Longform

End of a Smear

Page 7 of 8

Carey certainly did not hide the ball from the grand jury.
He submitted to the grand jury an expert handwriting analysis concluding that the signature on the absentee ballot was not Morin's. Furthermore, the cop accurately noted in his report Oscar's ultimate assertion that he had not filled out the ballot, though someone who knew his correct date of birth as well as his father's name had. The defense was given the report.

Finally, when confronted with the screw-up, Carey dropped the one charge against Morin and dismissed him from the case.

The investigation of the voter-fraud ring was as ugly as it was bizarre.
Lieutenant Pritchett's squad car was spray-painted with obscenities in the parking lot of a Yuma motel while he slept.

Witnesses friendly to the prosecution were bullied.
A half-bright dogcatcher was threatened with prison if he testified against the Ibarras.

Neither Richard Romley nor Dennis Wagner, who declined comment this week, knew any of this.

They had time enough to smear Rob Carey with a half-baked accusation of perjury, but not enough time to look at the file.

The grand jury returned a 51-count indictment against nine defendants. Charges against two, Guadalupe Ibarra and Oscar Morin, were dropped. The rest pleaded guilty and were assigned probation except for the ringleader, Sheriff Moses Ibarra, who spent a year in jail.

On Sunday, two days after printing Romley's perjury hoax, Wagner followed it up with an equally falacious story.

"BETTING OPERATION, MIRETTI LINK DESCRIBED BY EXEMPLOYEES OF ATTORNEY GENERAL" screamed the headline.

Stephen Miretti was a Tempe city court judge with a gambling addiction. The attorney general prosecuted him and put him in prison. In a presentence report, Miretti lashed out and accused Steve Tseffos, then a spokesman for the Attorney General's Office, and Rob Carey of regularly betting on games.

The FBI was called in by the attorney general; Miretti immediately recanted his allegations. The feds did not let it drop. They interrogated Carey and pored through his bank records, check by check, and found no evidence of bookmaking. The worst activity was an occasional $100 bet on an Arizona State University basketball game.

The Department of Justice wrote Woods that there was no evidence of "a gambling culture in your office."

It would appear that no amount of evidence of Rob Carey's innocence--whether a Department of Justice investigation that clears him, or 36 boxes of legal files that destroy a shameless allegation of perjury--can keep the press from ruining Carey's reputation.

At Grant Woods' press conference, he was asked repeatedly why he agreed to pay back $24,000, plus fines and interest, if Rob Carey was innocent.

Why had he accepted Carey's resignation, if only for 24 hours, if he was innocent?

The reporters asked these questions, without any sense of irony, as if they intended tomake an effort at uncovering the truth.

After ten months of relentless pressure from distorted press accounts and an avalanche of documents demanded by Romley, this is what Woods faced:

The county attorney threatened that if Woods did not accept his terms for settlement, the investigation would continue for another six months. Romley had already issued another subpoena to haul yet one more financial administrator before the grand jury and had demanded still more boxes of documents relating to outside legal counsel hired by the attorney general.

Romley agreed in his press conference that he had indeed told that to Woods, but he said it wasn't a threat.

Woods cut his losses and signed the settlement.
The press had a field day reprinting Romley's charts, which showed the picayune "abuses" of the Event Fund. But Valley news media have, in their exuberance, missed the point of the Event Fund brouhaha.

Even if the attorney general had managed the fund without a hint of impropriety, why is it considered ethical for the state's top prosecutor to be soliciting money from Arizona's corporate hitters in the first place?

It's wrong. It doesn't matter what the statutes say; it shouldn't happen.
Look at the airline that gave the attorney general $5,000 in flight vouchers.

America West Airlines is a controversial business. The firm went through bankruptcy, which left businesses stuck with bills and shareholders stuck with wallpaper. Because employees were forced to purchase stock as part of their jobs, the airline had a work force that had legitimate complaints. Flight attendants have watched their bonuses killed, while executives drew enormous compensation packages during the reorganization. And hundreds of employees have been terminated amid cries of union busting.

There is a very large group of people who have a bone to pick with Phoenix's hometown airline.

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Michael Lacey
Contact: Michael Lacey