Tom Horne Suit Against Child-Porn Attack Ad Fails, Secretary of State Refers Matter To AG's Office

The anti-Horne ad causing all the hubbub, currently in heavy rotation

On Wednesday, a Maricopa County Superior Court Judge denied Republican state attorney general candidate Tom Horne's request for a restraining order against a controversial attack ad now running against him.

The ad, which is paid for by the DC-based "Committee for Justice and Fairness," calls into question Horne's vote as a legislator not to increase penalties against statutory rape, and it claims Horne voted to re-certify a teacher who had (according to the ad) watched kiddie porn on a classroom computer.

Horne alleged in his complaint that the Committee for Justice and Fairness, an independent "527" group, is not registered with the Arizona Secretary of State, and that it's fronting for another group, the Democratic Attorneys Generals Association, which is not disclosed in the ad.

Judge Linda Miles didn't rule on whether or not the ad broke state law. In her minute entry, she explains that state campaign finance statutes do not allow her to grant the injunctive relief sought by Horne.

However, the Secretary of State's office says there is probable cause to believe Horne's allegations that the CJF broke the law. SOS spokesman Matt Benson told me the SOS has forwarded the case to the Arizona Attorney General's Office. 

When I asked her about it for a previous blog post, Horne's Democratic rival Felecia Rotellini insisted she knew nothing of the ad until she saw it on Television. But her campaign clearly took delight in Horne's courtroom loss, calling Horne's legal action an "anti-free speech suit" and claiming he was attempting to muzzle his critics.

"Horne sued in a desperate bid to silence the Committee for Justice and Fairness," states a press release on Rotellini's Web site,"which has brought to light decisions of Horne's that show his true character, including allowing a teacher who was fired for viewing pornography in school back into the classroom."

The latter part of that statement is apparently true, as the teacher in question, Joseph Richardson, admitted to viewing explicit images on a school computer. According to a 2006 article in the East Valley Tribune, Richardson resigned his position at Queen Creek High School in 2002 after his students turned him in for looking at porn on a class computer.

In 2006, the state Board of Education voted 6-5 to reinstate his teaching certificate. In the minutes of the BOE meeting, Horne -- who is the state school's superintendent -- defers to the recommendation of the professional practices committee, and votes to give Richardson his certification.

Viewing porn on a class computer seems bad enough, but did Richardson view kiddie porn as the CJF ad states?

When I first spoke to Horne about the ad, he told me that a police report of the incident showed that there was no kiddie porn on the computer. Horne repeated this statement in his suit, saying, "While untruth is not a basis for this legal action, I point out that this advertisement is a big lie."

Horne e-mailed me a copy of what appears to be a sheriff's office report of the investigation, which you can view, here.

"I found several adult images contained within the allocated files on the hard drive," states the MCSO detective in the report, "but did not find images depicting child pornography." 

But in the minutes of Richardson's hearing, the teacher seems to admit viewing something inappropriate involving minors.

Check this quote from the minutes:

"Mr. Richardson added regarding the more severe finding was [sic] the fact that he looked at pictures of minors, various things that were sexually oriented with minors but that this was because of curiosity and not because he had a special interest in those areas, but that his curiosity was strong at that point. He added that he is disgusted with his actions and thoughts that he had at that time."

Which leads one to believe that this Richardson guy had some serious issues, to say the least.

Regarding the statutory rape stuff, as I mentioned in my previous blog post on this subject,  several Democratic lawmakers voted against the bill in question, as did Horne, who was in the state House at the time. HB 2587 would have upped sex with a minor 15 or over from a class six felony to a class four felony. If the perp was five years older than the teen, it would have been classified a class two felony. 

The CJF ad uses this vote, Horne's BOE vote on Richardson, and stock footage of kids to create the impression that Horne is basically pro-statutory rape, pro-child pornography, and so on. And it places Horne in a position where he has to declare he's not those things. Classic negative advertising. 

In a close race, which everyone expects the Horne-Rotellini contest to be, such an ad could prove quite effective. I don't think you can say that it's fair to Horne, who I like on a personal level, regardless of the fact that I strongly disagree with him on immigration and ethnic studies. But then, as with love and war, there's not much that's "fair" in politics.


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