The Plot To Assassinate Arpaio

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

As the press conference continued, Hendershott contradicted himself, saying the bomb had become dangerous yet that no one ever was in danger.

"At the point where it got dangerous, the suspect was veered off by the undercover sheriff's detective to come down and take a look at the sheriff's car as far as to where to place it," Hendershott said.

Moments later, when asked if the sting unnecessarily placed the public and deputies in danger, Hendershott said no.

Sheriff Joe Arpaio puts on his tough-guy show for the press.
photos by Paolo Vescia
Sheriff Joe Arpaio puts on his tough-guy show for the press.
James Saville was out of prison one day before being arrested.
Paolo Vescia
James Saville was out of prison one day before being arrested.

"Let me make something really clear for the print media. Okay. No one was put at risk. Okay. That's why we did it the way we did it. At no point was any citizen at risk. And at such time that any citizen, including our undercover officer, was put at risk, the operation would have been shut down," Hendershott said.

Asked if Saville's jailhouse statements might have been idle bravado, Hendershott said, "I think this went way beyond bragging and the reason I say that is that specific designs of the bomb were recovered from the cell along with his game plan."

Records released last Friday by the Attorney General's Office included Saville's papers that were seized by prison guards. None of those papers indicates any plot or "game plan" to kill anyone.

Reporters asked Hendershott why Saville would need an undercover agent if he was so intent on killing Arpaio.

"In essence, we didn't want to give him the opportunity to do it on his own so we provided him with an undercover sheriff's detective that shared his disdain for Sheriff Arpaio and his desire to kill him. In that regard, he was able to garner the trust of him and basically participate in the gathering of the, of the material," Hendershott says.

Hendershott never mentioned the extensive role the prison snitch played in convincing Saville to meet with the undercover agent. Nor did Hendershott disclose that the undercover agent posed as a Mafia hit man.

Toward the end of the briefing, Hendershott was asked if Saville was given financial incentive to build the bomb. Hendershott made it appear that Saville sought out payment, when records reveal it was Burrows who offered Saville the money.

"The suspect wanted $4,000 to make the explosive device. It was a discount rate -- $2,000 now and $2,000 later," Hendershott said.

Mention of the payoff seemed to heighten the skepticism of reporters covering the news conference. Someone asked whether Saville was entrapped.

Hendershott bristled, saying "there is no question at all as to what his intent was and that he was to stay on course with what he wanted to do."

While Hendershott was telling the press about Saville's intentions, Saville was telling Jacobs that he actually was planning to take the $2,000 for the partially completed bomb and skip town.

Hendershott initially claimed that no other public officials had been threatened.

"At this particular time, no," Hendershott said.

Under further questioning, however, Hendershott reversed field and disclosed that Katz and Blake had also been threatened by Saville.

"He's made threats in the past against a Superior Court judge and a county attorney that put him in jail. This specific threat was directed at the sheriff," Hendershott said.

Hendershott failed to mention that his own investigators continued to state up until the day before Saville was released that Saville might target Katz and Blake.

Records reveal that Arpaio was only listed as a potential victim after Burrows convinced Saville to contact Yancy, the day before he was released from prison.

When asked when the threats were made to the judge and the county attorney, Hendershott gave a surprising answer.

"I'm sorry, I don't know," Hendershott replied.

Hendershott either lied or was unfamiliar with the case, which had garnered the interest of "upper management" inside the Sheriff's Office.

As the press conference wound up, Arizona Republic reporter Chris Moeser commented that "it seems like you strung Saville along to get maximum publicity out of it."

"You know, that offends me. That really offends me," Hendershott said.

"Why?"

"You know. Because we didn't. Okay. That really offends me. Okay. Well you know what then, don't show up and read the case. Okay. Don't show up and read the case. This is a dangerous guy that came off the street. Okay."

Later, Hendershott chased Moeser down a hallway, grabbed him by the arm and told him to "drop dead."

Despite the confrontational aspects of the press conference, the news coverage that evening was highly favorable to Arpaio and generally depicted Saville as the next Unabomber.

Over the next three weeks, only Channels 3 and 12 continued to follow the story -- reporting key facts that raise serious questions over whether Saville was entrapped.

The Arizona Republic played the story inside its B-section.

The Defense

It's tough to prove entrapment in Arizona. A defendant must show three things occurred:

• The idea of committing the crime started with law enforcement officers or their agents.

• Law enforcement officers or their agents urged the defendant to commit the crime.

• The defendant was not predisposed to commit the type of crime charged before the officers or their agents urged the defendant to commit it.

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