Sympathy for a racist skinhead? Has The Bird gone bonkers? Maybe. But as this avian considers the curious case of Patrick Bearup — on death row for nearly two years in the brutal slaying of 40-year-old Mark Mathes — it can't help but think Bearup's getting a raw deal.
While Bearup awaits execution, the culprit accused of actually shooting Mathes to death has been offered a plea deal from Andrew Thomas' office that will spare him capital punishment and, hypothetically, could give him the opportunity to get out of prison eventually. Here's how it got to this point:
Patrick Bearup, son of Joe Arpaio henchman-turned-rival Tom Bearup, was convicted in early 2007 of first-degree murder and sentenced to death. He was one of four neo-Nazi skinheads who participated in the 2002 kidnap, torture, and shooting of Mathes, whose body was abandoned to the elements near an area north of Phoenix called, a little too appropriately, Swastika Mine.
Patrick's cohorts in crime included neo-Nazi thug Sean Gaines, newbie skin Jeremy Johnson, and white trash den mom Jessica Nelson. According to the prosecution, the four ambushed Mathes in retaliation for Mathes' stealing money from tweaker chick Nelson. The original criminal complaint describes Johnson beating down Mathes with a baseball bat, Nelson assaulting him with her fist, Patrick Bearup cutting off Mathes' finger to obtain a cheap $100 ring, and Gaines blowing Mathes away with a shotgun.
Both Nelson and Johnson copped plea deals, and each is doing 14 years for second-degree murder. Patrick Bearup went to trial and drew a date with the lethal injection machine. Later in 2007, he was sentenced for the kidnapping count, which would seem superfluous, were it not for the fact that Judge Warren Granville took the opportunity to dress down the County Attorney's Office for the way the capital case was handled.
In a searing minute entry, Granville noted that Thomas' office "made unilateral decisions to plead out" Johnson and Nelson, even though Johnson "had batted the victim to death or near death," and Nelson had "procured the murder." (It was Nelson who had recruited Gaines, et al. to help her get even.) Thomas also "unilaterally withdrew the notice of death penalty" in both cases.
Thomas didn't withdraw the death notice for Patrick Bearup, a married father of two. Granville noted this was "as the law allows" yet remarked that the outcome of the case was unjust.
Granville observed that "even under the state's theory of the case, [Patrick Bearup] did not cause the physical death" of Mathes. That Bearup acted "only as support" as Johnson "baseball-batted" Mathes. Yes, Bearup did help drag Mathes to a car trunk and, from there, to the desert. Bearup also severed Mathes' ring finger, wrote Granville, but "while cruel and heinous," this mutilation "was not the cause of [Mathes'] death."
The judge, who has clashed with Thomas' office over other matters, declared that Bearup's death penalty sentence "was not justified in the context of the relative responsibility" of the other defendants. "The court finds that justice was not done for Mr. Bearup," concluded Granville.
Now it's come to The Bird's attention that the fourth player in this legal charade, notorious boot-boy Sean Gaines, has also been offered a plea deal by the County Attorney's Office, one quietly unsealed and placed in the public record in August. Under its terms, Gaines would plead guilty to second-degree murder, thus dodging the death penalty.
If the court agrees to the deal, and neither party withdraws from it, Gaines "shall be sentenced to the Department of Corrections for a term of 25 years." Gaines, 27, could one day walk the Earth a free man.
(According to court records, Gaines was sentenced to a 12-year sentence for burglary in 2003. Whether the sentence would run concurrently or consecutively with another sentence is ultimately up to the court.)
Yet, according to Mr. Tough on Crime Thomas and his minions, Gaines is the guy who twice pulled a shotgun trigger on the victim, leaving him for dead.
"The evidence of the use of a shotgun is flimsy, at best," asserted Gaines' attorney Michael Reeves. (The corpse was in the desert a year before what was left of it was discovered.) Though police did recover a 12-gauge shotgun from Gaines' home, Reeves said, the only evidence that a shotgun was used at the scene came from bat-wielder Jeremy Johnson.
Asked why his client was the beneficiary of this unusually generous offer from the county attorney, Reeves said he couldn't say. He also couldn't comment on whether the deal came about because Gaines is providing intelligence to authorities on his fellow skinheads.
However, an article by former New Times reporter Susy Buchanan in the spring 2008 issue of the Southern Poverty Law Center's Intelligence Report magazine details Sean Gaines' public renunciation of racist skinhead culture and notes that white supremacist prison gangs are sure to target him for elimination should he ever become a general population inmate.
Asked if he thought his client's co-defendant Patrick Bearup deserved the death penalty, Reeves replied, "No, absolutely not." Reeves offered that Bearup shouldn't have pushed his attorney to go to trial so soon.
The County Attorney's Office didn't respond to repeated requests for an explanation as to why an alleged murderer is getting a plea deal from a politician who campaigned for re-election on a platform of no plea deals.
Personally, The Bird's not in favor of the death penalty because of this sort of arbitrariness. An accomplice to murder earns death, while three others more directly involved criminals skate from the Grim Reaper's grasp.
There's also the possibility that the death penalty's being used as retribution.
Patrick Bearup's dad, Tom, was Arpaio's right-hand man until a bitter falling-out made them deadly enemies. Tom Bearup ran against Joe for sheriff twice. In turn, Arpaio did his best to destroy Bearup, having him tailed, tapping his phone, and housing Patrick Bearup in a mental ward while he awaited trial. At the time, a Correctional Health Services doctor observed that Patrick remained in the psych ward despite being perfectly sane. The doctor wrote that it was "per order of MCSO because his father was running as an opponent to Sheriff Arpaio."
Tom Bearup, who now lives in Alaska and runs a Bible church there, recently wrote President George Bush, in a long-shot appeal for a presidential pardon. The letter's touching, even if you don't believe Patrick Bearup deserves the forgiveness his pastor pa's pushing for.
"As a father, it is difficult to see your son being sentenced for a crime that he might have committed, but when your child is convicted for a crime that he didn't commit . . . your whole world begins to crash," pens Bearup, who still maintains his son's innocence. "I can't even imagine what my wife is going through . . . She was bonded not only by blood but by physical things such as the pain of delivery and carrying him for those nine months."
You might think Bearup's delusional, yet he's the first to admit Patrick was no angel.
The Bird's saying Patrick Bearup deserves to be in prison for the rest of his life for the beastly deeds he did. But should he rot on death row as Gaines cops a plea, joining Nelson and Johnson in beating a death sentence? Sorry. That's not justice, or anything like it.
The Bird may just have met the love of his life: A no-bull Democrat lady who knows how to win, and statewide, to boot.
She's Corporation Commissioner Sandra Kennedy, a tall, savvy African-American woman who pulled more than a million votes in her winning run for office as part of the "Solar Team" that included Sam George and Paul Newman. Kennedy also garnered a seat on CorpCom, while team leader George failed to gain one by about 2,000 votes.
This clucker caught Kennedy as she was exiting the Maricopa County Democratic Party's recent reorganization meeting, where party precinct committee people pick new county officers. Kennedy didn't stutter when she stated what needs to be done to turn Arizona Democrats from losers to winners next time around.
"There need to be some serious changes in leadership," Kennedy said. "[Executive Director] Maria Weeg needs to say, 'Bye-bye.'"
Continued Kennedy, "I don't know if it's going to happen, but if we plan to win in 2010, she can't win. She has the experience of being a loser, and we don't need that. She needs to find some other employment."
Kennedy was outraged when Weeg tried to claim credit for her win at a November meeting of Dems in Tucson as a way of assuaging Democratic disappointment over the loss of seats in the state House and Senate, leaving the Legislature firmly in the grip of the GOP. In reality, Kennedy says, she got "no help" from the state party.
Many other precinct committee people at the county function, which took place inside the gymnasium of Royal Palm Middle School on a Saturday, also thought Weeg should dive on her sword. But Kennedy went a step further, criticizing State Chairman Don Bivens, whose post's up for grabs at the Dems' state reorganization meeting on January 24.
"Don is a great person for fundraising," she admitted. "But I'm not sure he has the vision for the party."
With Mark Manoil stepping down as county chairman, and his successor, Ann Wallack, running unopposed for his position, there was little drama at the powwow, which left plenty of time for Dems to assess their losses and what could be done about them.
Pima County Democratic Chairman Vincent Rabago happened to be in house, and he explained that party leadership had recently visited Tucson as part of a "listening tour" and had gotten an earful from him and others. Asked if there should be some changes in staff, Rabago, who's also currently a state assistant attorney general, said, "Everything is on the table with regards to that."
Rabago said the party was "quite upset and concerned throughout the state." But though he had been suggested by some as a replacement for Bivens, he said he had no plans to run for the seat. His fellow Pima County Dem Paul Eckerstrom was nearby and echoed some of Rabago's sentiments. He, too, has been mentioned as a replacement for Bivens, but said he has no interest in relocating from Tucson to Phoenix, as would be necessary.
"At the last state committee meeting, the leadership was trying to put on a good face," observed Eckerstrom, "and said, 'Look, we won these Corporation Commission races.' But the party didn't have much to do with those races. When that happened, a lot of people tuned out, they really got angry."
Eckerstrom and others suggested that Weeg and Bivens might be able to save themselves if they come up with an honest assessment of what went wrong in a year when the Dems had megabucks and mojo. Not everyone was as forgiving.
Though not a precinct committeewoman, Linda Brown of the Arizona Advocacy Network was on hand and said many grassroots activists like her were pissed at the state Dems' eff-up.
"They lost ground in a year when the rest of the country was picking up all kinds of ground for progressives," she stated. "There ought to be heads rolling over that. There's absolutely no excuse for it."
Neither Bivens nor Weeg was present at the meeting. (At least, no one The Bird spoke to at the event saw them there.) Too bad. They would've gotten an earful. On the other hand, this might've been one of the reasons they weren't there.
This feathered fiend rarely answers his front door. No point in tempting fate. There could be a Jehovah's Witness, a serial killer, or some neighborhood kid selling candy door-to-door out there.
But recently, The Bird was house-sitting for a relative when a knock at the front door caused this worm-wrangler to spy outside the window. There stood a UPS dood in the traditional brown shirt with trademarked gold logo. So The Bird figured he'd better open the door and accept delivery.
But this dood wasn't a UPS dood at all. He was a process server in the guise of a UPS dood. And he was there to hand The Bird's relation, Jennifer Melinda McClarty, a traffic ticket spawned by one of those dreaded Redflex enforcement cameras. This one, allegedly, was for speeding in Tempe.
After asking whether McClarty lived at the residence, and handing off the ticket to this tweeter, the phony UPS dood then hopped on a crotch rocket and sped away.
Damn, this dodo knew he should've looked for a UPS truck! This was a scam right out of Pineapple Express, in which schlubby thespian Seth Rogen plays a process server who dons disguises to serve scofflaws.
This pissed-off pelican immediately phoned UPS, and spoke to Chuck Martinez, the company's director of security for Arizona and New Mexico, who promised an investigation of the matter.
"We certainly do not condone any unauthorized use of our uniforms," Martinez told this magpie. "We keep tight controls on our uniforms, and it's very concerning to us that somebody would be out there representing themselves as a UPS driver."
The Bird then got on the horn with the City of Tempe, which referred him to Redflex spokeswoman Shoba Vaitheeswaran (try saying that three times fast). Vaitheeswaran said Redflex subcontracts out to local process servers to deliver tickets. In this case, the company in question was Mesa's AAA Photo Safety.
AAA Photo Safety attorney Denny Dobbins said the company subcontracts with independent process servers, such as the fake UPS guy. After looking into it, Dobbins explained that the server in question, whose name he wouldn't release, acquired the UPS shirt from a thrift store.
"We obviously don't tell people to wear those kinds of things, but he did," he admitted.
Though Dobbins insisted that AAA Photo Safety doesn't encourage process servers to dress as delivery people, he suggested, "If you wanna dress like someone who looks like a UPS server, don't wear the UPS emblem. But you can wear your brown pants or your brown shirt. [You could] dress like a painter or a maintenance guy. Or a Domino's Pizza guy [but], it would be better not to wear the Domino's emblem."
Nice ethics, counselor.
"There wouldn't be anything unfair [about it]," rationalized Dobbins. "Because there cannot be any damage that has occurred, at least to the person being served."
So if you've been flashed by a photo-enforcement camera and someone knocks on your door claiming to be UPS, delivering a candy-gram — or even that they're a freakin' land shark (like in the classic SNL sketch) — best keep that door shut.