Two years ago, Phoenix resident Isreal Correa was arrested on charges of false reporting and aggravated harassment -- after police say he staged a home invasion and accused then-Justice of the Peace Carlos Mendoza of being its mastermind.
The incident led to police rousting Mendoza from bed and cuffing him, before Correa's girlfriend admitted that she and Correa had concocted the break-in. And that over-the-top action turned out to be only the latest in a long feud between the two men, who were once landlord and tenant. There've been lawsuits, restraining orders, even (bizarrely) a claim from Correa that they were engaged in a love affair, which Mendoza has denied.
Correa, who appears to be a bit of a Zelig when it comes to controversy in Phoenix, also managed to win some headlines when he was picked up in a Sheriff's Office sweep, despite being a U.S. citizen.
And now, election records show, Correa is running for Mendoza's seat. Theoretically, the two could actually face each other on the August primary ballot.
Only in Phoenix, kids.
Here's a little background: Justices of the peace, unlike judges, don't have to be lawyers. And they don't get vetted on the front end for character issues (or lack thereof). They're elected by the people.
Mendoza, who'd been elected to serve the downtown justice court, turned out to be a guy with character issues. He was later forced to retire under
a cloud of suspicion in May 2008, just a few months after his clash with Correa.
Interestingly, some of the things that forced Mendoza's retirement were actually related to Correa. Yes, Correa falsely implicated Mendoza in a staged home invasion, but apparently before that, Mendoza falsely claimed that Correa threatened him and threw down gang signs during a visit to the justice court. Though Mendoza had testified under oath, other witnesses flatly contradicted him.
Mendoza was also forced to retire for failing to disclose his rental properties and challenging another judge to fisticuffs. Phew!
We learned in February that, despite that "retirement," Mendoza may be plotting a return. He filed paperwork with the county recorder that's the first step to launching a campaign.
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But guess who's also filed his preliminary paperwork? You guessed it: Isreal Correa.
Anyone running for justice of the peace has until May 26 to file signatures and earn a place on the primary ballot. (For Democrats, like Correa, they need 8,664 signatures.)
We can only imagine, in this case, that signatures will merely be the beginning of an incredibly strange race. Fake burglaries? Tawdry love affairs? Gang signs at the justice court? These two just can't seem to get enough of each other...