By Amy Silverman
By Olivia LaVecchia
By Monica Alonzo and Stephen Lemons
By Chris Parker
By Michael Lacey
By Weston Phippen
I had a long telephone conversation with Byron "Bud" Brown, the Scottsdale real estate man, the other day.
Brown, 65, was belligerent throughout. He kept telling me how smart he was. Brown also insisted that nothing he did to make millions in the Big Boquillas Ranch swindle was any different from the gambits Dennis DeConcini and John McCain have employed to make themselves rich.
Brown made more than $7 million profit in a matter of minutes a few years back in a now-classic real estate flip involving the sale of the Boquillas Ranch to the Navajo tribe.
"People have the wrong idea about it. What's wrong with making money?" Brown demanded.
"So why isn't it all right for me and Tom Tracy to buy the ranch for $26 million and sell it the same day for $33 million?
"Was it all right for DeConcini to pay $100 an acre for land and then sell it for $5,000 an acre because he bought the land knowing in advance the government wanted it?
"Since you work for the New Times," Brown said, "you tell that Fitzpatrick guy who writes that column that the next time he calls me a liar, I'm going to kick his ass."
This unnerved me. Could it be that Brown didn't know who he was talking to? His son had answered the phone, and I had clearly identified myself when asking to speak to Brown.
How could he not know? Was he kidding? I decided not to say anything that might prompt Brown to hang up the phone. The conversation was much too interesting to risk that.
I told Brown I didn't think that anyone at New Times had ever called him a liar.
"Well, you tell that Fitzpatrick that if he's man enough to come out here and face me, I'll take him on anytime."
It is clear that recent events in court have bolstered Brown's confidence.
The other day, Judge Roger Strand of U.S. District Court ruled Brown could not be prosecuted for the land deal because the U.S. Senate had granted him immunity in exchange for his testimony against Peter MacDonald.
I had watched MacDonald in court. I empathized with his agony. He was a man who never had a chance, and is now serving time in the federal prison in Pennsylvania.
Brown had played the rat in sending MacDonald to jail. He had betrayed MacDonald by wearing a wire and getting him to make statements that were later used as evidence against him.
I wanted to know how Brown could live with himself after doing something like that.
"Didn't you feel that you betrayed MacDonald?" I asked. "Didn't you feel that he was your friend and you put him in jail?"
Brown didn't back off a bit.
"I did what I had to do," Brown said. "Those government guys got me in a room and told me they were going to put me away. They were going to charge me with all kinds of things. They gave me a script to play with Peter, and I did what they told me."
"But what about the betrayal?" I asked.
"I had no choice," Brown said. "They told me what my alternatives were, and so I put the wire on and went into the meetings with Peter.
"I think we're still friends. Peter MacDonald was railroaded. His enemies got what they wanted. If they ever want to raise a defense fund for him, I'll be glad to contribute.
"Justice is still yet to be done in this case," Brown said. "I have been forced to spend $1.5 million in attorney fees to defend myself from the federal and state government."
It should be noted, incidentally, for those interested in the financial status of local lawyers, that Brown's attorney over the past few years has been A. Melvin McDonald, former U.S. attorney and also a former Maricopa County Superior Court judge.
Brown cackled on aggressively.
"Now that the judge has ruled I can't be prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney's Office, it's time for me to get even for what they put me through. I'm gonna sue them all."
He made it clear he was talking about the prosecutors who have been trying to put him behind bars.
You must tip your hat to a man of such daring. But you have to realize that Brown is something of a wild card. How else could a man whose educational background consists of a few semesters at a cow college named Wichita State have bamboozled so many smart people in what has come to be known as the Big Boquillas Ranch swindle?
Brown blames newspaper reporters for being so stupid. They don't know anything, he says, and they are too lazy to look it up. He proceeded to test me.