Below the Belt

Lawyer Dennis Wilenchik's spearheading Joe Arpaio's attempt to smear his chief political rival

The panelists each criticized attorney Robbins as hard to follow and tedious. They did give high grades to Wilenchik for his courtroom focus but were not wowed by what they called an abrasive and cantankerous demeanor.

Dan Saban was fair game as a plaintiff in a high-profile defamation case, and Dennis Wilenchik had plenty to work with: The police chief's personal life rivals that of a soap opera character.

Attorney Dennis Wilenchik has become the go-to guy for Andy Thomas and Joe Arpaio, despite Thomas’ having worked at Wilenchik’s firm.
Linda Tracy Brandon
Attorney Dennis Wilenchik has become the go-to guy for Andy Thomas and Joe Arpaio, despite Thomas’ having worked at Wilenchik’s firm.
Jurors believed Dan Saban (above) was truthful, even though they didn’t side with him legally in his defamation lawsuit.
Jackie Mercandetti
Jurors believed Dan Saban (above) was truthful, even though they didn’t side with him legally in his defamation lawsuit.

So it's hard to quarrel with Wilenchik's rabid cross-examination of Saban during the defamation trial. But newsworthy are the extra-legal machinations Wilenchik employed outside of the courtroom to try to ruin Saban's life.

The lawyer is as persistent as a Jack Russell terrier, and Joe Arpaio and his inner circle apparently have unleashed him to do as he wishes.

It's no exaggeration to say that if Wilenchik had his way, he would change the "b" in Dan Saban's surname to a "t."

Wilenchik's modus operandi in and out of court is to screech for as long as it takes, often baffling listeners and readers of his written diatribes with an onslaught of alleged details, facts, and connections.

In recent months, Wilenchik sent virulent anti-Saban letters to several authorities, including Governor Janet Napolitano, Attorney General Terry Goddard, the Buckeye Town Council, the Mesa Police Department (Saban's longtime former employer) and the Arizona Peace Officer Standards and Training Board, the state police-certification agency known as POST.

The missives are filled with malevolent innuendo and, in many instances, outright misinformation and disinformation.

By continually tarring Dan Saban as a lying hypocrite and political opportunist who raped his mother, Wilenchik's admitted goal has been to try to get Saban fired as Buckeye police chief and to cost him his certification as a peace officer.

Case in point was his April 9 letter to Napolitano, Goddard, and Navajo County Sheriff Gary Butler, POST's current chairman of the board.

In it, Wilenchik alleged that "although allegedly a self-proclaimed man of honesty and truthfulness, Saban has purposely omitted vital information from his POST application as well as [provided] information laden with discrepancies during his pre-employment investigation [for the Buckeye job] and the polygraph examination completed by Ms. Wells of Tom Ezell and Associates, Mr. Ezell being a Saban campaign contributor."

Wilenchik was suggesting that the polygraph operator had manipulated the results in Saban's favor because her boss opposed Joe Arpaio's re-election.

Another example of Wilenchik's ruthless technique came in a June 13 letter to the mayor and town manager of Buckeye.

The lawyer titled one section of his 12-page diatribe "Saban Lives By a Double Standard, Hurting His Credibility As A Leader And As A Peace Officer."

Wilenchik wrote in bold lettering, "Saban has now admitted to having had sexual intercourse with his adoptive mother Ruby Norman, who has repeatedly and consistently claimed he raped her, and has said so under oath."

He went on to say that Saban had lied about the "shocking information" involving Norman during his 2005 job interview for police chief.

"The pre-polygraph information shows that Saban answered 'yes' to a question asking if there was 'forcible rape,'" Wilenchik wrote.

"And yet, [the POST] lawyer and representative I spoke with appeared entirely unconcerned about such information regarding a certified peace officer. Hopefully, you will not share that cavalier attitude on behalf of the Town's citizens.

"Despite [Saban's] admitting to a forcible rape," Wilenchik asserted, "we know it was not Ruby Norman he was referring to [as the rapist], but himself."

Dan Saban never admitted anything of the sort.

To the contrary, Saban broke down during his defamation trial as he described how he — then an asthmatic, 100-pound teenage boy — had been "groomed" sexually by Norman until she finally lured him into intercourse one night in the early 1970s.

POST executive director Thomas J. Hammarstrom analyzed Wilenchik's claims in an April 19 memorandum to Sheriff Butler. Hammarstrom noted that Wilenchik had raised nearly identical concerns in early 2006 about Saban's pre-employment polygraph and other things.

The director wrote that the person who had conducted Saban's pre-polygraph interview recalled later that "Ms. Norman was the person who initiated force to have intercourse with Saban, not the other way around."

Hammarstrom said, "Documents provided by Mr. Wilenchik in February 2006 indicate a greater likelihood that Mr. Saban was the victim, not the perpetrator, in the incident involving sexual intercourse with Ms. Norman."

In rejecting Wilenchik's second run at trying to get POST to stick Dan Saban's head on a platter, Hammarstrom concluded that Saban had been telling the truth "in all of his responses during his pre-employment polygraph examination, including questions relating directly to the accuracy of his application [to Buckeye], and relationship with Ms. Norman."

On yet another front, Wilenchik on June 14 asked Mesa Police Chief George Gascon to initiate an obstruction-of-justice investigation against Saban for alleged wrongdoing after an unfortunate incident at a February 2004 party.

The incident happened during a roast in Saban's honor after his retirement from the Mesa department. Rick Davis, one of Saban's old cop pals, told an off-color story over the public-address system that referred to a time, years earlier, when the pair roomed together.

Davis described how Saban once had exposed himself to Davis' 5- or 6-year-old son. Davis later said the event never happened; he simply was telling a stupid joke about penis size at the adults-only function.

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Hal Stiles
Hal Stiles

As a former resident of Phoenix (and a longtime reader of New Times and Paul Rubin), thanks for the great story on Dan Saban and his trial. I voted for Joe when I lived out there, and I wonder what I was thinking.


I think Sheriff Joe and Andy Thomas are a joke, they get the people voting them in because they are, "tough on crime", right? Well they are actually, "tough on families". They are creating criminals by over charging minor offenses and that is causing prison overcrowding. I had a 17 year old son that got into a simple car accident, no alcohol or drugs involved, and they set him up with 7-18 years in prison on a first offence. They are seething publicity rabid nut cases. Everybody in court in Maricopa county has the same comment, we are loosing our kids to sheriff Joe and Andrew Thomas when they could be joining the military, and not being a burden on the tax payers. I hope everybody sees this and votes them out, it is a misuse of authority and municiple funds.


Court is suppose to reflect public opinion!Video an print media reflects the editors opinion! Point being the media makes people guilty with out the use of the laws, and even if the person is innocent the media did it's damage, and gets away with it unless you have the $$ to fight it


I would like to see more about judge houser's jury instructions led to this kind of outcome. An accusation of rape ought to be defamation per se & damages shouldn't need to be proven. Sounds like there was a problem getting the court to do as it's supposed to do (follow the law); no big surprise there. Also, the Tribune mentioned that now Wilenchik (sp?) is threatening Saban with an abuse of process suit. Give me a break. So the drama goes on.

Jamie Carnahan
Jamie Carnahan

I'm embarassed to say that I didn't vote in the 2004 election that was mentioned in this story. I did vote for Arpaio before that. No more voting for Joe by me. I'm not sure about Saban either. Why can't we do better with our elected officials? It was a very interesting story, and I went back and read the earlier one, which really told what was going on. Thanks

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