Opiate for the Mrs.

When laws are broken, somebody's got to be punished. In the case of Cindy McCain, that somebody is Tom Gosinski

"At worst, she probably could have gotten ten to 16 months," says one defense attorney who researched federal sentencing guidelines. He adds that under federal guidelines, McCain looks like a good candidate for diversion.

Another defense attorney says that in cases like McCain's, it is not uncommon for prosecutors to attempt to seize the offender's property, which, among other things, would include an interest in Hensley & Company and the McCains' North Central Avenue residence.

That attorney also says that Cindy McCain and John Dowd have done a service to other drug offenders.

"We're certainly going to jump on this when we have a client in a similar position," he says. "When we have a client that's charged in this same kind of 'script' writing, if the behavior is milder than Cindy McCain's, we should be getting diversion."
State courts would have offered a much greater challenge for Dowd and his client.

"If she were charged in state court--and there is an offense that fits her case to a T--she's looking at Class 3 felonies," says one defense attorney. "If we assume conservatively that there were six separate counts, her liability in state court is astronomical. She could have been looking at ten to 20 years, with a presumptive sentence of 11.25 years and two-thirds served before she would be eligible for parole.

"If I had a client named José Lopez, I'm not so sure we wouldn't be looking at that."

Doug McEachern, a reporter for Tribune Newspapers, was one of the chosen few who was leaked the Cindy McCain saga. The resulting August 22 lead paragraph: "She was blonde and beautiful. A rich man's daughter who became a politically powerful man's wife. She had it all, including an insidious addiction to drugs that sapped the beauty from her life like a spider on a butterfly."

As most East Valley residents were fathoming McEachern's piece that Monday morning, New Times and the Arizona Republicwere securing copies of Romley's investigative report. (The Republic, acting on a tip, made a public records request for the report that very morning; New Times' had been made 19 days earlier.)

Armed with the report, the Republic, which had been left out of the Cindy McCain exclusives, carried a front-page story on Tuesday morning that told of Tom Gosinski's lawsuit and the extortion investigation.

McEachern, a veteran political reporter, knew he had been had. "I'm not so sure it was a lie," McEachern says of the spin job. "It was hedging the truth."

McEachern dashed back to the subject like a lemming on a cliff. In an August 24 analysis, he attempted to explain why he'd only reported half the story the first time around. Again, he employed imagery: "News is not static. It flows like summer rain down a wash. The first bubbling rivulets coming down over the rocks may carry just a few nuggets of a big story. Later, as details become clear, the story eventually may build into a raging, foaming torrent."

If there was no torrent, a steady trickle fell on the McCain camp over the next week. The Republic, apparently piqued at being stiffed on the initial story, carried reports about Cindy McCain's drug habit on the front page every day during the week, and ran another piece on B1 on Saturday.

And all the while, key facts were out of whack. Steve Meissner of the Arizona Daily Starreported that Cindy McCain had completed "a diversion program established by the U.S. Attorney's Office."

Meissner says both Smith and Cindy McCain told him that she had completed a diversion program. "Then they put out a statement saying that--quote, inaccurate press accounts, unquote--had made it sound as though she had already completed the diversion program," Meissner says. "So I confronted them to that effect, and Jay Smith said that he was telling me what the lawyers were authorizing him to say and he said he didn't know what a diversion program was."

All of the McCain camp's wild talk of the diversion program and twisted investigation chronology no doubt rankled federal prosecutors and DEA agents, who are not able to comment on a case under investigation. The U.S. Attorney's Office in Phoenix actually issued Cindy McCain's statement about the inaccurate press accounts. The release went on to say that she had merely applied for the diversion program. The statement also indicated that McCain had agreed to reorganize AVMT, and pay for the cost of the federal investigation.

Accounts of Cindy McCain's drug treatment and exactly when her husband learned of her addiction don't jibe.

Phoenix Gazette columnist John Kolbe, who compared Cindy McCain's addiction to her husband's captivity in a Vietnamese POW camp, devoted a paragraph to the revelation that it was John Dowd who informed the senator that his wife was an addict in January 1994. County records show that Dowd was representing Cindy McCain in talks with the DEA in May 1993.

Both Kolbe and McEachern reported that McCain had checked into a drug rehab clinic in Wickenburg earlier this year.

But in their report, county attorney's investigators state flatly: "Mrs. McCain admits that she acquired a drug dependency for Percocet because of a back problem and received rehabilitation in Wickenburg Arizona in 1991 & 1992."

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