Longform

Below the Belt

Page 2 of 7

"I think most of us believed that Ruby Norman (Saban's adoptive mother) couldn't get her allegations out there on her own, and she got the help she needed from the chief [Hendershott] and the TV guy [Koebel]. But the judge told us to follow his instructions, and so there was no way around the way we ended up."

As for ex-reporter Koebel, another juror, who requested anonymity, told New Times, "I wanted to shower after that guy's testimony. What a liar!"

The panelists each criticized attorney Robbins as hard to follow and tedious. They did give high grades to Wilenchik for his courtroom focus but were not wowed by what they called an abrasive and cantankerous demeanor.


Dan Saban was fair game as a plaintiff in a high-profile defamation case, and Dennis Wilenchik had plenty to work with: The police chief's personal life rivals that of a soap opera character.

So it's hard to quarrel with Wilenchik's rabid cross-examination of Saban during the defamation trial. But newsworthy are the extra-legal machinations Wilenchik employed outside of the courtroom to try to ruin Saban's life.

The lawyer is as persistent as a Jack Russell terrier, and Joe Arpaio and his inner circle apparently have unleashed him to do as he wishes.

It's no exaggeration to say that if Wilenchik had his way, he would change the "b" in Dan Saban's surname to a "t."

Wilenchik's modus operandi in and out of court is to screech for as long as it takes, often baffling listeners and readers of his written diatribes with an onslaught of alleged details, facts, and connections.

In recent months, Wilenchik sent virulent anti-Saban letters to several authorities, including Governor Janet Napolitano, Attorney General Terry Goddard, the Buckeye Town Council, the Mesa Police Department (Saban's longtime former employer) and the Arizona Peace Officer Standards and Training Board, the state police-certification agency known as POST.

The missives are filled with malevolent innuendo and, in many instances, outright misinformation and disinformation.

By continually tarring Dan Saban as a lying hypocrite and political opportunist who raped his mother, Wilenchik's admitted goal has been to try to get Saban fired as Buckeye police chief and to cost him his certification as a peace officer.

Case in point was his April 9 letter to Napolitano, Goddard, and Navajo County Sheriff Gary Butler, POST's current chairman of the board.

In it, Wilenchik alleged that "although allegedly a self-proclaimed man of honesty and truthfulness, Saban has purposely omitted vital information from his POST application as well as [provided] information laden with discrepancies during his pre-employment investigation [for the Buckeye job] and the polygraph examination completed by Ms. Wells of Tom Ezell and Associates, Mr. Ezell being a Saban campaign contributor."

Wilenchik was suggesting that the polygraph operator had manipulated the results in Saban's favor because her boss opposed Joe Arpaio's re-election.

Another example of Wilenchik's ruthless technique came in a June 13 letter to the mayor and town manager of Buckeye.

The lawyer titled one section of his 12-page diatribe "Saban Lives By a Double Standard, Hurting His Credibility As A Leader And As A Peace Officer."

Wilenchik wrote in bold lettering, "Saban has now admitted to having had sexual intercourse with his adoptive mother Ruby Norman, who has repeatedly and consistently claimed he raped her, and has said so under oath."

He went on to say that Saban had lied about the "shocking information" involving Norman during his 2005 job interview for police chief.

"The pre-polygraph information shows that Saban answered 'yes' to a question asking if there was 'forcible rape,'" Wilenchik wrote.

"And yet, [the POST] lawyer and representative I spoke with appeared entirely unconcerned about such information regarding a certified peace officer. Hopefully, you will not share that cavalier attitude on behalf of the Town's citizens.

"Despite [Saban's] admitting to a forcible rape," Wilenchik asserted, "we know it was not Ruby Norman he was referring to [as the rapist], but himself."

Dan Saban never admitted anything of the sort.

To the contrary, Saban broke down during his defamation trial as he described how he — then an asthmatic, 100-pound teenage boy — had been "groomed" sexually by Norman until she finally lured him into intercourse one night in the early 1970s.

POST executive director Thomas J. Hammarstrom analyzed Wilenchik's claims in an April 19 memorandum to Sheriff Butler. Hammarstrom noted that Wilenchik had raised nearly identical concerns in early 2006 about Saban's pre-employment polygraph and other things.

The director wrote that the person who had conducted Saban's pre-polygraph interview recalled later that "Ms. Norman was the person who initiated force to have intercourse with Saban, not the other way around."

KEEP PHOENIX NEW TIMES FREE... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Paul Rubin
Contact: Paul Rubin