SPURN, BABY, SPURNDID BAIL BONDSMAN ROGER RUDMAN CREATE A MONSTER IN JP REBECCA MACBETH?
Roger Rudman sits nervously on the edge of a chair, his fingers busily fondling an imaginary cigarette as he takes a momentary respite from a chain-smoking habit. His clothes are rumpled and his hair mussed. He looks as if sleep has long been a stranger, and dark circles rim his watery, bloodshot eyes. When he speaks, to tell his tale of woe, the words tumble out in a manic, staccato patter.
This is a man in pain.
This is a man who has been dumped like a sack of wet cement by the woman he loves.
"She left me because she wanted to 'pursue other horizons,'" he says, laughing bitterly.
It's a sad story, and agonizingly familiar to veterans of the relationship wars. One morning you wake up and wham . . . Mr. Right or Ms. Perfect has turned into a weasel, dropping the unexpected bombshell that it's time to "see other people," or mumbling some other euphemism for "Get lost."
First come the tears, the bitter recriminations and, finally, the squabbles over petty possessions--I want my records back, the dog likes me best, etc., etc.
Before long, however, most people put the painful rejection of a breakup behind them. And yes, sometimes you can still be friends. Life goes on.
But not for Rudman. This jilted lover has forsaken forgiving and forgetting to embark on a quest for big-time payback--and he wants Phoenix voters to help him get it, by tossing his former sweetheart out of office.
Rudman, 47, a former bail bondsman and self-styled political kingmaker, skillfully managed then-girlfriend Rebecca Macbeth's insult-charged 1990 campaign for justice of the peace in the East Phoenix No. 1 District. They proved to be a winning team--the grizzled, hard-bitten handler and the youngish, pretty candidate, showing they shared a love of below-the-belt politics and each other.
About 18 months ago, however, it became clear that the honeymoon was over for this match made in the voting booth. In the wake of what court records hint was a financial dispute, the judge suddenly broke the news to Rudman that their romance was splitsville. When Rudman didn't ride gracefully into the sunset, instead making repeated phone calls to Macbeth's home and picketing the courthouse where she works, the judge filed for a court order protecting her from this persistent Romeo.
In reply, Rudman slapped back with a protective order of his own, charging that Macbeth had threatened to kill him. Then he launched a vitriol-drenched recall effort against his ex-honey--providing pol-watchers with yet another episode in a long-running public soap opera.
A former JP himself, Rudman insists that his efforts to boot Macbeth from office are based on civic-mindedness. Citing a host of vague, largely unsubstantiated ethical violations, he charges that Macbeth "is an unfit judge." "I helped put her in, so it's up to me to remove her," he says. "Our personal relationship has nothing to do with it. There's a principle at stake."
It seems fair to wonder, however, if the "principle" alone is worth the kind of effort and cash Rudman is pumping into the recall campaign. The lovelorn politico--admittedly still smarting over the breakup--has brought an almost Biblical intensity to the task at hand, thereby not only revealing a vengeful desire to evict Macbeth from office, but also to burn her political career to the ground and salt the earth where it once stood.
Rudman, who is working on the recall almost full-time, has spent more than $7,000 of his own money since the campaign began October 29, most of it for dozens of large, flashy, "Recall Rebecca" signs designed around an especially unflattering photo of her honor. In addition, Rudman has coughed up the funding for 20,000 full-color, glossy, anti-Macbeth fliers that have been mailed directly to homes across the East Phoenix district--a high-dollar tactic usually reserved for congressional and presidential campaigns.
Macbeth, 37, categorically denies that her performance on the bench has been anything less than "exemplary," but does admit to being "wounded" by the recall effort.
Unlike Rudman, Macbeth refuses to discuss many of the details behind the very public spat. "A judge," she intones solemnly, "can't involve herself in mudslinging." She has hopes the whole thing can be resolved somehow before it goes further.
But Rudman says there isn't much chance of that. He takes his sexual politics seriously, and he's playing to win.
"This is the most serious recall effort since that one," Rudman says, pointing to an old "Mecham for ex-governor" bumper sticker.
"I'm going to toss her out of there. She's going down."
Truly, hell hath no fury like a boyfriend scorned.
While most citizens would probably be hard-pressed to name the JP in their district, it is undeniable that the county's 21 justices wield considerable power. They are on the front lines of the judicial system, presiding over DUI jury trials, preliminary hearings for many felony cases, civil lawsuits up to $2,500, landlord-tenant complaints and a wide variety of misdemeanor offenses. For the vast majority of people, JP court may be their only contact with the legal bureaucracy.
To politicos like Rudman and Macbeth, the JP job has two other significant attractions: its salary--more than $60,000, plus fees earned for presiding at weddings--and its virtually unregulated authority, both of which are available to anyone who can win an election. No legal experience is required.
Roger and Rebecca were introduced by a mutual friend, Macbeth remembers, about ten years ago. Soon after, in early 1984, they joined forces to run on a ticket for JP and constable in the East Phoenix No. 2 District. Rudman won the judgeship and Macbeth took on the Old West-sounding duties of the constabulary--duties that nowadays consist primarily of delivering civil and criminal court papers.
There was trouble from the start. First came the accusation that the pair had allegedly concocted phony endorsements from local members of the legal community to print on campaign literature. Then, in early 1985, Maricopa County officials learned that Rudman was issuing marriage licenses--a job reserved for the county Superior Court--without the authority to do so. Rudman, who had run ads in the Arizona Republic urging people to visit for a license, was nearly driven to resign over the incident.
He did resign in 1986, only halfway into his four-year term, after a state judicial commission reportedly launched a probe into his business dealings with a process-serving company. Rudman allegedly hired the company to do most of Macbeth's work for her--while the constable collected her $31,000 salary and attended classes full-time at Arizona State University.
Out of office--but eager to find a surrogate he could install in his place--Rudman says he began "searching for the perfect candidate" to help capture a JP slot in the 1990 election. This time he chose the East Phoenix No. 1 District, which is bounded by Buckeye and Thomas roads and stretches from Central Avenue to 56th Street. And he didn't have to look further than the bedpost to find that "perfect" candidate.
The 1990 JP race, pitting Macbeth against Republican incumbent Dave Braun, was perhaps the sleaziest political dustup of the year. Rudman, acting as the puppet master of Macbeth's campaign, accused Braun of being a "queer male and a woman hater" whose sexual preference made him insensitive to battered women who came to his court seeking protection against abusive husbands.
In turn, Braun fired back that Macbeth had been "a slut or a girlfriend" for Rudman while he served as JP and had neglected her duties as constable.
The face-off quickly became a war of campaign signs, as Macbeth and Rudman charged that Braun was driving around the city, bashing and tearing the huge, full-color Macbeth posterboards. The Macbeth camp responded by adapting Braun's campaign slogan, "You be the judge," to a new batch of signs reading, "Who's bashing Rebecca's signs? YOU be the Judge."
Rudman blanketed the eastern half of the city with those signs, which sprouted in vivid colors from every street corner until they seemed to become the dominant feature of the urban landscape. And the signs worked. Macbeth won the JP race.
Throughout his public career, Rudman has relied on outlandish signage as a launch pad for mud-flinging. During his only non-JP race, a 1992 run for the state Senate against Democrat Chuck Blanchard, Rudman covered the district with signs accusing his opponent of supporting child molestation--a charge utterly without substantiation, and a nightmare come to life for the arrow-straight Blanchard.
"He put me through the worst experience I've ever had," Blanchard remembers. "Everything he threw at me was misleading and inaccurate. It was all just gutter-ball politics.
"I think he's a dangerous man."
While the signs failed Rudman in the legislative race--Blanchard trounced him, winning more than 60 percent of the vote--there's no denying their effectiveness on the JP level, where name recognition is paramount.
Even Macbeth acknowledges that Rudman's coarse skill at destroying opponents and his determination to saturate the public consciousness with the name of his candidate were determining factors in her 1990 victory.
"There's no question about it," she says. "Roger had a lot to do with my winning the race."
Rudman puts it a bit more immodestly, depicting himself as a sort of Dr. Frankenstein and Macbeth as a political creature of his own design. With a wink and a mischievous twinkle in his eye, he insists that the same powers he used to animate her in 1990 can be used to tear her asunder in 1993.
"All those signs made Rebecca," Rudman says. "Me and them got her elected.
"And we can get her unelected, too."
@body:Rudman's "Recall Rebecca" signs, which have become commonplace fixtures on the city's east side since he began the recall, are a far cry from the Rudman-designed 1990 efforts, which featured a picture of the attractive, lithe candidate, pursing her lips in a seductive Mona Lisa smile. In contrast to the standard-issue, flag-bedecked posterboard of most local campaigns, the 1990 signs drew attention by sending the not-so-subtle message that good citizens should vote for the babe.
The oversize placards now on east-side street corners, however, feature a picture of Macbeth that, to put it charitably, resembles the "before" photo in a Weight Watchers ad. To make matters worse, the pudgy judge--whose hair suggests she may have just rolled out of bed when the shutter clicked--appears to be flashing a sexually charged, come-hither grin at the photographer.
The seven-year-old picture, selected from Rudman's own scrapbook of a vacation trip the couple took to Long Island in happier times, was chosen, he says, "to show voters another side of Rebecca."
"She isn't just a pretty face. She has an ugly part, too."
Macbeth says Rudman's choice of the photo "hurts" because "it was taken at a time when I was trying hard to do some very positive things in our relationship."
Her voice cracking with emotion, she describes the moment. "I was looking at him in that picture. It was a privately shared time between two people who I thought cared about each other. I was trying to send a certain feeling with a certain expression . . . a feeling of love."
In addition to the photo terrorism and direct-mail fliers--which also bear the embarrassing picture--Rudman has announced a standing offer of employment to anyone in the district. Come help gather recall-petition signatures, and he'll pay you for it.
What could have prompted such a mean-spirited, kick-out-the-stops assault? According to court records, filed by both parties as part of their requests for restraining orders, Rudman and Macbeth were on the verge of marriage in April of 1992. Something went wrong, however, and Macbeth returned the diamond ring given her by Rudman and ended the romance. What followed is straight out of daytime TV.
Soon after the breakup, Rudman demanded that Macbeth pay him $30,000 he claimed to have spent on her JP campaign. When she refused, he began to picket outside her Phoenix courthouse, accusing the judge of cheating him out of the money.
To get Rudman to stop wearing out the sidewalk in front of the court, Macbeth paid the debt. But she says Rudman continued to harass her, and so in July 1993, she filed for a restraining order, which prohibits him from calling, writing or visiting her in person.
In response, Rudman went out and got his own order of protection last month--tit for tat--charging that she was harassing him.
In a rambling, confusing addendum to the request for the order, he wrote that since Macbeth had threatened to kill him, he had taken the precaution of making a "talking letter" videotape, immortalizing an unspecified litany of charges against her. The video was sent to several friends and an attorney, to be released to the authorities in the event of Rudman's untimely demise.
Then, on October 29, Rudman ratcheted the love spat up yet another notch by taking out recall petitions. He insists that while Macbeth's behavior during their personal dispute convinced him her character "was not of sufficient quality to hold a judgeship," their differences weren't the determining factor in his decision to lead the recall.
"The important issue is the substance of the official charges against her," he says. "What happened in the past between us isn't important if those things are true."
@body:The problem is, there isn't much evidence that Rudman's "official" charges against Macbeth have any merit at all.
To be sure, there are shadows on Macbeth's public record. A 1986 study analyzing her performance as constable shows she did less work than any of her counterparts in the county--a fact that lends credence to the charge that she spent at least part of her tenure as constable attending lectures and sorority mixers at ASU. Plus, she was complicit in Rudman's gay-bashing during the 90 campaign.
But Rudman has offered no proof of her alleged death threat against him, nor provided much foundation for his accusations (listed on the fliers) that she is incompetent and has indulged in "skimming, favoritism and croneyism [sic]." When asked for details, Rudman says he "would prefer you just go ask Macbeth" for them.
The most intriguing of the charges--and the one Rudman will talk about--is that Macbeth "showed favoritism" by failing to forfeit a bail bond, posted by a former boyfriend who owned a bonding company, after a woman jumped bail and fled the county. According to Rudman, Macbeth regularly ordered other bondsmen to forfeit when their clients went on the lam, only cutting a break for the lucky former beau--who was (you guessed it) Rudman himself.
As "damning" evidence, Rudman offers a murky, two-page transcript of a phone conversation last January in which Macbeth, apparently referring to the bond, says she "was being a nice guy." The reference, however, is far from clear.
In any event, the question arises: If Rudman was so offended by this horrendous ethical breach--of which he was a part--why didn't he bring it to the attention of police or the state judicial commission back in January, when he first learned of it?
"I was doing a lot of soul searching," he answers defensively. "I was trying to figure out what I was going to do with this. It isn't easy to turn in someone you once had a relationship with."
Macbeth refused to comment on the bail-bond charge. Her attorney, Lindy Funkhouser, did say that "in all cases dealing with Liberty Bail Bonds [the company formerly owned by Rudman], Judge Macbeth always recused herself." Macbeth let other judges make the call on whether bonds should be forfeited, Funkhouser contends.
In addition, Funkhouser says, Macbeth has asked the Arizona Supreme Court to conduct an audit of her court "to clear the air" of any allegations of wrongdoing. The audit should be complete before the end of the year.
@body:Rudman has until February 26 to collect the 2,392 signatures necessary to recall Macbeth and prompt the county to schedule a new election. Gathering those signatures is not an impossible task by any means, but it could be difficult if you are working alone--which Rudman apparently is.
Although he insists the response to his recall effort has been "phenomenal," when asked he can't point to the name of one supporter. There is no recall committee--only Rudman, armed with his signs, his fliers, plenty of money (earned, Rudman says, from the sale of Liberty Bail Bonds and "sound investments") and, of course, plenty of anger.
Even so, Rudman continues to maintain that he isn't merely a "disgruntled ex-lover," out to take revenge on the woman who jilted him. But sometimes, even he seems to find that difficult to believe.
"Hell, I've been dumped lots of times," he says quietly. "And I've never done anything like this before."
He pauses. "This just feels different. She just makes me feel like I have to do something."
Love will do that to a guy.
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