The Plot To Assassinate Arpaio

It was a diabolical scheme. Problem is, most of it was hatched by the Sheriff's Office.

"The victims in all of these cases are traumatized, not only for the losses they incurred, but from the havoc he has reeked [sic] in their lives," Burrows' probation officer wrote in a 1997 presentence report.

The report stated that Burrows is "a fraudulently oriented person and should not be allowed to roam free in society. He has shown no concern for other people and for the great pain he has caused them."

Burrows admits in letters to judges that he suffers from manic depression. Court documents state he has been treated for mood and antisocial personality disorders. Burrows states he was treated in an East Valley hospital after attempting suicide in November 1996.

Deputies move in to arrest Saville.
Courtesy of KTVK-TV Channel 3
Deputies move in to arrest Saville.
Hendershott and publicist Lisa Allen spin their story.
Courtesy of KTVK-TV Channel 3
Hendershott and publicist Lisa Allen spin their story.

In February 1997, Burrows was diagnosed with AIDS while incarcerated at the Maricopa County Jail. He wrote in letters to judges that he contracted the disease from unscreened blood he received when he was treated in the early 1980s for leukemia. In other letters to judges, he said he contracted the disease when he was beaten and raped in an out-of-state prison. Burrows claimed his wife and young son also have the disease.

Burrows stepped up his correspondence with judges after receiving an additional 3.5-year prison sentence in February 1999 on a theft conviction; he had sold a car after altering its title.

In a March letter to a judge, Burrows said his incarceration at Perryville "has truly scared the hell out of me. God I pray to either take me in my sleep or please let someone here [sic] my cry."

In a May letter, Burrows told a judge he was "losing my battle with AIDS" and reminds the judge that "I helped put two murderers in prison and I did not get what was promised."

Burrows then came into contact with Saville, who was nearing the end of his 1.5-year prison sentence for attempting to blow up Maryvale High School.

Less than three weeks later, Burrows sent the first of two letters to his spiritual adviser warning of Saville's utterances about killing Katz and Blake.

The spiritual adviser forwarded the June 23 letter to the sheriff's substation in Sun City. A week later, on June 30, sheriff's detective Antone Jacobs called the Department of Corrections to discuss Burrows' letter about an inmate interested in "making bombs and killing Superior Court Judge Katz, County Prosecutor James Blake and possible [sic] Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio."

Later that day, Jacobs and detective Phil Dougherty went to the Perryville prison and conducted a 110-minute interview with Burrows.

The detective's notes from that interview indicate that Burrows only mentioned Saville's threat toward Arpaio after the detectives had reminded him that his letter mentioned Arpaio.

Burrows told the detectives that Saville made the comment, "If I killed Sheriff Joe, I would be a hero." He said the comment was made after inmates saw news accounts of the spider sculpture episode.

"This was the only thing that [Burrows] talked about directed towards Sheriff Arpaio," detective Dougherty's notes say.

During the interview, Burrows agreed to help the detectives and to testify about Saville's alleged threats. Burrows said he didn't expect anything in exchange for his help, but added that he was concerned for the welfare of his prosecutor friends -- one of whom helped get the drug charge dismissed.

At the end of the interview, Burrows agreed to give the detectives two documents -- a rough sketch of how to construct a pipe bomb and a paper listing Web sites and addresses for various materials such as bulletproof vests, ID cards and tactical gear -- that he had pilfered from Saville.

The interview marked the beginning of an intimate relationship between the Sheriff's Office and Burrows, who would soon become the department's primary agent in conducting the sting.

The Suspect

"You know I've got the good side and then the evil side," James Brian Saville told detective Antone Jacobs during his post-arrest interrogation.

"One wants to be a good person, and I'd really love to be a good person, you know. I wanted to work for NASA, wanted to be an astronaut. I want to be a scientist, anything like that. I wanted to build things for NASA. Well, that's never gonna happen," he said.

What about the evil side? Jacobs asks.

"Well, that's the side that likes to burn things," Saville says, adding that "it will probably take a therapist to figure out that."

He added, "I guess I'm a pyro.

Saville said he enjoys igniting Molotov cocktails. Saville said he and friends made bombs out of pool acid in plastic bottles. They would float the acid bombs down canals and listen to the loud explosions.

The pranks evolved into something much more serious. In October 1997, Saville and a friend entered Maryvale High School to steal equipment from the science labs. They vandalized the school, causing more than $10,000 in damage.

They left racist graffiti in an attempt to incite a race riot, Saville later told police. On the way out of the school, Saville and his accomplice turned on 36 gas valves in the science lab "to try and cause a flash fire and burn down the building," Saville told investigators.

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