By Matthew Hendley
By Monica Alonzo
By Monica Alonzo
By Monica Alonzo
By Stephen Lemons
By Jason P. Woodbury
By Dulce Paloma Baltazar Pedraza
By Ray Stern
Gombar and other detectives described the card in their report:
"The front of the card was a colored picture with birds and flowers and the writing, which said: 'Wow, you're eight.'
"The inside left flap of the card contained the following handwritten message:
"'Ben, as you rest with God, daddy wants you to know that rarely a day passes that your earthly family doesn't think about you. Mommy and big sissy and little sissy (and Spanky) love you more than anything . . . as does dad. I wish you were here, my son, to take over what your daddy has started. I will see you in heaven. Tell God daddy is trying.
"'I will always talk proudly about my son. All my love, daddy.'"
The children's mother took the card to police on June 25, believing it was a violation of the custody provisions. The police took the report, but made no effort to either interview or arrest Schmidt.
On July 9, Schmidt filed a notice of claim for McGee with the county.
Schmidt asked for millions; the county offered $2,500.
Schmidt responded with tirades and a poster that likened McGee to a field-dressed buck and county officials to a bunch of mouth-breathing thugs.
The story of Schmidt's war appeared in New TimesJuly 26.
The next Tuesday, Schmidt was arrested at gunpoint after returning from another business trip to Los Angeles. He was taken to county jail.
On Wednesday, August 1, Schmidt and his attorney were to meet with Phoenix police internal affairs detectives to discuss Gombar's alleged misconduct in the investigation of Schmidt.
Tuesday night, July 31, Gombar called one of the internal affairs detectives and explained to him that the meeting with Schmidt would be off because Schmidt had just been arrested.
Later that night, a magistrate at the jail released Schmidt on his own recognizance.
When Lamm called internal affairs detectives the next morning after picking up Schmidt from jail, "detectives said they had been told by Gombar of the arrest and that the meeting would not go on as scheduled," Lamm says.
"I told them, 'No, Mr. Schmidt is sitting right next to me. The meeting is still on,'" Lamm says.
"You have the subject of an internal investigation calling investigators to tell them the investigation is off because she just arrested the guy who was the key witness in the investigation of her," Lamm says. "Do you see anything wrong with this picture?"
(Internal affairs officers apparently didn't see anything wrong. Late last week they cleared Gombar of any wrongdoing.)
On August 7, Schmidt was again arrested on the same charge. Gombar was the arresting detective.
This time, a different magistrate granted the state's request to have Schmidt held without bond.
Then, Joe Arpaio personally ordered that Schmidt be placed in protective custody.
The reason given: Schmidt was a high-profile inmate. And, since Schmidt was associated with McGee, some inmates might beat up Schmidt because he was a friend of a man who had been an investigative lead in the Byrd murder.
Schmidt and his attorney don't buy it.
"It's payback," Lamm says.
For Schmidt, protective custody meant being locked in a cell alone for 23 hours of the day. It's euphemized solitary confinement.
After two days, Schmidt was moved into general jail population hours after several calls to Maricopa County Sheriff's Office command staff from his attorney and a New Times reporter.
Now Lamm has filed a series of motions in an effort to get the case dismissed, or at least to get the Maricopa County Attorney removed from the case.
Lamm says the county attorney has a conflict because the County Counsel division of the County Attorney's Office, acting on behalf of Maricopa County, made the $2,500 counteroffer to McGee in response to McGee's claim.
Bill FitzGerald, spokesman for the County Attorney's Office, says there is no conflict because the McGee settlement is being handled by the office's civil division, while the case against Schmidt is being handled by the criminal division.
"They are completely separate," he says.
However, Lamm points out that a motion to quash the case made by the county attorney's civil division on behalf of MCSO was copied to Brnovich, the criminal prosecutor in Schmidt's case, and filed under the criminal case number.
The motions will be heard by Superior Court Judge Peter Reinstein on August 31.
Until then, Schmidt will sit in maximum security at Madison Street Jail.
In a recent interview, Schmidt looked disheveled and tired. He has been moved several times. He said he had gotten only two hours of sleep in the previous four days.
Still, somehow, he was upbeat, boisterous and ferociously defiant.
He's happy with his cellmate and the other inmates in his pod. He says he's going to read War and Peace. He's written 80 more pages of his book that he's writing about his jail experience. Schmidt says he's been treated like a hero by fellow inmates for helping McGee.
He'll be fine, he says.
And once he is released, he says, he looks forward to continuing to get naked semi-celebrities pictured in magazines and building his new business of receiving 23 percent commissions for helping wronged inmates receive reparations from cities and counties.