J. Fife Symington III's globetrotting days will soon be over if U.S. District Judge Roger B. Strand requires the fallen governor to surrender his passport.
The Fifester has been sighted on several trips to foreign destinations since his September conviction on seven bank and wire-fraud charges. Prosecutors first asked for his passport when he was indicted in June 1996 on 23 counts, but Strand acceded to the pleas of Symington's attorneys, who said a sitting governor needed a passport.
But that was before Symington was convicted and resigned as governor. Prosecutor David Schindler told Strand Monday that following Symington's resignation he asked Symington's attorney, John Dowd, to ask the former governor to surrender his passport, a request Symington refused.
During a hearing Monday, Schindler asked Strand to require Symington to surrender his passport pending sentencing, scheduled for February 2.
When Dowd asked Strand if he could respond to the government's request, Strand, whose demeanor is generally gracious, responded with a resounding, "No!"
". . . like any other defendant who's been convicted of multiple felonies, he should surrender his passport," Schindler later told reporters.
Dowd, smiling and bantering with journalists, termed the government's request "ridiculous."
"He's not going anywhere. If he was going to run, he would have taken off a long time ago," said Dowd.
The Fifester, appearing relaxed and jovial outside the courtroom, noted that he still has his passport but that he will probably have to surrender it sometime.
"I think eventually that probably is in the cards," Symington said. "But I think the judge kind of put that to rest for the time being, which is very nice."
Symington said his resignation from office has been positive for his family life.
"It's really great to be spending more time with my family," he said. "The pressure is off. . . ."
But the former governor's employment outlook is bleak.
"Well, it's hard to do development work," Symington said. "It's sort of a long-term proposition, so I'm just sort of looking at things right now. I've got to see what happens in February."
Court observers say Symington could get three to five years in prison, but Strand could also depart from federal sentencing guidelines and give Symington probation.
Symington said he has long recognized that a prison sentence has "always been in the cards." Pressed to say how he feels about that prospect, Symington snarled, "How would you feel about it?"
But he was intent on putting a positive spin on his predicament. "We've been through a heck of an ordeal and we are feeling very positive about the future, and our spirits are good and our faith is strong," he said. "And those are the things that really count--faith and family."
Not to mention scandal! The Fifester was observed recently at Borders Books & Music, purchasing a copy of Sidney Hirsch's dishy dispatch on JFK, The Dark Side of Camelot.
Perhaps the Fifester will use any spare time he has in the future to pen his own version. Working title: The Brighter Side of Scamalot.
Burton of Mayberry
The Flash was puzzled: Why was a multistory tapestry of Andy Griffith hanging in the atrium of the Central Library earlier this month?
As it turns out, the Flash wasn't the only one bewildered by the puzzling portrait--actually a caricature of the late Burton Barr, former Arizona House majority leader for whom the library recently was renamed. (Although the tapestry has since been removed, the accompanying drawing still appears on bookmarks and other promotional library materials.)
Sources close to the check-out desk report they've been besieged ever since by baffled bibliophiles wanting to know about the Matlock connection. No wonder everyone's confused--when the Flash asked exactly who Barr was, neither of the young employees at the desk had a clue.
Mrs. Hull Goes to Washington
Even with a bulging war chest--as much as $3 million--and little serious opposition in sight, Governor Jane Hull apparently is taking no chances.
She's bringing in the big gun--Jay Smith, of Smith and Haroff in Washington, D.C.--to manage her media for the 1998 election. Smith has represented U.S. Senator John McCain and the Fifester in past elections.
Barely Managing Editor
The Flash is pleased to report that Arizona Republic managing editor Steve Knickmeyer is an avid consumer of Flashes.
The day after the Flash disclosed that Knickmeyer had been telling underlings that he had not been ordered to undergo psychological counseling, the news guru showed up in the Republic newsroom dressed in a straitjacket, wearing a sign proclaiming, "I'm not krazy!"
One longtime Republic staffer reports that the gag "went over like a lead balloon. . . . I really don't know what he does besides play golf and dick with people."
Elsewhere in the Republic Biasfear, it looks as though Steve "Hairboy" Wilson's stories about guys he knows from Scottsdale will continue on Page A2. The Republic has launched a nationwide search to find a new editor of the editorial page, to replace Paul Schatt, who's fallen out of grace since his former mother-in-law, Nina Pulliam, went to that Big R&G Ranch in the Sky.
Wilson had been considered a top contender for the spot, but there was great concern over whether he would have time to do the job, read five periodicals a day, lunch in Scottsdale and manage his hair.
Feed the Flash: voice, 229-8486; fax, 340-8806; online, firstname.lastname@example.org
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you'll never miss Phoenix New Times' biggest stories.