Desperado, Esq.

Once a crusading anti-obscenity prosecutor, Randy Wakefield now stands accused of a crime. The case against him seems dubious, since Wakefield's supervisor in the County Attorney's Office abetted the alleged misdeed.

* Jennifer Wakefield phoned Randy Wakefield one day after Blake told him about the assault investigation. She told him that she and her husband were in the market for a new horse. He said he first told her to save their money for a lawyer, then added details in subsequent conversations.

* Knowing of his son's past battles with police--including a conviction for resisting arrest--Wakefield says he told Jennifer Wakefield to instruct Craig to submit calmly if detectives contacted him. (They haven't.)

Randy Wakefield says he eventually told Jennifer that authorities had identified Craig as having hit someone with a pipe at a New River convenience store. He adds that his sole source about the clash was Blake, who'd summarized sheriff's reports--which are public records.

Jim Blake concurred in a June 9 interview with an office investigator, saying he'd revealed little to the grand jury about the assault case:

"When I had [co-suspect Richard Nero] in front of the grand jury, I didn't go into the facts. I said, on such and such a day, such and such a place, were you and another person involved in an altercation? He said yes."

Randy Wakefield says his talks with Jennifer Wakefield led to crucial revelations.

"She told me that Craig was not the one that hit the man in the head with the pipe, but that Rick [Nero] was the person who had hit him," Wakefield wrote in a June 12 note to his attorney, Joe Chornenky.

"She said that Rick's girlfriend had told her that there might be a problem because Rick had hit a Mexican in the head with a pipe. Later that day, Jennifer called me at work and told me that she had just talked to Rick and that he admitted that he was the one who hit the man with the pipe . . ."

Wakefield says he was obliged to inform Blake.
"I told him, thinking I was helping with the investigation," he says. "I knew it didn't clear my son. Even now, I don't know if he did or didn't do it. And if I thought that I had done anything wrong, I'm not so dumb as to go to Blake, who I know would run straight to [chief deputy] Paul Ahler to make sure his own little butt wasn't in a sling."

Records show that's what Blake did.
On Monday, June 9, office investigator Bill Heath read Randy Wakefield his Miranda rights against self-incrimination. Wakefield waived his rights, after which Heath questioned him.

Later that day, Ahler suspended Wakefield with pay. It was a year to the day after the assault at the convenience store.

Wakefield retired one week later, not wanting to be fired and risk a fight over his retirement benefits.

"It was clear that they didn't want me there anymore," he says. "It was just simpler this way."

Neither Craig Wakefield nor suspected accomplice Richard Nero has been charged in the assault case. It now is in the hands of the Arizona Attorney General's Office because of the conflict of interest.

Randy Wakefield is more comfortable in jeans and cowboy boots than in a three-piece suit and penny loafers, happier at a rodeo than a Bar mixer.

The rangy cowhand is a member of the Maricopa County sheriff's posse, and still hones his roping skills weekly at an arena in north Phoenix.

With the disarming twang of his native east Texas and an aw-shucks manner, Wakefield has lulled many opponents into complacency during his legal career.

But those trappings mask the soul of a fighter.
On an application for employment with the County Attorney's Office in 1983, Wakefield described his greatest strength as "tenacious."

Asked to state his greatest weakness, he scribbled "too tenacious."
He also revealed something of himself in responding to the question, "It is often said that a good sportsman must be a good loser as well as a gracious victor. How do you feel about this statement as it relates to the practice of law?"

"I am a lousy loser," Randy Wakefield wrote.
Born in Dennison, Texas, Wakefield and his family moved to Tucson when he was a youngster. A father of seven now married to his fourth wife, he sums up his life this way:

"I've always gone about things the hard way, but I've been able to do a lot of things, gotten to lots of places."

Those places included the Navy, in which Wakefield enlisted in 1951 after he dropped out of Tucson High School. He served four years, including a stretch as an aircraft mechanic on a carrier off Korea during the war.

Back in Arizona with an honorable discharge, Wakefield in 1955 was a 21-year-old with a questionable future. He'd earned his GED in the Navy, and that enabled him to go to work in 1957 with the state Department of Public Safety. His starting pay was $325 monthly, plus a $25 monthly clothing stipend.

"I did the back roads of Arizona, Seligman, you name it," Wakefield says, "and I loved it. I'd like to think that I treated people the same on the road as I did as a prosecutor. I was pretty tough at times, but fair."

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