Joel Fox, a former captain in the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office, was "floored" when state criminal investigators showed up with a search warrant at his house on March 31, 2009.
"I couldn't believe it," Fox said on the stand this morning, testifying in his attempt to get his job back. These were mere election law violations -- yet more than a dozen agents were in his home, gathering his evidence in a suspect plot to violate the law to benefit Sheriff Joe Arpaio's 2008 election.
Never mind that in 2007, the first "anti-corruption" target in a new task force invented by Arpaio and former County Attorney Andrew Thomas was Russ Jones, a former state lawmaker investigated by Arpaio and slapped with nine felonies by Thomas for election law violations. Fox, the key figure in what we affectionately call the "SCA scandal," (because of the secretive "Sheriff's Command Association" that raised big bucks later used to help Arpaio win re-election), gushed on the stand today that when agents raided his home, "I was absolutely besides myself. I couldn't think straight."
That "stress," went his implication, was why he lied his butt off to the state criminal investigators raiding his home.
And lie he did, according to a report by the state Attorney General's Office.
Today, Fox testified "nobody asked" him who Chris Baker was.
Baker, observers of the SCA scandal will recall, was the state Republican Party operative who helped facilitate the transfer of $105,000 from the SCA's secret slush fund to the GOP, which used the money in an apparently pre-planned scheme to fund the creation of a sleazy TV ad that blasted the Republican sheriff's 2008 opponent, Democrat Dan Saban.
According to Baker, Arpaio's former chief deputy and campaign manager, Dave Hendershott, introduced him to Fox and Larry Black at a Denny's restaurant in early 2008. Black is Fox's best friend (they "love" each other) who -- records show -- helped run the SCA scheme along with Hendershott and Fox.
At the meeting, Black, Fox and Baker discussed how to make a sizeable contribution to the state GOP -- it would, in fact, be the biggest contribution the party received in that election single.
The report by AG's investigator Mike Edwards states clearly that he asked Fox back in March of 2009 who Chris Baker was. (See Page 166 of the SCA report by clicking here.)
"I asked about his meeting with Chris Baker, and he asked who Baker was," Edwards wrote.
Edwards went on to explain to Fox that Baker had said he met Fox in a "downtown" restaurant and they discussed the planned donation to the GOP.
"Joel Fox said he did not remember that," Edwards wrote.
Today, Fox explained his answer to Edwards: The restaurant was uptown -- he had never met anyone "downtown."
Fox also said in March of 2009 that he clearly remembered mailing two checks to the Republican Party, one for $80,000 and the other for $25,000. That was contradicted by interviews of Baker and Larry Black, who recalled that Black and Fox handed Baker the $80,000 check at another restaurant meeting.
Apparently, the "stress" not only made Fox forget certain things, but caused false memories, too.
Speaking of restaurant meetings -- Hendershott was at that first Denny's meeting. Hendershott, Black and Baker all have said so. But Fox reiterated today that he had no idea Hendershott was there.
And there was another weird contradiction in Fox's testimony about SCA matters today:
Fox said today that he recalled receiving a check for the SCA account by Tom Gimple, a wealthy Alaska resident. It was memorable because it said "Vote for Sheriff Joe Arpaio" in the bottom left-hand corner. Yet if this was a campaign contribution, it shouldn't go into the SCA account, Fox said he knew at the time.
The SCA account wasn't legally able to receive or distribute candidate donations under state campaign law.
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But Gimple later explained to Fox and Black that his secretary had written that notation about Arpaio, and that Gimple didn't really want the money to go to Arpaio's campaign. So, Fox explained today, he included the money in the total of $105,000 he gave to the Republican Party.
However, when Edwards interviewed Fox in 2009 about the check with the note about Sheriff Arpaio, "Joel Fox said he did not know what that was about."
The lunch break is over and Fox is back on the stand testifying.
We'll go in and listen to a little more. But there are only so many lies we can take.