couple of different suspects confessed to the murders.
Some critics (Klahr included) say Romley should have dismissed the charges against the Tucson four early on for lack of credible evidence.
ù While successfully and spectacularly nailing several corruptible tinhorn politicians in their million-dollar AzScam sting operation, Romley and Ortega also targeted perceived enemies. The most telling evidence of this are prosecution records that document a steak-house conversation between police stooge Stedino and Gary Bartlett, a State Capitol glad-hander who actually sparked the sting by bragging about his workable contacts with less-than-pure lawmakers.
At this February 8, 1990, meeting, in the very same breath in which Stedino pumped Bartlett for dirt on Don Kenney and Bobby Raymond (two of the slimier legislators ensnared in AzScam) he also floated the name of Michael Lacey. This was a strange flotation because Lacey, executive editor of New Times, was in no way involved with legalized gambling, the issue Stedino (as his wise-guy alter ego Tony Vincent) was pimping to various gullible elected officials.
Lacey is involved with column writing, though, which was what he was doing that very month. In fact, Lacey was hammering away at Romley's ties to Club 902. His February 7 column announced that the state liquor department was closing down the 902.
Later, during the AzScam trial of Carolyn Walker, a police detective admitted that Stedino had once been loosed upon another uptown restaurant in search of Lacey-related grease. In this instance, Stedino was instructed by Phoenix Police Detective Gary Ball to go to Richardson's bar and restaurant to check on Lacey and Corporation Commissioner Renz Jennings, who were supposedly involved in "illegal cocaine activity" there.
Stedino interrupted his righteous purging of Arizona politics to track down the rumors, which "failed to pan out," Ball testified. When questioned about motivation, Ball admitted that no written record existed of the supposed "tip" that prompted Stedino's safari to Richardson's--an odd lapse by investigators who carefully documented every turn of the AzScam trail.
It should be noted that Jennings' wife, Dianna, is chair of the county Democratic party and includes among her responsibilities identifying candidates to run against Republican officeholders. Such as Rick Romley.
ù One of the highlights of the AzScam trial was Superior Court Judge Michael Ryan's admonishment to Romley, after Romley had dished details of secret plea-agreement negotiations in front of a Phoenix Republican confab. Warning of the contempt citation he could level at any more boneheaded stunts, Ryan told Romley: "I don't want to see you here again; otherwise, bring your toothbrush."
ù Last and not least are the questions now swirling around Romley's 1988 campaign, which records show was funded by a regular rogues' gallery of investigative targets. Charles Keating and his family and friends led the list, with contributions totaling about $5,000. Robert Burns and Robert Knapp Jr., other alleged contributors to the S&L crisis, were Romley campaign benefactors. Also generous were at least ten members of the Aldabbagh strip-club organization. The Aldabbagh group was subject of an early-summer sweep by state police, a series of raids poetically dubbed Operation Aladdin. Included in the organization, tangentially at least, is Joe Romley, an Aldabbagh attorney and Rick Romley's cousin and campaign adviser.