Dan Saban, who ran twice against Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, has lost his appeal of a failed defamation lawsuit he filed three years ago against Arpaio and his office.
The Arizona Court of Appeals on Thursday upheld the September 2007 trial-court ruling against Saban's lawsuit.
The Appeals Court ruling seems to affirm that when it comes to political mud-slinging, there are few limits on the amount or toxicity of the mud.
We've covered Saban's case extensively, (just follow the links in our last blog post about Saban), so you can see for yourself how far Arpaio's supporters went in smearing the candidate.
True, Saban didn't have to be so brutally honest as to admit in open court he masturbated at work -- an admission that ended up in a controversial TV commercial aired by the Republican Party.
But when you know the full story of the smear and how the TV commercial was funded, the scruples of Saban's opponents appear more perverted than anything Saban did.
We don't have time to retell the sordid story now, but the names "Joel Fox," "Dave Hendershott" and "Randy Pullen" should jog your memory.
While the moral and ethical aspects of Saban's claim seem worthy, his legal arguments sucked.
For instance, he claimed that Hendershott, Arpaio's chief deputy, spoiled the case by erasing a key tape containing a conversation between Hendershott and Ruby Norman, Saban's adoptive mother. The Court of Appeals told Saban he couldn't back up that idea:
Saban presented no evidence upon which a reasonable fact finder could conclude that Hendershott erased the tape in order to destroy evidence. Hendershott testified that he believed the tape had no evidentiary value and erased it in accordance with his usual practice...
The appeals court seems to have wrongly considered the Sheriff's Office as a place of good will and trustworthiness, doesn't it?
The seeming naivety of the court goes even further as it explains how the Sheriff's Office handed off a report on the investigation into Saban to Rob Koebel, the former Channel 15 (KNXV-TV) later fired because of his involvement:
The trial court ruled that because defendants only communicated Norman's allegations to Koebel, it was Koebel and Channel 15, not defendants, that gave publicity to the allegations and were the cause of any damages Saban suffered.
Under Arizona law, the preparation and release of a police report pursuant to a public records request will not support a defamation claim against the law enforcement agency unless it involved malice or intentional defamation.
It's almost as if the court can't see that the release of the damning investigative report against Saban, (his adoptive mother had alleged that Saban raped her decades ago, when he was 15), bore little resemblance to the normal release of a normal police report. This was politics.
Yet the court may not be so naive: The appeal judges note that Saban, in the original defamation trial, didn't allege the release had been done with malice, the legal standard for proving his "false light" claim.
Judges Philip Hall, Sheldon Weisberg and John Gemmill all agreed that Saban's case didn't pass muster.
Saban declined to comment on the loss of his appeal, saying he hasn't yet read the ruling.
Maybe he should have tried to get in on the pending payout to county officials being handled by mediator Kenneth Feinberg. We're betting the county officials will have much better luck obtaining money than Saban did.
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