Real estate lawyer Daniel Kloberdanz isn't a criminal defense expert, but figured he could help an employee who'd called him as she was being investigated for a DUI.
Not long after arriving at the accident scene at Lone Mountain Road and 60th Street in Cave Creek last year, Kloberdanz claims, the lawyer found himself being pummeled by a deputy and accused of a crime that could cost him his career.
Kloberdanz lays out his story in a lawsuit filed on June 12 in Maricopa County Superior Court, which was preceded by a December 2012 claim letter against the county offering to settle the matter for a cool $12,125,000.
The lawyer's tale of being beaten by a merciless deputy who then conveniently left out details of the attack in court paperwork, unfortunately, isn't terribly hard to believe in the 20th year of Sheriff Joe Arpaio's reign.
One point that runs in Kloberdanz's favor, as far as we're concerned, is that Kloberdanz claims Deputy Steven Carpenter helped hold him down as Pellino beat him. As we've previously reported, Carpenter, in September 2012 -- about three months after the Kloberdanz incident -- went on a road trip to North Dakota to help another deputy ambush and attack a man.
Kloberdanz's lawsuit describes how Deputy Pellino seemed to have no reason for the alleged beating -- other than the fact that Kloberdanz is a lawyer.
However, Pellino saw the event differently than Kloberdanz: He arrested Kloberdanz for hindering an investigation, and Kloberdanz faces a bench trial at 3 p.m. tomorrow on the charge before Desert Ridge Justice Court Judge Clancy Jayne.
The State Bar is also probing the lawyer's actions stemming from the incident, Kloberdanz admits, meaning the debacle could result in sanctions against his law license.
According to Kloberdanz, though, "every word" of his lawsuit is true. We talked to the lawyer and read his lawsuit today after being told of a write-up about it in Courthouse News. You don't need to be pay $35 for CN's copy of the lawsuit -- you can read it for free at the end of this post.
It all began on the night of June 15, 2012, when an employee at Kloberdanz's law firm, Valarie Lingenfelder, hit a motorcyclist with her vehicle. She called police and her boss, and her boss arrived on scene first. He spoke briefly with Robert Briggs, the motorcyclist, then turned his attention to Lingenfelder.
A sheriff's posse member, Robert Burghart, showed up, followed by Deputy Pellino. "Within seconds," according to the lawsuit, Pellino determined Lingenfelder was impaired and threw a pair of cuffs on her. He looked at Kloberdanz, without knowing who he was, and told him that "she should not have been driving."
Kloberdanz says he asked the deputy if he could try to calm down Lingenfelder, who was standing alone and "upset."
Pellino asked the woman whether she knew Kloberdanz. She said he was a friend -- and also her lawyer. With that, Kloberdanz says, Pellino strode over to him and shoved him so hard in the chest that he fell to the ground.
When Kloberdanz rose to his feet, Pellino said, "I don't need you guys telling me how to do my job," and tackled him, court records state.
Pellino cuffed the lawyer's hands behind his back while he was face down on the street and screamed "anti-lawyer sentiments," Kloberdanz claims.
Then Carpenter Burghart allegedly "jumped on" Kloberdanz. They held him down as Pellino repeatedly shoved the lawyer's face into the ground hard enough to drive pieces of gravel into his skin. All the while, the lawyer claims, he felt "multiple punches or kicks from the officers."
He yelled, "I'm not resisting," but Pellino kept driving his head into the ground, the suit states.
"I thought I was going to die," Kloberdanz tells New Times.
The officers pulled his left arm out of its shoulder socket and partially dislocated his right arm, Kloberdanz claims, causing extreme pain.
Kloberdanz says he was driven to the Cave Creek Substation, then to the 4th Avenue Jail in downtown Phoenix, 33 miles away, where he was held without being given medical care or the ability to make a phone call.
He went to a hospital after being released from jail, describing symptoms of a concussion.
"I still get a dull headache, but I'm much better than I was a year ago," he says.
In the booking sheet Pellino submitted after arresting Kloberdanz, there's no mention of the sort of attack related by Kloberdanz.
Pellino stated in the court document that while he was investigating the traffic collision, Kloberdanz refused to stay away from Lingenfelder while he was trying to get a statement from her.
After ignoring one request to stay back, Pellino wrote, Kloberdanz moved to within a foot of Pellino, who admits that "for officer safety" he shoved the lawyer in the chest hard enough to cause him to fall down.
But that's where the fight ended, according to Pellino. He informed Kloberdanz he was under arrest, cuffed him, and loaded him into another Sheriff's Office vehicle, the booking sheet states.
Kloberdanz says he can't imagine why the deputy attacked him.
"It's kind of my word against his word," Kloberdanz says.
But, he adds, even if one believes Pellino's statement in the booking sheet, nothing there indicates Kloberdanz's behavior was criminal.
Lisa Allen, spokeswoman for Arpaio's office, says that the office isn't aware of any complaints being filed over Pellino's alleged behavior. However, it is possible that an internal probe may be conducted to determine whether any policy violations occurred during the incident, she says.
We'll update this story Wednesday evening after we hear what happened in Judge Jayne's court. Clearly, whatever happens there could also have an impact on the chances of Kloberdanz winning this lawsuit.
UPDATE: Kloberdanz tells us that on Wednesday, the state dropped the charge against him. No reason was given.