Boob's Tube

Here's how publicity hound Joe Arpaio used a TV station to try to destroy rival Dan Saban with a bogus rape claim

Norman would reiterate (in deposition testimony last July and in an e-mail earlier this month to New Times) that she never contacted any media other than the Tribune with her allegations.

She said she definitely never contacted Channel 15 reporter Rob Koebel, but that she'd first heard from him weeks later.

On February 26, Saban got an e-mail from stepbrother Travis Scott, who'd worriedly asked, "Do you want me to send this to the reporter or just keep [quiet]?"

Dan May
Rob Koebel's career at Channel 15 was short-lived after this April 30, 2004, "scoop."
Rob Koebel's career at Channel 15 was short-lived after this April 30, 2004, "scoop."

Scott was referring to an e-mail he'd drafted to Bryan Wells about the simmering situation.

Scott wrote that he'd distanced himself from his mother years earlier, and not because of anything Dan Saban had told him.

"I feel that Ruby is a very sick and deranged person who is very much in need of serious psychological therapy," he wrote.

Scott described his relationship with his mother as so broken that he hadn't informed her when his wife died in a car accident.

"I have so much disgust and fear of this woman," he wrote in the unsent e-mail to the reporter.

Saban advised Scott, 18 years his junior, to wait "until the time we will really need it. For now the reporter is not willing to act on the information. If he does in the future, then I'll have him contact you immediately, so be ready for the comment."

Two nights later, on February 28, Phoenix sports mogul Jerry Colangelo hosted a fund raiser for Joe Arpaio. Among those paying $100 into the sheriff's coffers that night was Channel 15 reporter Rob Koebel. Also that night, Dan Saban was guest of honor at a party to celebrate his retirement from the Mesa Police Department. From the podium during the festivities, an old cop pal of Saban's referred to a time years earlier when the two men had shared a home for a while.

Tackily, the friend joked to the audience that Saban once exposed himself to Davis' 6-year-old son, who had been visiting the bachelor pad for the weekend.

Within days after the "roast," Mesa police detectives began an investigation into a possible indecent exposure charge against Saban, their just-retired commander.

Over the next few weeks, the detectives tracked down the alleged victim, now an 18-year-old with no recollection of the incident. They also interviewed Saban, his inappropriate buddy, and others. The friend said he had been making a joke — admittedly, a bad one — and that nothing untoward ever had happened.

On March 17, the Mesa department concluded in a 16-page report that "there is insufficient evidence to establish that [the young man] was the victim of an indecent exposure."

The embarrassing incident that happened just as Saban was hitting the campaign trail against Arpaio never reached the media then. Much more potentially explosive was Ruby Norman and what she was going to do now that the Tribune reporter apparently was sitting on her yarn.

On March 5, Saban had published a letter on his Web site that could be viewed as a pre-emptive strike, both against Norman and the sheriff's office. He wrote that he had "received very, very reliable information from inside the Arpaio campaign that they are ramping up to mount a 'smear' campaign against me for issues in my personal life. However, I choose to inform you of these issues myself [before] you hear or read about them in the media."

Somewhat cryptically, Saban said "one of my adopted parents was physically and emotionally abusive to me while I was in their care," and left it at that.

Saban's phrase "from inside the Arpaio campaign" would loom large after he filed his lawsuit in April 2005.

For a long time after that, Saban wouldn't say who had given him that "very, very reliable information." His attorney argued to trial judge Robert Houser that Saban was mindful of employees allegedly targeted for retaliation at the sheriff's office after getting crossways with Arpaio.

But Houser insisted that Saban name names.

When push came to shove last summer, Saban named sheriff's Commander Jim Miller as his source.

In an affidavit signed last May, Miller, who now heads the agency's Internal Affairs unit, admitted that he had told Saban "that I did not agree with some of Sheriff Joe Arpaio's policies, and in general I voiced a negative opinion about the way the Sheriff's Office was then being run."

But Miller said he never had spoken to Saban about anyone "launching a smear campaign against Mr. Saban with regard to anything concerning his personal life."

After hearing that, Saban surprisingly claimed in court pleadings not to recall specifics of his discussions with Miller.

That flip-flop stuck in Judge Houser's craw.

Unless the judge changes his mind, Saban and attorney Robbins will have to pay Arpaio's lawyer, Wilenchik, $28,000 in legal fees, essentially for wasting everyone's time on the source issue.

About half an hour before she e-mailed Joe Arpaio on April 7, Ruby Norman sent Dan Saban an angry message.

"How can you stand up there and be so damn proud and run for sheriff when your [sic] nothing but a damn liar and a rapist?" she wrote in part. "Dan, I have a letter all ready and waiting to send to Joe Arpario [sic]. If you were an honest man, I would support you 100 percent, but until you make your lies right, I will see you go down."

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