ANATOMY O

WHEN BRUCE BABBITT SURFACED AS THE TOP CHOICE FOR THE U.S. SUPREME COURT, A WASHINGTON, D.C., NEWPAPER PLAYED FAST, LOOSE AND SLOPPY WITH HIS PAST

Although Devereux occasionally worked as a reporter for the Scottsdale Progress, he wasn't in Vegas merely to do journalism. A passionate supporter of Max Dunlap, one of the men charged with orchestrating the Bolles assassination, Devereux was there to negotiate for and purchase the IOU markers on the behalf of what Devereux calls "Phoenix interests."

(Dunlap is awaiting sentencing after his recent conviction, the second, for killing Bolles. His alleged co-conspirator, Jimmy Robison, is scheduled for trial later this summer.)

Devereux won't say why he wanted to buy the IOU markers, or for whom he was acting as a middleman. What is clear, however, is that Devereux now says "the deal never came to pass" because the price of obtaining the IOU markers was too high. He admits that he never saw any "hard evidence" of Babbitt's gambling debts.

Like many conspiracy alleys, the IOU markers turn out to be blind. With the interests of well-connected developer Max Dunlap hanging in the balance, it is difficult to imagine a price for evidence that was too high. And if you are going to consider the possible existence of these markers, you also have to entertain the idea that sharp Las Vegas hustlers might have tried to shake down a potentially gullible Arizona ideologue like Devereux. If Resnick had markers, forged or legitimate, he took them to his grave in 1989.

One year later, 1990, Arizona had a new attorney general, Grant Woods, who was determined to resolve the 1976 killing of reporter Don Bolles. Woods' predecessor, Bob Corbin, had already amassed a mountain of data that was on its way to the courthouse.

Far from unearthing damaging information on Bruce Babbitt, the Attorney General's Office uncovered questionable ties between the target of their probe, Max Dunlap, and sometime-journalist Don Devereux. Investigators for the state's top prosecutor were troubled when they learned that Devereux channeled small amounts of cash and gifts from Dunlap's camp to suspected Bolles killer James Robison.

Although the sums involved were not large, they were viewed by prosecutors as possible payoffs for Robison's continued silence. Devereux found himself in an odd position for a journalist, that of being called a bag man by the attorney general.

Today, Devereux says in astonishment that his role in the Dunlap saga caused him to be viewed as an "unindicted co-conspirator."

When not acting as a courier and champion for Max Dunlap, Devereux claims he carried information to another Arizona journalist, Jerry Seper.

While Devereux failed in his efforts to find and buy the IOU markers, he did manage in 1986 to locate a kindred spirit back in Phoenix. According to Devereux, he often shared information with Seper. Seper had been one of dozens of writers, including Devereux, who covered the aftermath of the Bolles murder and became absorbed in exposing truth behind the case. Even, his critics say, if it meant playing fast and loose with the facts.

"You've got to be damned careful of what you say to [Seper]," says Arizona's former attorney general Bob Corbin, now national president of the National Rifle Association. "Because you know he's going to take it out of context."
Corbin learned that lesson when Seper--who moved to the Washington Times in 1985--teamed up with Devereux the next year to "break" the story of the Babbitt "payoff."

This scandal is separate from the gambling problem but demonstrates how easily these mob-related hoaxes take on a vampirelike resiliency even in the face of silver-bullet reality.

@rule:
@body:Corbin, no stranger to political and journalistic intrigue, says he should have known from the start he was being taken for a ride.

In December 1986, he received calls from both Seper and Devereux. Both told him that they had evidence Babbitt may have taken a bribe from "the mob" in 1976. If they shared that evidence with the attorney general and it turned out to be valid, would he investigate?

Corbin, bound by law and ethics to follow up any and all such leads, said he would look at the evidence.

The next day, the Washington Times proclaimed that Attorney General Bob Corbin was conducting a full-fledged investigation of Bruce Babbitt. "AG confirms Babbitt 'payoff' probe," screamed a matching headline the same day in the Scottsdale Progress.

In this version of the "Babbitt scandal" story, the duo reported that Corbin was probing charges made in a tape-recorded conversation between a Phoenix police snitch and a onetime Phoenix greyhound trainer. The trainer, Leo Lane, told the snitch, Keith Nation, that Babbitt had accepted a $45,000 bribe from the "mob" for his role in allowing a company called Emprise to keep its interests in several Arizona dog tracks.

Emprise, which was found guilty of conspiring to hide its involvement in a Las Vegas partnership that had mob connections, was ordered by the Arizona State Legislature in the 1970s to sell off its six Arizona dog tracks. In a deal later worked out with state officials, the company was allowed to retain some interest in four tracks.

The bribe, Lane said on the tape--recorded in 1976 and misplaced by investigators for almost a decade--was for Babbitt's help in arranging this deal.

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