David Hendershott Tries to Take One for Andrew Thomas, but Somebody's Not Telling the Truth

Hendershott (far left) isn't just fat. He's also sneaky.

By Sarah Fenske

Somebody is lying.

Yesterday, Sheriff Joe Arpaio's top aide, David Hendershott, signed an affidavit stating that he "made the decision" to order the arrests of New Times executives Michael Lacey and Jim Larkin. "In reaching this decision and giving these directions [Hendershott] did not consult with Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas," the affidavit says, "nor did he consult with any member of the office of Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas including Atty. Dennis Wilenchik."

The affidavit was filed in an attempt to intimidate radio stations into not playing an anti-Thomas ad. The ad links Thomas to the arrests of Lacey and Larkin. (Click here to see a letter sent to Valley radio stations this morning by the group that funded the ad).

But while Hendershott's statement may be technically true, it contradicts a detailed statement provided by his own office in the wake of the arrests -- and it is also highly misleading.

In the days immediately following the New Times arrests, the Associated Press quoted the sheriff's spokesman, Paul Chagolla, saying "the arrests came at the requests of the prosecutor." KTAR reported that Chagolla directly fingered Thomas.

Chagolla expanded on the details in an email to my colleague, Stephen Lemons. On the day of the arrests, Chagolla wrote, "sheriff's detectives worked with assigned prosecutors from the special prosecutor's office, Mr. William French and Mr. Rob Somers. Detectives were contacted by Mr. Somers, and it was he that asked for the arrests to be made. Sheriff Arpaio had no participation in the decision to make these arrests."

Ahh, but now his top aide, Hendershott, is suddenly admitting that he himself did. Nice.

And here's where it gets really interesting. Chagolla isn't alone in saying that sheriff's detectives worked with French and Somers. French himself confirmed his involvement to both New Times and the Arizona Republic.

Looks like Hendershott forgot to do his homework before he drew up his affidavit.

Here's what he would have known, had he bothered to look on Nexis.

Last February, French told the Republic that his boss, special prosecutor Dennis Wilenchik got "a deputy from the Sheriff's Office to come in and explain to me what the options were. (The deputy) said, 'There are three options. We can issue a citation that's sort of like an automobile ticket where you just sign off on it. The other was a complaint. It sets forth more charges in writing. The third was arrest. I said, 'We'll do the citation.'"

The Republic reporter asked how the executives ended up being arrested instead. French said this:

I had two pretty well-versed associates. Rob Somers started drafting the citation. It was about 4:15 in the afternoon, and I said, "Well, it looks like you guys are on the right track. I'll see you tomorrow.'

The next thing I kow, all hell broke loose. When I left, it was a citation. I was really shocked. They were little iffy with me as to what happened. But there was nobody that was going to trump me in making those decisions but one person, and that was Wilenchik. He wasn't there when I left. Somers told me that Wilenchik said, 'No more Mr. Nice Guy. We're going to arrest them.' [Emphasis added] That's what happened.

So Chagolla clearly stated last October that the Sheriff's Office consulted with the special prosecutor.

And then, in February, one of the special prosecutors, William French, clearly stated that the Sheriff's Office consulted with the special prosecutor.

That makes Hendershott's claim that he acted unilaterally misleading at best -- and deceitful at worst.

Beyond that, it's pretty sly that he's claiming he never consulted with Special Prosecutor Dennis Wilenchik. Technically, maybe Hendershott did not consult with Wilenchik himself. But someone from Hendershott's office clearly consulted with someone from Wilenchik's office.

So why is Hendershott trying to now make it look like no consulting ever took place?

Could he be trying to save Andrew Thomas' job? You think? Life would certainly be a lot harder for Arpaio and his minions without Thomas around to do their bidding. Tim Nelson might actually investigate some of the sheriff's misdeeds.

Scott Palumbo is the Phoenix attorney at the helm of the Democrat-funded ad that triggered Hendershott's misleading affidavit. In a press release, he ridiculed Thomas' attempts to distance himself from the handling of the New Times case. (Citing a conflict of interest, Thomas recused himself from prosecuting the newspaper -- only to hand the case off to a person with an even bigger conflict, his former boss Dennis Wilenchik. Wilenchik, of course, represents the Sheriff's Office on civil matters -- making him hardly an unbiased law enforcement officer.)

"Thomas started all of this. His office initiated a personal vendetta against the New Times and its owners. He is either misleading the public about his involvement in the New Times case, or is oblivious to the abuses of power associated with matters arising out of the office he was elected to manage," Palumbo said. "Either is outrageous. And, both deserve dismissal, so this Tuesday is when he should be handed his pink slip."

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Sarah Fenske
Contact: Sarah Fenske