Special Treatment

Is justice for sale? Ask privileged characters like Jerry Colangelo

We all know how Joe Arpaio serves up justice to average schmucks. He proudly shows no mercy. He subjects them to the vilest of conditions. Death and injuries often result.

But it's a different story for the rich and powerful.

If you or yours are in a position to help Outlaw Joe in the future, then you probably don't have to worry about going to Tent City, which Amnesty International lists as one of the worst gulags in the world.

Consider the tale of how defrocked Phoenix sports mogul Jerry Colangelo's drunken daughter was cut a huge break by the evil, old sheriff of Maricopa County.

And about how Colangelo then helped raise $50,000 in one day for Arpaio's reelection campaign.

But before I get into the details of all this, let me put something in perspective.

The nature of Colangelo and Arpaio's relationship got me to thinking. So I acquired hundreds of pages of Arpaio's campaign finance reports and spent a couple of hours plowing through them. Wonder of wonders, I discovered a pattern of numerous campaign contribution violations that appear to have been purposely concealed.

According to the reports, two of Arpaio's top civilian aides, Loretta Barkell and Mary Ellen Sheppard, along with several sheriff's deputies, have contributed more than the maximum $350 allowed during this campaign cycle. They are not alone.

A number of prominent and wealthy individuals, including Geordie Hormel of the meat-packing empire, publisher Hamid Nadjafi, real estate developers Brian Lesk and Joe Martori, venture capitalist Robert Lavinia, title company executive Roy Schneider, Tempe businessman Arthur Kruglick, Phoenix criminal defense attorney Darrow Soll and onetime Republican candidate for attorney general John Kaites, have all contributed more than the maximum $350 allowed under state campaign laws.

The Arpaio campaign irregularities, together with Colangelo's using his power and influence to help Joe after the sheriff went easy on his daughter, should be setting off major public-corruption alarms in the office of Maricopa County Attorney Rick Romley.

So far, there is no indication that Romley is willing to take on Outlaw Joe. Perhaps he's hoping voters will eliminate the problem by following U.S. Senator John McCain's advice and electing retired Mesa police commander Dan Saban in the September 7 Republican primary.

But if Saban falls short, prosecutors should closely examine the events that began shortly after midnight on March 3, 2003, when Jerry Colangelo's then-24-year-old daughter, Mandie Brooke Colangelo, was falling down drunk outside the Z'Tejas restaurant in Scottsdale.

Mandie wasn't just buzzed.

She was trashed.

The recently divorced mother of two was partying the night away with a boyfriend, when things got a little out of hand.

The couple's 10-minute make-out session while leaning against Mandie's black BMW convertible climaxed when they lost their balance and fell to the ground -- where they lay prone another two minutes, says a report by an off-duty Scottsdale police officer who witnessed the incident.

Mall security officers approached the horizontal duo, and they staggered to their feet. Mandie then spent a good 45 seconds trying to unlock the driver's-side door of the Beamer. Finally, she opened the door and sat down behind the wheel.

Two Z'Tejas managers approached the car and asked Mandie not to drive, offering to pay for a cab. Rather than taking them up on the offer, Mandie moved over to the passenger seat and her boyfriend drove the car a short distance and parked.

Mandie then got out of the passenger seat and walked toward the driver's door, when she fell down again. Her boyfriend helped her up, and she got behind the wheel.

At this point, a Scottsdale police cruiser pulled into the parking lot, but not before Mandie decided to drive away. The Z'Tejas managers and the off-duty cop frantically waved at Mandie, trying to get her to stop driving.

But she kept on going. Mandie made a dangerous turn onto Camelback Road, crossing three lanes in the process. She was pulled over moments later by Scottsdale police. An officer asked for her driver's license, which she couldn't find.

Mandie agreed to take a field sobriety test. She failed miserably. A preliminary breath test revealed she was well above the .08 blood alcohol limit. Mandie was arrested, handcuffed and taken to a hospital for a blood test.

The results showed Mandie Brooke Colangelo was nearly three times the legal limit with a blood alcohol content of .238 percent.

She was charged with extreme DUI and four other counts. She was looking at at least 10 days in Outlaw Joe's nasty jail.

Mandie pleaded guilty to extreme DUI on May 23, 2003. The other four counts were dropped. She was sentenced to 11 days in jail and $1,287 in fines, jail costs and assessments.

She reported to be incarcerated at 9 a.m. May 27, 2003.

But the daughter of the man who brought us Charles Barkley, Randy Johnson and a World Series championship didn't go to Arpaio's hellhole Estrella jail -- where the court ordered her to report.

Several law enforcement sources tell me that Mandie reported to Joe's secret jail. Maricopa County detention officers call it the "Mesa Hilton." I call it the Glen Campbell Unit -- in honor of the country singer who spent 10 cushy days there in July before throwing his Tent City concert that garnered Outlaw Joe worldwide publicity.

Arpaio claimed to have shuttered the small Mesa jail several years ago. There's a sign on the front door telling visitors that the facility is closed. But the truth is, Arpaio uses the Mesa jail to house those who can either scratch his back themselves or get it scratched.

Mandie, my sources say, was allowed to bring her cell phone and her own meals into the jail, which is air-conditioned, quiet and safe. She was allowed to leave the jail each day for up to 12 hours to attend to work and to her children. Campbell had a similar arrangement.

When I asked Mandie about her stay at the Mesa jail, she politely declined to comment. She asked that I not write about the incident, but I told her it had moved into the nasty world of politics.

"Unbelievable!" she replied.

I left a voice message for Jerry Colangelo at his Arizona Diamondbacks office, but he did not return my call. I also requested comment from the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office about Mandie's stay at the Mesa facility. As usual, the MCSO has not responded.

Obviously, Mandie Brooke Colangelo's stay in Arpaio's gulag was far, far different from the nightmare tens of thousands of others have endured inside the county's filthy clinks.

Mandie wasn't subjected to the humiliation, abuse, inedible food and the real risk of leaving jail in a body bag. Arpaio has turned our county's jails into killing fields -- which in Arizona has been considered good law enforcement.

The callous and unnecessarily brutal treatment of mostly pretrial detainees has generated Joe reams of free publicity as the "toughest sheriff in America." The handle comes in extra handy when the elite, who don't want to spend a minute in Arpaio's lockups, face jail time.

They're finding that the bottom line is, Joe can take the sting out of jail, if you can do him that favor.

Eight months after Arpaio gave Mandie the lovey-dovey treatment, Colangelo sponsored a huge fund raiser for Arpaio that netted the sheriff's campaign $50,000 in a day. At least, that's how much money has been reported on campaign finance disclosure statements.

By any measure, the February 28 Paradise Valley shindig was a stunning success fueled in large part by Colangelo's personal invitation. There's no greater draw on the fund-raising circuit in the Valley than Jerry Colangelo. His power is far greater than his mere $350 contribution to Arpaio's campaign in September 2003.

Colangelo's mug shot, along with that of Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon, a Democrat, appeared on the invitation that brought the Valley's rich and powerful together for an afternoon of backslapping and contributions to the Republican sheriff.

Colangelo, a man many consider to be the epitome of civic service, and Gordon appeared together to promote one of the most vile and egomaniacal officials ever elected in Arizona.

Seems Arpaio will do anything for cash. He likes to invest plenty of it in his real estate holdings, which have a market value of more than $2 million. Not bad for a guy on a civil servant's salary.

Outlaw Joe likes money so much that he has repeatedly accepted illegal campaign contributions to fatten his war chest. It had more than $204,000 in it as of June 1.

Here's how Joe has pulled off the campaign finance scam.

At the same time he was making noise about running for governor in 2002, Arpaio formed a reelection for sheriff campaign committee on December 17, 2001. That campaign committee began accepting contributions, and by the end of 2002 it had $125,000.

(Contrary to all his hemming and hawing about running for governor, Arpaio never even formed an exploratory committee that could have raised funds. Instead, it appears he used all the free publicity about his phantom run for governor to help raise money for his sheriff's campaign.)

State law requires candidates to disclose contributions through a series of reports to be filed before and after the primary and general elections. The Re-elect Joe Arpaio campaign committee compiled information on these reports in 2002 as if Arpaio was running for reelection that year. But, of course, he wasn't up for reelection until this year.

After the November 2002 election, the Re-elect Joe Arpaio campaign took out a new set of campaign finance reports to cover contributions collected in 2003 and leading up to this year's primary and general elections. The campaign violations occurred when Arpaio's campaign failed to add the money individuals contributed in 2002 to the amount the same individuals contributed in the current election cycle.

When I added the contributions individuals made in 2002 along with later contributions in 2003 and this year, I quickly found a dozen examples of where individuals contributed more than the $350 limit allowed for the sheriff's race from the time his campaign committee was formed in December 2001.

What I'm describing violates the law, says Kristi Passarelli, director of campaign finance for the Maricopa County Department of Elections.

Here's a sampling of a few of the apparent violations I discovered:

· Sheriff's office finance director Loretta Barkell gave $100 in October 2002 and $350 on February 24, 2004.

· Venture capitalist Robert Lavinia contributed $340 in May 2002 and $350 last February.

· Former AG candidate John Kaites contributed $200 in September 2002 and $350 last February.

· Defense attorney Darrow Soll contributed $340 in October 2002 and $350 on February 28 at the Colangelo-sponsored fund raiser.

You get the picture.

Outlaw Joe's campaign money is now being used to pay for the endorsements of out-of-state television personalities, such as John Walsh, host of America's Most Wanted.

No one gives a damn about the campaign finance law violations down at the Maricopa County Department of Elections. The department, you see, only collects campaign finance reports. It can't be bothered with auditing them to see if candidates are violating the friggin' law.

Instead, it waits for complaints. And when they roll in about allegations of violations by Arpaio, the department simply ignores them. Tom Bearup filed a lengthy list of alleged campaign violations during the 2000 race with the department, and he tells me he never even got a response.

Surely this can't be because county election director Karen Osborne's daughter, Tamara Daigle, is married to one of Joe's deputies, Don Overton -- whose uncle is one of Arpaio's top aides, deputy chief Tim Overton.

I'm certainly not comfortable with Osborne's office overseeing the upcoming primary in which Saban has the best chance to beat Arpaio since Joe took office in 1992.

Given Osborne's direct family connection to the highest levels of power inside Joe's inner circle, Osborne should immediately declare a conflict of interest, step aside and ask Secretary of State Jan Brewer to handle the sheriff's race.

On second thought, Brewer's office isn't to be trusted, either -- given her cozy relationship with Jerry Colangelo when she was a member of the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors.

Oh, the tangled webs they weave . . .

There is only one option.

If Maricopa County is to soon rid itself of the Arpaio virus (it's far more dangerous than that West Nile thing), voters early next month must do the job that taxpayer-supported officials are too cowardly to do.

Deliver the knockout blow to Outlaw Joe.

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