Decision in John Huppenthal's Trial for Removing a Campaign Sign Put Off Till Thursday

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A decision expected today in the case of an alleged theft of a campaign sign by longtime Chandler politician John Huppenthal has been put off until Thursday.

Huppenthal's case is another leftover of the messy 2008 election season. If you'll recall, Chandler police recommended charges of theft and tampering with a political sign -- both misdemeanors -- following an investigation.

The sordid affair began after the Republican state senator yanked out a sign supporting a Democratic candidate near a polling place on election day. One Democratic activist, an elderly lady named Ruth Levin, claims Huppenthal pulled the sign from her hand after he pulled it from the ground. She opened his car door as he was driving away and grabbed a business card.

The scene was criticized in a recent blog post by the Democratic Diva, Donna Gratehouse, who noted that during the July 29 bench trial, Huppenthal said, "I started to pull out and all of the sudden she opened the door ... It scared the heck out of me, I thought I was being car-jacked by an older woman."

Huppenthal claims he had permission to take the sign from the manager of an apartment complex. However, when we reached the woman by phone, she wasn't so sure.

The facts of the case were laid out before a judge at a bench trial in Chandler on July 29. Caron Close, Scottsdale city prosecutor, presented the case after her Chandler counterpart declared a conflict of interest.

Huppenthal, who's running for Superintendent of Public Instruction in 2010, tells us today he's happy the trial gave him a chance to prove he never touched or otherwise man-handled Levin. "I've become a star in a weird, little reality show," he says. "It gives me name ID. People find it humorous." Huppenthal says he believes his career won't be hurt by the flap -- even if he's convicted. If that's true, mark this one down as another sign of the times.

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