Accidental Victim Versus Accidental Felon: A Victim in a DUI Crash says She Can’t Abide Author’s Literary Whining

The 12 months Daniel Horne spent in Tent City were the worst of his life.

In his book Accidental Felons, Horne describes his awful year in jail after a 2005 DUI-related accident he caused. The 58-year-old professional dodged spiders, ate food that resembled garbage, and, he says, suffered "permanent lung problems" from lint spewing from a vent at the jail. He met other inmates he believed were getting a raw deal from overly tough county policies.

The former chief financial officer at a Mesa electronics firm made the rounds of television interviews this summer to tout the book, which he published this year with money in his 401(k) account. In the book and in interviews, Horne blasts Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio and especially County Attorney Andrew Thomas, whom he calls "the most dangerous man in America."

The wreckage of Marion Phelan's car, and Phelan after the collision.
The wreckage of Marion Phelan's car, and Phelan after the collision.


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Thomas inflates the seriousness of crimes like Horne's in order to appear tough in the eyes of voters, he says. Arpaio, he insists, runs a filthy, unsafe, and corrupt jail system.

His points on Thomas and Arpaio may be valid. But they're blunted by a troubling fact: In both his book and in public statements, Horne minimizes what happened to the women in the vehicle he hit.

"There were no serious injuries," he tells New Times.

Marion Phelan disagrees. After the crash, she was sent home from the hospital in a wheelchair with sprains and bone fractures. Phelan was willing to forgive and forget — until she heard about his book.

"Did they treat him like a criminal? Because they should have," says Phelan, now 29 and living in California with her newborn son. "He calls himself the accidental felon. Well, I'm the accidental victim."

Just after 10 p.m. on the night of August 10, 2005, Phelan was driving her Chevrolet Tracker mini-SUV home with a friend. She exited the Superstition Freeway at Crismon Road and headed toward Southern Avenue.

Suddenly, she says, "I'm thinking, 'Why are there headlights in my lane?'" She slammed on the brakes. Horne's new, full-size Dodge Ram truck plowed into the Tracker head-on, crushing the smaller vehicle's front end.

Horne admits he was drunk — but accidentally drunk — when he crossed the centerline. He claims that a previously undiagnosed medical condition caused him to knock back too many beers during six hours at a sports bar. After half of the first beer, he says, he experienced a type of "hallucinogenic dream" and didn't realize how much he was drinking.

Though Horne refused a blood test at the scene, a search warrant was issued and he was compelled to give a blood sample. Authorities later stated that his BAC was .208 — well over the extreme DUI limit of .15. Horne claims that's impossible, based on the number of beers he had downed at the bar (as listed in a bar receipt). He says his liver wasn't functioning properly, producing a false blood-alcohol reading.

The family man who had never been arrested before was carted off to jail and charged with aggravated assault, a serious felony.

Phelan's name never appears in the book. Horne wrote that the woman's "foot had been injured" and that the prosecuting attorney told him she was "fine." In one passage, Horne tells another inmate that no one was "maimed" and that the county attorney had gotten "crafty" with his case.

True, Phelan wasn't "maimed," but she most certainly was not "fine." She suffered a broken ankle and broken collarbone. Her other ankle had two sprains, which meant she couldn't walk for days after the collision. Her friend made out easier, with just a sprained back and ankle.

In a June 29 e-mail to Horne, her first contact with him, Phelan wrote:

I thought i was going to die . . . As i reached for the door, my arm went limp, it was broke, As i tried to turn my body i could not for i was pinned by the steering wheel, I then went to move my legs noticing my ankles were twisted and caught in the pedals, my ankles broken.

In an e-mail reply to Phelan, Horne says he "made no conscious attempt to minimize anything that happened to either of us in the accident."

Yet a week later, in a July 6 interview on AZ-TV7/Cable 13 show AM Arizona, Horne told viewers, "In my case, there was no serious injury at all."

Around the same time, he was interviewed by John Hook of the local Fox affiliate, Channel 10 (KSAZ). Hook told viewers that only one woman had been hurt, and even then only "minorly."

Despite her experience, Phelan had mercy on Horne. Ironically, she was a substance abuser and former heroin addict who says she had been sober for months when the drunk driver hit her. But she fell off the wagon after taking morphine and other drugs for her pain.

She checked herself back into rehab and regained her footing a few months later. Phelan saw her own past in Horne's out-of-control behavior and told Thomas' office that she didn't want Horne sent to jail or prison.

Prosecutors had been prepared to offer Horne a minimum of three years in prison, but because of Phelan's intervention, the plea deal mandated only probation and one year in county jail. Though Phelan says she "stipulated" that Horne receive help for his abuse of alcohol, he claims that tests showed he didn't need treatment.

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College Student
College Student

I'm a journalism major here in Mesa and a month ago Dan Horne came out to speak to my class about his book. I was outraged listening to this man!

This guy didn't accept one bit of responsibility for his actions blaming only our judicial system.

My father was killed by a drunk driver ten years ago on Christmas Eve.

Dan Horne, if you're reading this you should had been sent to prison and rotted to hell!

Ray Stern
Ray Stern

After minimizing Phelan's injuries, Horne seems to be compounding his mistake by accusing Phelan of driving under the influence of opiates. He implies that a doctor lied that a morphine shot (to reduce her pain) caused the drug test to come up positive for opiates. I'll bet the doctor didn't lie, and I don't think Phelan lied when she told me she got the shot. Besides, it makes sense that after having your bones broken in a car accident, you might get a shot of morphine. It's not the strongest thing they can give you, anyway.One other thing: Horne finds the timing of the article "curious," since it came at the time Thomas began his bid for AG. This is more faulty logic. The timing of the article was dependent on the timing of the book's publication. The book was published, I wrote a blog post about it, Phelan called me after she read my post, and I subsequently wrote the article. Anyone who thinks I'm trying to help Thomas get elected to AG needs to have their head examined. Also, you only need to read the other things I've written about the county attorney to realize this sentence, "Ray Stern supports County Attorney Thomas as being a benevolent prosecutor to the residents of Maricopa County," is simply incorrect. That being said, the facts in this case show Thomas' office cut Horne a break after Phelan graciously argued for mercy for him.

Travel icon, Arthur Frommer wa
Travel icon, Arthur Frommer wa

Mr. Horne IS a victim -- of malicious prosecution in a state that uses mandatory minimum sentencing as a weapon to destroy people, coerced to take a plea as "violent felon" instead of a DUI label?? This puts all those who have a drink at the bars, restaurants and homes very much at risk for the same. Those on medications and health issues are very much at risk since many are sitting in prison today facing years of incarceration.


Concerned Citizen
Concerned Citizen

#9 this book is all about Thomas and Arpaio and abuse of power. It is not about the victim or Daniel Horne, as Ray missed the point of the book and you as well. Who wants to read another DUI story anyway! Abolish alcohol and the problems and tragedies would be solved -- and also eliminate drugs like heroin and meth.

You're No Victim
You're No Victim

Daniel Horn is NOT a victim! Or, he may call himslef a victim ONLY if he accepts that he is also the perpetrator. HE and HE ALONE is responsible for his drinking, his driving and the consequences of driving under the influence; that consequence being the injuries to Ms. Phelan.Want to write a book about your experience in Joe's gulag? Fine, go ahead! Want to decry the tactics of CandyAss Thomas? Have at it! But Mr. Horn, to minimize and/or dodge the responsibility for and consequences of your actions is underhanded, spineless, gutless and cowardly! You are a chicken hearted, lily-livered sniveling puke! You should hide your head in shame! Ms. Phelan has displayed more class, dignity and graciousness in this saga than you could possibly dream of!

Taxpayers getting bilked!
Taxpayers getting bilked!

from above: "I do find it curious that Ms. Phelan (now living in California) comes forward at a time when County Attorney Andrew Thomas is beginning his bid to become Attorney General of Arizona."

We also find it more than coincidental that a former drug addict would dare come back into the scene in Arizona. They are so at risk. Imagine she's protected by "Victim's Rights" where the victims get paid and have their legal fees and all paid for by the taxpayers.


We find this from above, very insightful:

"Now, after 4 years of silence, the woman in the accident, Marion Phelan, has come forward to protest my portrayal of her in Accidental Felons and my portrayal of County Attorney Andrew Thomas throughout the book to the Phoenix New Times. Ray Stern supports County Attorney Thomas as being a benevolent prosecutor to the residents of Maricopa County."

Concerned Citizen
Concerned Citizen

Found on Daniel Horne's blog. Ray you missed the point of the book. Your readers can judge for themselves from this:

"FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 25, 2009Is Andrew Thomas a benevolent prosecutor?The Preface of Accidental Felons opens with: �This book contains many themes. It contains the joy of a newborn child, the heartbreak of a lost career, medical mysteries, death, and stories of survival. But, the overriding theme throughout this book is the abuse of political power by elected officials. �

Now, after 4 years of silence, the woman in the accident, Marion Phelan, has come forward to protest my portrayal of her in Accidental Felons and my portrayal of County Attorney Andrew Thomas throughout the book to the Phoenix New Times. Ray Stern supports County Attorney Thomas as being a benevolent prosecutor to the residents of Maricopa County.

An article like this (with photos) is difficult to address with sensitivity. It is indeed the Horns of a Dilemma that so much about this accident has been. Rather than being �tried by a tabloid� newspaper, I�ve uploaded Chapter 4 from the book that describes facts that Mr. Stern is apparently unaware of. I do find it curious that Ms. Phelan (now living in California) comes forward at a time when County Attorney Andrew Thomas is beginning his bid to become Attorney General of Arizona.

My description of Ms. Phelan�s condition the night of the accident, See Chapter 4, comes from the emergency room medical reports the prosecutor was using to prosecute the case. In that medical record, the following facts exist:

Ms. Phelan tested positive for opiates.Ms. Phelan tested positive for the anti-psychotic schizophrenia drug Seroquel.She told both the paramedics and the doctor that she was a recovering heroin addict.She said that she was not in a great deal of pain.The doctor said he gave Ms. Phelan a shot of morphine, the strongest narcotic in the hospital. He gave this as the reason she failed the drug test.There is no record of a shot of morphine administered to Ms. Phelan in the medical record turned over by the prosecutor.(Note: If a doctor administers a potent narcotic to someone who they know is an addict who denies being in a great deal of pain, it is a serious violation of medical procedure. If a doctor falsifies a medical record, it is a crime. If the county attorney�s office withheld some of the medical record from the defense � material evidence which would show the missing shot of morphine � it is a crime.)

There is mention of injury in the area of the collarbone that might be a fracture or a bruise, tests were inconclusive.There is mention of a fracture to one bone of the foot by one doctor that is referred to as one bone in the ankle by another doctor in the ER.The medical report isn�t conclusive if she had a sprained ankle.One doctor describes Ms. Phelan as frail and undernourished.There were no stitches, no surgery performed, and no life-threatening (serious) injuries mentioned in the emergency room medical record.If I was unduly sketchy of Ms. Phelan�s injuries, I apologize to the reader. As I say in the Preface, this is not a book about Ms. Phelan or me, it is a book about the abuse of political power. I do believe that Ms. Phelan's statement to the prosecutor, as well as her refusal to come to the courtroom, influenced my plea agreement.

The second woman in the accident isn't mentioned a great deal, but I should note that she had 18 months to come forward with any complaint of injury or loss. She refused both to show up at sentencing or to file a claim proving loss or injury. The Pre-sentencing report indicates there were injuries that the medical records do not show. The pre-sentecing report is in error (a common occurance I have been told by attorneys).

Like many other county residents I met in jail, Andrew Thomas indicted me as a violent felon--the crime of intentionally attacking another person with a dangerous weapon and seriously injuring them--Aggravated Assault. A serious crime, only two classes below 1st degree murder, and 1 class below molesting a child. All these are laws carry mandatory minimum prison sentences and are intended to be used only against the most egregious predators in society, not the general population.

The book exists because I know in my heart that Andrew Thomas is using the residents of Maricopa County for nails as he builds himself a political resume to run for higher office. I know this because I've met dozens of county residents who had their lives severely damaged by this man's abuse of mandatory minimum sentencing.

While my experience shows me that Maricopa County's Attorney does little to serve society, he does a great deal to create the statistics he needs as a political "crime fighter" for a resume bereft of any such experience. There are hundreds more county residents silenced inside Arizona's for-profit prisons. Domestic disputes without blows = Aggravated Assault, DUI accident with any injury whatsoever = Aggravated Assault, and Post Traumatic Stress in a Veteran = Aggravated Assault. These are the stories that comprise the majority of the pages of Accidental Felons, not the auto accident I was involved in.

I merely present the facts, the reader gets to be the judge."-----

Concerned Citizen
Concerned Citizen

After reading the book and website, there is more to the book than this thin article you wrote on a DUI case. An accident is an accident which means there's no malicious intent. Sounds like Mr. Horne was charged as if he maliciously planned this accident. How do arpaio and thomas treat "accidents'? That's what the public needs to know, with police cars and photo radar everywhere you look in Arizona highways. People are facing harsh mandatory minimum sentencing where he could have spent 10 years in prison. This is used by the prosecutors and law enforcement as a weapon to coerce a plea. THIS IS THE REAL STORY HERE. What choice does one have with a plea? Why would Mr. Horne be given a plea as "violent felon"?

I encourage everyone living and visiting Arizona to read "Accidental Felon" to learn how at risk you are for the same. It's a very educational book for the public. Learn about the broken Phoenix forensics lab where the Audit results were never made public.

Solution-Ban Alcohol
Solution-Ban Alcohol

Harsh DUI punishments have gotten out of hand. The tourists and public have no idea what they are facing. Mr. Horne's book give a real life experience that should be a must-read for all college students.

Arizona law makers, if you were honest, rather than destroying lives and families who have become victims of the DUI laws, you'd simply ban alcohol, shut the bars and restaurants down and the problems would be solved only the huge obscene money the lawyers and the criminal justice systems makes would all evaporate. You can't have it both ways. If it's so terrible - get rid of alcohol in the state. Thomas and arpaio would have little to grandstand about.

Tragedy never ends in AZ
Tragedy never ends in AZ

Ray, You've done a disservice to the people of Maricopa County and Arizona by focusing on Mr. Horne and his victim rather than the point of the whole book. It is bigger than Mr. Horne and he is the first to say it. It's all about the abuse of power and overzealous and malicious prosecution of people by Maricopa County Attorney A. Thomas and Sheriff Arpaio and his jails. The public needs to become informed and know the truth of what is going on from someone who has been through the system. People don't make this stuff up.

The victim, a former drug addict and new mother should be thankful she doesn't live in Arizona or she could have found herself in Perryville Prison even without a car accident. Then she would be very much at risk like the recent death of Marcia Powell. Was she drug tested after the accident? Get a copy of the lab report. Why on earth would she expose herself and her child to the state of Arizona unless there is something else going on here. "Enemies List" by Sarah Fenske comes to mind. To the victim, sorry to say Mr. Horne is no John Grisham and he gives most of the books away. Be thankful you have a child and live in California away from the prison state Arizona has become.


Drunk drivers typically attempt to blame others and minimize their own actions. Virtually every drunk claims they had fewer drinks (one or two, officer) than they did and they all have an excuse for why they shouldn't have been arrested.

A liver that isn't functioning properly won't cause an inaccurate BAC test result but a liver that isn't functioning properly could result in slower metabolism of the alcohol which could result in someone becoming impaired with fewer drinks. Driving while impaired and with a BAC of 0.08 or higher is illegal. Mr Horne was impaired and had an extreme BAC, it is his and only his responsibility to no drive while in such a condition.

He made the choice to drive. He and his victim were fortunate that even more serious injuries didn't result and while I'm pleased that he had a year to rot in Nickel Bag Joe's gulag it's unfortunate that he didn't learn about personal responsibility while in jail.

I hope he at least learned that he can't trust himself to drink responsibly.

Some people don't survive their encounter with a drunk driver. Not that the drunks seem to care.


I'd find your article more compelling had you don any reseach, for instance ever bother to call this guys doctor or any doctor for conformation on his liver malfuntion?

I realizes that somethimes you need smaller stories to fill the gaps betwen the larger stories and the escort ads(which I love -it wanst an insult) But even little stories need details.

This article with all youve provided bois down to "Drunk guy claims liver failure responsible for accident / wrote a book about tent city / wasnt sympathetic enough to the woman he crashed into in his book"

Detials man, details

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