Investigators suspected that PLEA had planted a story about the criminal record of Virgillo's wife, Maria, with KPHO. Maria had caught three years' probation for her participation in a drug-trafficking ring.

At the time, Sergio Virgillo was serving with the PPD's Drug Enforcement Bureau, from which he later was transferred. KPHO reporter Sarah Buduson mentioned in reporting the story, "To our knowledge, Virgillo had no knowledge of what his wife was up to."

Still, when anchor Sean McLaughlin introduced the piece, he said the story "calls [Virgillo's] judgment into question." Buduson echoed this sentiment in her segment.

Where did KPHO score this intriguing news nugget? The County Attorney's investigators phoned Spencer and asked him to come in for an interview.

They wanted to ask Spencer about internal PPD e-mails concerning two Phoenix city councilmen, Michael Nowakowski and Michael Johnson, who had telephoned Virgillo after the shooting.

According to the County Attorney's Office report, they also wanted to know why Spencer "contacted a Phoenix Police Department Drug Enforcement Bureau Detective and asked him to provide him with details of the investigation of Sergio Virgillo's wife."

The report notes, "Shortly after Spencer received this information, Phoenix Channel 5 News aired a detailed story about Officer Virgillo's wife's arrest and the investigation conducted of her."

But Spencer, who has no problem flapping his lips before a camera, refused through his lawyer to be interviewed.

PPD detective Ron Gomez did talk to investigators. Gomez is with the PPD's Drug Enforcement Bureau and, according to the transcript of his interview with the County Attorney's Office, he investigated Virgillo's wife.

Gomez informed investigators that about 48 hours after the Chrisman shooting, Spencer called Gomez on the latter's personal cell phone to pump him for info on Virgillo.

Gomez told him about Virgillo's wife, and he also told Spencer that Virgillo had been cleared.

The detective told investigators that the PPD did wiretaps on both Virgillo and his wife and came to the conclusion that Virgillo didn't know about his wife's criminal activity.

Was Virgillo run out of the DEB? Gomez told investigators that despite his belief that there was no wrongdoing on Virgillo's part, his commander felt it was in Virgillo's best interest to transfer him out of the DEB.

The detective gave props to Virgillo for standing by his wife. (The couple are still married.) And Gomez admitted that he had recently resigned from PLEA, offering that he was once a PLEA rep and that he had endorsed Spencer's run for PLEA president in the past.

"And since that time, I've had a change of opinion," Gomez stated.

Say no more, detective.

Did Spencer dish the goods on Virgillo's wife to KPHO to tarnish Virgillo's account of the shooting?

I called and e-mailed Spencer, asking him to call me back so we could discuss the matter.

He e-mailed me, writing only:

"With the same platform of honest dialogue utilized with Monica Alonzo and Ray Stern at New Times, PLEA's goal continues: to assist in the successful reporting of all our media partners both nationally and locally."

He did not respond to subsequent e-mails.

KPHO news director Michelle Donaldson returned my call and vigorously defended her station against the perception that it sometimes acts as PLEA's PR wing.

Donaldson insisted that PLEA was not the source for Rossi's flubbed story on the PPSLA survey. And she took umbrage at PPSLA president Hafkey's contention that the document had been purloined, pointing out that leaks happen all the time in the news business.

As for the retraction occurring on the 5:30 p.m. newscast, she contended that since Rossi's original story with the "fire him" statement occurred at 5:30 p.m., this was proper. She said the same day's 10 p.m. newscast did not include the "fire him" comment, so there was no reason to run a correction during that broadcast.

Why was the video taken off KPHO's Web site, then? Donaldson claimed it rotated offline on its own — even though older stories are still on the site. Something to do with the software the station uses.

"I ran a retraction in each newscast where that misattribution of fact was included," she insisted. "It wasn't included in our Web story, so there's no retraction there."

She was referring to the written version of the story, which is still up and carries the same spin, even if the "fire him" quote isn't mentioned.

What about the hit piece on Virgillo's wife? Did that story come from PLEA? She declined to inform me of the source.

Donaldson had no problem with the fact that Rossi is an ex-cop reporting on the cops or that Rossi covers a department she once sued, scoring a $45,000 settlement. This, over a flap my colleague Paul Rubin reported on in 1990 ("From Tough Cop to Talking Head," August 8).

She couldn't tell me whether Rossi had ever been a PLEA member.

"I don't know what that matters," Donaldson said. "She'd been a police officer for years."

It matters if your station is perceived as being in PLEA's pocket. You'd think Donaldson would be a tad curious about that.

"As a journalist, you know . . . we get used by people every day," she said. "At the end of the day, I want to know that the information is accurate and we're using it appropriately, but I'm not going to apologize for working as many sources as I can for information."

She's got a point about sources, though peddling PLEA's propaganda and getting "used" routinely ain't exactly the same as "telling it like it is."

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28 comments
Corruption
Corruption

So refreshing to see that the Phoenix Police Officers Union (PLEA) finally figured out that there is a law enforcement Code of Ethics. (See the PLEA Recap monthly magazine, May 2011 page 4.) PLEA leadership is apparently surprised that their members are being held accountable to compliance with the Code. Amazing that they never read the Code before. Perhaps now they can serve the taxpayers instead of themselves.

PLEA recap, May 2011: http://www.azplea.com/index.ph...tent&view=category&layout=blog&id=9&Itemid=28

Arizona Peace Officers Code of Ethics, R13-4-105. Minimum Qualifications for Appointment: http://www.azsos.gov/public_se...

President
President

Spencer seems to flap his lips plenty on Mike Broomheads show on KFYI what the heck is going on there? When the shoe (horse) is on the other foot (hoof) people don't seem to like it. I continuously go back to the old saying, live in a glass house don't throw stones.

Kit Carson
Kit Carson

"But Spencer, who has no problem flapping his lips before a camera, refused through his lawyer to be interviewed."

That's the most important line in this good read about PLEA.

Cops know what most citizens don't: never talk to the cops if you don't have to, never waive your right to remain silent, always insist on an attorney.

The police will tell you that if you have nothing to hide, then you should talk - don't you believe it. Innocent people get trapped all the time, and some go to jail just for denying they committed a crime for which they are never convicted.

The police are important, they are often our heroes, but they can also be pricks, jerks and felons. Don't take the chance that the 1-in-10 or 1-in-100 cop that is bad is the one opposite you, the one asking the questions.

Do like the cops do - don't talk!

StephenLemons
StephenLemons

Thanks for the comment, Kit. In case anyone's interested, I just posted some documents from the County Attorney's investigation on the blog: http://bit.ly/faGaAM

Truthhurts
Truthhurts

Ok...back to Grammar school for "Mister" Lemons. First

1. If you accuse KPHO of being attached at the hip of PLEA...YOU are attached at the hip of PPSLA (the counter union in Phoenix Police.). And yes Stephen you have solicited "hit" pieces from Mark Hakey (affectionately know in PD circles as half-whit) on Mark Spencer. Remember the Property Crimes Lieutenant you contacted looking for trash. Remember - the one you said you could not remember? Here's a clue...his nic-name is "Edmo." Jog any of those stagnate brain cells for you now?

2. NO - it was not Monica Lonzo that broke the story on kidnapping stats of even was the driving force behind getting Harris removed (you're such a duffus Stephan). The FIRST news media to report it was KFYI, the Mike Boomhead show in mid-August 2010. Do your research its all true. Then KPHO and Channel 15 did stories in mid August 2010. Yes the same KPHO that you say is in bed with PLEA. So I guess its ok for Monica to write about it but not PLEA, is that right? Then came follow-up stories on News Channel 15 (weeks after Monica's report) and what happened 72 hours after News Channel 15's story on February 27th? Harris was packing up his office and officially reported he was out the next day on the 28th. So was it really the Newtimes that forced Harris out weeks before or the News Channel 15 story 72 hours before???? Come on dude...do your job for once.

3. Joe Knott - this is a funny story? PPSLA (and you) comes to the defense of Joe Knott and why? Because he is buddies with Mark Hafkey and was on the PPSLA board. Stephen did it ever occur to you as your having lattes with Hafkey to ask about who the female was making the complaint against Knott??? Yes, another Phoenix Police Supervisor...yet PPSLA shit all over her and came to the defense of Knott. Why...Hafkey's buddy, and a PPSLA board member.

4. Next - the Chrisman case. Hmmmm well Mr. Lemons if you were an "actual" reporter instead of just a columnist maybe you would have gotten your facts right on this one but sadly your not, so we are stuck with half-baked truths and speculations from some-one who probably is more adept at changing motor-oil. Stephen if Chrisman is soooooo guilty, why don't you contact the Phoenix Police Department's Internal Affairs (PSB - Professional Standards Bureau) and ask them "whatever happened to the lead investigator in this case?" SHE WAS REMOVED!!!!!! That's correct half-whit. She was removed because she "completely" disagreed with the direction (firing Chrisman) that Jack Harris was going. Stephen you "allege" you talk to PPD cops all the time. If that's true then what is the gossip on the "streets" about the Chrisman case? Why were "both" TASERS deployed in the fight if Virgillio says there was no need to shoot. And most importantly...ask if at anytime did Virgillo have to leave the trailer because he was over-come by pepper spray and does not know if Rodriguez grabbed Chrisman's gun or not? And for PLEA leaking information on Virgillio's wife??? There is not one centilla of evidence of this but even if it was true let me see if I get your absurd logic in this. Virgillo works narcotics and was working a major investigation involving smuggling of narcotics from Mexico. Then his wife is "recorded" contacting the actual drug dealers in the case and warning them the police are in to them. She even took a plea (pardun the pun on words) to a felony conviction. And now you use this opportunity to attack PLEA?????

Who's the horse ass now????

oh yeah....yellow journalism defined, again :)

(PS - if any of Stephen Lemons boss's read these comments - please fire this guy. We as readers are sick and tired of anti-SB 1070 (PLEA is pro-SB 1070), Joe Arpaio stories, Russell Pierce Stories, Andy Thomas stories). Lets get a "real" reporter please and not one with a political axe to grind.

Lendersbest
Lendersbest

Lol. Another corrupt person trying to convince us the facts are really NOT the facts!!Your "dirty" Cop, Crissman, has more on his record than this "murder". He should have been fired long ago and then this wouldnt have happened and smeared all the "Good Cops" out there!! Hang him and your ridiculous defense!

Retiredpd78
Retiredpd78

The FBI is investigating your PD department, not sure how you can sweep that under the rug. I served 8 yrs in U.S. Army and 12 in the DPD, these agencies just don't waste investigative resources like this unless there is a pattern of misconduct or very obvious examples of over reach in engagements with the citizenry. Your defensiveness is typical for a PD that is in denial about the conduct of its Officers.

Guest
Guest

anyone elsenotice truthhurts and the dick from badphoenixcops.com write exaktly the same? truthhurts has his lips permantly around spencers tailpipe.

monica alonso was the first reporter to go thru the kidnapping repts and read each one. the tv stattions just reptd that there was some guy who was a wistleblower saying the stats were phony. after alonso then came abc15. as 4 plea, spencer is a sack of shit. both he and harris needs 2 go.

Truthhurts
Truthhurts

Lets see, my language and writing style reflects that of badphoenix.com???? You are the one that uses language like; " his lips permantly around spencers tailpipe." Which of the two of us most sounds like that website?

Next - Alonzo was the first to review hundreds of kidnap reports but do you or Lemons know where she obtained them from, perhaps a public records request? - NOPE. She obtained them from 1102 W. Adams - the PLEA Office. PLEA and reviewed, categorized and read them and handed them to Monica. Make no mistake, Monica is an outstanding reporter but she does not need the help of Lemons to promote her career, her investigate reporting on city corruption is excellent. Unlike Lemons who CONTINUALLY writes about the same topics over, and over, and over again - SB 1070, Arpaio, Andy Thomas and Pierce.

Oh yeah...and does anyone else notice the above comment rife with misspelling and bad grammar??? Probably a certain "columnist" on his 4th glass of wine last night.

Kit Carson
Kit Carson

Yellow journalism appeals to sensationalism. I am a pretty vocal critic of bad journalism, and I don't see any of that here. You may be right about the facts, as you claim, but even if so this isn't yellow journalism.

Truthhurts
Truthhurts

ship sinking??? ...you must be on bow of the SS Jack Harris with Hafkey at the wheel

StephenLemons
StephenLemons

PLEA embraces nativist politicians, and, guess what, those politicians don't back union pensions. Surprise, surprise. So, their union members bear the brunt. No wonder PLEA's losing members. Thing is, Truthhurts, you just don't want anyone criticizing the current regime at PLEA. That's obvious from your posts. Have fun there, as the ship sinks, and Spencer eventually leaves to run for County Supervisor.

Truthhurts
Truthhurts

Was it just PLEA that endorsed them or at least some of them??? What about PPSLA, Phoenix Fire or the union police/fire groups of other valley cities. If it was just PLEA then you are an excellent reporter/columnist. If it was more than PLEA and you only criticize PLEA....Yellow Journalism :)

StephenLemons
StephenLemons

How is it yellow journalism to point out the hypocrisy of PLEA endorsing Republicans hell-bent on axing DROP and other benefits PLEA members enjoy? Feel free to enlighten me on that one.

Truthhurts
Truthhurts

I'm sure with Mark Hafkey's blessing....

Yellow journalism defined again :)

StephenLemons
StephenLemons

Very unfair, Mr. Truthhurts. I comment, if I comment at all, under my own name. Moreover, I prefer bourbon to wine.

However, as a defender of Spencer, you may be interested in this item I just published on how Spencer and PLEA have backstabbed their own members:

http://blogs.phoenixnewtimes.c...

Wail away, Portnoy.

Dennis Gilman
Dennis Gilman

The inflated Kidnaping stats are about as disgusting and criminal as anything I've seen. The damage it caused was more then a tired old Police Chief Harris trying to score some extra federal money. Dishonest actions like that created this false border hysteria and encouraged people to support bad legislation. It spreads xenophobia and worse. Frightened people will always support what The Arpaio's and Pearce's are selling and wont even question the sources or information they are being fed. See a pattern? How can we pass sane laws or even have a logical debate on immigration when the anti-immigrant folks are talking about ID Theft hype, beheadings and kidnappings and God knows what else. PLEA is as guilty of exaggerating crime committed by undocumented people as well and probably for the same reasons. Just take a look at there website. Sheriff Babeu? Same animal. He'll get 5 million State Tax dollars for his performance on exaggerating border violence and he isn't even a border sheriff.

What bothers me more is that our mainstream media has been pimping border hysteria for so long they've forgotten how to report the truth. I'm glad Stephen Lemons called out KPHO. It's about time our mainstream takes some healthy criticism. Personally, I think every network in town is deserving of it. Just watch the news. They all created their own scary section called "The Border Battle." Fox 10 even added background music to it to make sure you get in that frightful, hateful mood. They cannot accept the fact that the border areas are still safe according to real stats. Yes, our local networks are responsible for the border hysteria and by exaggerating the problem they are also responsible for who the low-information viewers are voting for.

Truthhurts
Truthhurts

Borders safe???? Oh really. Wasn't a Border Patrol agent shot an killed with an AK-47 just one month ago? Wasn't a couple jet skiing on a Texas lake attacked by "pirates" and the husband was shot and killed? Wasn't a rancher in southern Az. shot and killed on his own property? Haven't over 50,000 people been murdered in northern Mexico due to border related violence? Dennis would you really feel safe taking your family on a weekend camping trip to Saguaro National Park on the border with Mexico? You shouldn't because it is ranked "Number 1" as the most dangerous park in the entire United States with park rangers armed with AR-15's (most rangers in the country are un-armed).

And one more thing...Look at PLEA's website ( www.azplea.com ). They, KPHO and a few others have been touting the false stats for months. Even you state "The inflated Kidnaping stats are about as disgusting and criminal as anything I've seen" you still praise Lemons by saying; "I'm glad Stephen Lemons called out KPHO."

Really...do you even know what you are talking about. KPHO and PLEA were one of the very first organizations to sound out about inflated kidnapping stats...the same inflated stats that you yourself describe as "disgusting." Then you praise Lemmons for attacking KPHO and PLEA??? Hello McFly??????? Anyone in there?????

Deniseaz
Deniseaz

that officer you say was killed by an AK-47 ,, WAS NOT RIGHT ON THE BORDER !!!! but was into Mexico ,, over the national line , soo get your so called facts right .. and as it goes , with the kind of attitude you seem to be spouting here, , better yet, turn in your badge , and stop being a rouge cop . law enforcement should NOT ever be from , or for a pesonal power game .

Truthhurts
Truthhurts

@Cajungman - please refrain from smoking crack prior to blogging :)

Truthhurts
Truthhurts

Hmmmm I need my facts straight? The below story is from azcentral.com dated December 16, 2010 concerning the said US Border Patrol Agent murdered "near Peck Canyon North of Nogales."

Thats in the first sentence you twit. Maybe you need a geography lesson. Nogales is in the United States, its in Arizona - hence the name "Nogales, Arizona." Mexico is South of the United States so obviously south of Nogales, Arizona. So in the first sentence of the article where it says that the agent was killed "North of Nogales," wouldn't that mean in the U.S. As I said before...Hello McFly??????? Anyone in there??????

http://www.azcentral.com/news/...

Cajungman
Cajungman

ALL PHOENIX COPS ARE CROOKED WIFE BEATERS,DOPE ADDITS AND WOMEN HUSTLERS

Charles
Charles

I can't believe you people have a governoress runing this state into the ground and you worry about someone else being a horse ass. She increased the DMV FEES, but its not a tax, by 200% aand none of you say a word that just plan sucks

SpencerIsAMoron
SpencerIsAMoron

Have to agree with the picture of Spencer.

Tommy Collins
Tommy Collins

I found the picture to be degrading to the horse, actually.

XSoldier
XSoldier

Could it be an elephant (the symbol for the Republican party) instead, or what that be too humiliating to the elephant? I personally wish it was a donkey (the symbol for the Democratic party). That would be freakin hilarious....

 
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