Below the Belt

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Hammarstrom said, "Documents provided by Mr. Wilenchik in February 2006 indicate a greater likelihood that Mr. Saban was the victim, not the perpetrator, in the incident involving sexual intercourse with Ms. Norman."

In rejecting Wilenchik's second run at trying to get POST to stick Dan Saban's head on a platter, Hammarstrom concluded that Saban had been telling the truth "in all of his responses during his pre-employment polygraph examination, including questions relating directly to the accuracy of his application [to Buckeye], and relationship with Ms. Norman."

On yet another front, Wilenchik on June 14 asked Mesa Police Chief George Gascon to initiate an obstruction-of-justice investigation against Saban for alleged wrongdoing after an unfortunate incident at a February 2004 party.

The incident happened during a roast in Saban's honor after his retirement from the Mesa department. Rick Davis, one of Saban's old cop pals, told an off-color story over the public-address system that referred to a time, years earlier, when the pair roomed together.

Davis described how Saban once had exposed himself to Davis' 5- or 6-year-old son. Davis later said the event never happened; he simply was telling a stupid joke about penis size at the adults-only function.

Two members of the sheriff's office were in attendance at the party that night. It is uncertain if they reported Davis' comments to Mesa police authorities, but that department soon opened an investigation.

A few weeks later, Mesa concluded that its recently retired commander had committed no crime, that "there is insufficient evidence to establish that [the boy, who was 18 when detectives interviewed him and said he didn't recall the incident] was a victim of an indecent exposure."

Mesa sent its report to the Maricopa County Attorney's Office. On September 7, 2004, a sex-crimes prosecutor informed a detective that the office would be filing no charges because "no crime [was] committed."

However, as the Saban civil trial neared this summer, Dennis Wilenchik wrote to Mesa chief Gascon, "It has come to my attention that former Mesa PD Commander Daniel E. Saban may have illegally tampered with [that] investigation."

Wilenchik claimed Saban illegally "tipped off" Rick Davis about the Mesa investigation and suggested that could merit a criminal charge of obstructing justice.

Wilenchik urged Mesa to reopen the case and also to invite the county attorney — Wilenchik's friend and former law firm employee Andy Thomas — to investigate whether Saban had broken the law.

"I am nothing short of appalled," Wilenchik wrote in typical hyperbole.

In this instance, Wilenchik got something for his trouble.

Citing a conflict of interest, the Mesa cops asked the Arizona Department of Public Safety in late June to look into the so-called case. That soon led Wilenchik, according to sources familiar with the situation, to complain that the state cops might have their own conflict.

The alleged conflict was this: Sharon Knutson-Felix, executive director of the 100 Club of Arizona (a nonprofit organization that financially assists police, firefighters, and their families) is married to DPS Deputy Director David Felix. Knutson-Felix publicly supported Dan Saban over Joe Arpaio in the last election.

Not long ago, the DPS punted the Mesa case to the Yavapai County Attorney's Office, asking it to take a look at the dirty joke incident that Wilenchik keeps harping about.

At the recent trial, Judge Houser surprisingly allowed Wilenchik, over Joel Robbins' loud objections, to continually raise the Mesa indecent-exposure yarn in front of the jury.

After the trial, one juror told New Times, "We couldn't make heads or tails of that whole thing in Mesa, other than to think that Mr. Saban has some really inappropriate friends."

Though Dennis Wilenchik has been licensed as an attorney in Arizona since June 1978, he didn't become a high-profile legal player until after the 2004 election of Andrew Thomas as Maricopa County attorney.

Previously, Wilenchik earned his stripes — and lots of money — as an attorney in the lucrative practice of construction-defect and mold litigation. In 1991, he and his wife, Becky Bartness, opened Phoenix firm Wilenchik & Bartness, which has flourished. Through the years, the firm occasionally represented government entities.

In 2001, according to county records, the couple purchased a 4,000-square-foot Paradise Valley home for $2.3 million.

Long active in the local Republican Party, Wilenchik is listed on John McCain's Web site as a member of the senator's Arizona finance team. (One wonders what chance Dan Saban has of winning McCain's endorsement again if he runs against Wilenchik client Joe Arpaio in 2008).

Records show that Wilenchik donated $3,300 to McCain's campaign this year. Hedging his bets, Wilenchik also donated $1,000 to the presidential campaign of former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani.

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Paul Rubin
Contact: Paul Rubin