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

"Do you feel that it was appropriate for you to talk to him about [whether he thought that Norman was credible]?" attorney Joel Robbins asked.

"I would have probably answered someone who asked me if I thought she was credible or not without giving any details of the case," Bailey responded. "[But] I don't ferret out leads for reporters."

Robbins then handed Bailey a copy of Koebel's phone records, showing that the sergeant had spoken to the reporter for 12 minutes shortly before the Norman interview started.

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."

"Would you agree with me that that would be highly improper for an officer to start talking to a reporter before he had ever gone out and interviewed someone?"

"If that occurred, yeah," Bailey replied.

Those phone records also reveal that Bailey and Koebel spoke 37 times by cell phone between April 5 and 30, 2004, for almost three hours total. The sergeant initiated a majority of those calls.

In his deposition, Koebel said he'd been thankful for the chance to ask Bailey about some things nagging at him.

"Some things weren't adding up," Koebel said. "I wanted to know how the [Norman] phone call got to Hendershott, why the tape was there, and I asked Steve bluntly if Hendershott had concocted this."

According to Koebel, Bailey said he didn't know, only that he had been ordered to interview Ruby Norman, and "he wasn't extremely happy about it." Though Bailey later denied it, Koebel said he and the sergeant had discussed the age of the case, and also the glaring conflict of interest in investigating the boss' main political foe for a possible major crime.

Robbins later asked Sergeant Bailey how he'd felt about investigating Arpaio's political opponent.

"It's uncomfortable," Bailey said. "From time to time, you feel uncomfortable about cases you've got to do."

He then added, "I'd feel just as uncomfortable if somebody made that [rape] allegation about you, Mr. Robbins."

The first question asked of Ruby Norman by Detective Gentry during the 93 recorded minutes of their interview refutes the Arpaio legal team's argument that no one at the sheriff's office knew how long ago the rape allegedly had occurred until they'd interviewed Norman. "Okay, Ruby, can you just go back some 30 years now and tell us what it is we're here to hear?" Gentry had asked her.

Norman repeated her story of the alleged rape.

She also noted early in the interview that her sons didn't believe her. Though the detective did collect her sons' names and contact information from Norman and later noted it in his police report, he and Bailey never asked (on tape, at least) why they didn't believe their own mother.

Sergeant Bailey said later he'd considered the Norman interview to be an "initial report," separate from a full-blown investigation.

To Bailey, an initial report is "merely a fact-finding process to determine what's going to happen next . . . If I would have gone out there and thought she was out of her mind, I'm not going to send that to another agency."

But he also testified that "when we left Mrs. Norman's place, it was clear to me at that point we could not investigate this case" because of the conflict of interest.

Bailey said he made his feelings known to his superiors as soon as he and Gentry got back to the sheriff's offices about 7:30 that night.

The sergeant testified that Chief Hendershott, in-house counsel Jack MacIntyre, and Joe Arpaio himself may still have been at the office.

For sure, Bailey said, the sheriff had asked him that night or the next day how it had gone with the Norman interview.

As promised, a secretary stood ready to transcribe the audiotape of the Norman interview.

Though the transcript would reveal Norman to have been memorably inconsistent and provably wrong on key dates and other points, Bailey later said he'd considered her "clear, articulate and credible."

Chief Hendershott's mission on the night of April 28 was to ensure that Rob Koebel would get that police report immediately.

Then, Channel 15 could push ahead with its sweeps "exclusive" about the sheriff's candidate whose adoptive mom was saying he'd raped her.

Rob Koebel had an early flight to catch from Florida to Phoenix on April 29, and tried to get some sleep before a predawn wake-up call.

He later testified that he turned off his cell phone so as not to have to answer the continuing parade of calls from Chief Hendershott and other sheriff's personnel.

Koebel's phone records show he did call Hendershott at 4:33 a.m. — 1:33 in Phoenix.

Koebel testified that the chief told him the police report would be ready soon after he landed. Koebel just needed someone at Channel 15 to file a public-records request with the sheriff's office, a formality.

Koebel phoned news director Sullivan as soon as he landed, and was told the Saban story was on.

Hendershott soon called again, alerting Koebel that the expected public-records request hadn't come in. Koebel quickly faxed one over from the offices of Channel 15.

The reporter also scheduled an interview late that afternoon with Ruby Norman out in Apache Junction.

Those in the media aware of the sheriff's willy-nilly approach to the Arizona Public Records Law (reporters deemed friendly to Arpaio get their requests filled promptly, while those considered unfriendly don't) will appreciate what happened next.

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