Arizona Capitol

Ben Arredondo Pleads Not Guilty; Judge Not Convinced of Need to Seal Evidence

State Representative Ben Arredondo pleaded not guilty (as expected) yesterday to charges of bribery, fraud, attempted extortion and making false statements.

A motion to keep evidence in the case secret -- which revealed "other investigations," which are "both closed and ongoing" -- was denied.

It's likely that the protective order on the documents will be granted down the road, but federal judge Lawrence Anderson wrote that he didn't get a good enough reason as to why the documents needed to be sealed.

"In the Ninth Circuit and subject to certain exceptions, documents exchanged in discovery are presumptively public in nature," Anderson writes, later saying that no one has "provided a specific, narrowly-tailored definition of 'confidential information' for the documents the parties seek to protect within the context of this case."

The documents and evidence in question, though, aren't typically available to the public.

Documents filed in federal court can be obtained by anyone willing to pay 10 cents a page, but the discovery documents aren't going to be filed with the court, so attorneys or someone else involved would have to hand them over to the public for anyone to see what's up.

For now, the request was denied, but it'll go to another judge to rule on it.

Who or what the "other investigations" are looking into isn't disclosed, or even hinted at, but the request submitted by the feds says Arredondo had "no objection" to keeping this stuff out of the public eye.

"The Government plans to produce or otherwise make available to the defense a large amount of material, much of which contains confidential and sensitive information related to other investigations (both closed and ongoing)," the request said. "If this information were to be publicly disclosed, such disclosure might impede those investigations which are ongoing and/or impair the privacy rights of third parties whose conduct is or was at one time under investigation."

Arredondo -- a Republican-turned-Democrat who served on the Tempe City Council for 16 years before making it into the state House of Representatives in 2010 -- was getting tickets to sporting events from a company in exchange for helping it buy city-owned land for a real estate development, according to his federal indictment.

That was discovered because there was no "company" -- it was all set up by FBI agents.

Arredondo allegedly told the agents he'd reach out to the council members to make sure the deal went through as he went to the House, and didn't disclose the $5,000 worth of tickets or the tables at the charity events he received from the imaginary company.

"You guys will ask, you guys will have," Arredondo's quoted as saying to the "company"/FBI agents. "I don't know how else to say it. We'll be just fine because not only [are we] covered at the city, we're covered now at the state."

Arredondo was hit with one count of bribery, two counts of mail fraud , one count of extortion, and one count of giving false statements for allegedly telling FBI agents he knew nothing about tickets.

At his arraingment yesterday, he pleaded not guilty, and doesn't have to pay bond to stay out of jail. His conditions of release include staying in the United States, surrendering his passport, and not getting really drunk.

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Matthew Hendley
Contact: Matthew Hendley