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.