Governor J. Fife Symington III's hope of creating a circuslike atmosphere at his criminal trial has been dealt a blow by a series of pretrial rulings by U.S. District Court Judge Roger B. Strand.
Strand rejected requests by Symington's defense team to take jurors on a whirlwind tour of properties developed by the Fifester, saying, "It would be of little value to the jury."
The judge also granted motions by prosecutors to prevent Symington's defense from attempting to shift blame to financial institutions.
Strand ruled that the defense may not present evidence that financial institutions were negligent when they granted loans to Symington. He also said the defense cannot present evidence showing banks did not rely on Symington's financial statements.
Defense efforts to portray Symington as the victim of a government witch hunt were also rebuffed when Strand ruled out evidence relating to the length of the investigation.
The Fifester also lost a crucial motion when Strand rejected his lawyer's request to prevent offers to buy and sell Symington's property from being entered into evidence to help determine the true market value of the projects.
But Strand didn't shut out the defense. He rejected a prosecution request that the defense be barred from presenting evidence showing that the governor's financial statements were not essential, or material, factors in lenders' decisions to grant loans to Symington's real estate partnerships.
The defense is expected to argue that the governor's financial statements were not primary factors in the decisions to lend money to Symington.
Strand also denied prosecutors' request to introduce five letters Symington attorney John Dowd wrote to prosecutors, arguing why Symington should not be indicted. Prosecutors claim in pleadings that the letters contained misleading information.
Strand also granted a defense motion to allow several expert witnesses to testify on Symington's behalf. Strand, however, made it clear their testimony will be limited to specific areas.
Jury selection is expected to last several days with opening arguments either late this week or next Tuesday. The trial is scheduled to run Tuesday through Friday and is expected to last 12 weeks.
Unless, of course, the Fifester sees the writing on the jailhouse wall and cops a plea.
It's Curtains for Fife
The Flash must admit that the Fifester has his moments of sublime efficacy. Take, for instance, last Friday night, when the guv and his retinue of DPS bodyguards rather conspicuously crashed the film The Fifth Element at a Scottsdale theater.
Down went the lights, and on came the usual prefeature film trailers and announcements.
But the projectionist forgot to draw back the curtain--the images were projected on the curtain.
Shouts of complaint from the audience got no response. Finally, one man stood up and shrieked at the top of his voice:
"Fife, help us!"
Just as Moses parted the waters of the Red Sea, invoking the Fifester's name parted the curtain.
Fife Junkies Rejoice
You say you're in need of a Symington primer as the big trial opens? Check out John Dougherty's piece in this issue, then go online to the Fifester's special home page, "Countdown to Incarceration" which is New Times' online index of six years of reporting on the governor. The site includes 43 killer stories and the full text of the indictment. The URL is: www.phoenixnewtimes.com/extra/fife/index.html
The Phantom KJ Story
The spinelessness of the mainstream media was never more evident than in the wake of New Times' cover piece on Kevin Johnson ("Summer of '95," May 8).
The Arizona Republic ran four investigative paragraphs that contained KJ's denials--never mind those pesky accusations that he fondled a teenage girl, or that 150-page police report. Republic editors must have been worried about confusing readers--the paper had, after all, declared on May 6 that KJ deserved to go to the Hall of Fame based on his character alone.
But a couple of derelict Republic staffers believed the revelations were newsworthy. E.J. Montini and Steve Benson both addressed the allegations--providing yet another example (remember Oliver Miller and the Suns orgy?) where Republic commentators opine on subjects the newspaper hasn't bothered to report.
The weeniness of the Republic was nothing compared to some broadcast outlets, however.
KPNX-TV Channel 12--exclusive home of the hard-hitting Suns Jam Session--finally got around to the story May 11, on its late-night Sports Extra show.
Bruce Jacobs and Mike Golic, talk-show hosts from KGME radio ("Talk About Balls," its billboards boast), both said they thought KJ had acted strangely.
Jacobs indignantly scolded the Valley media and a Republic sportswriter for coddling the Suns.
"I think the media has been very soft on the Suns," Jacobs carped. ". . . The media is always soft on the Suns--always."
The Flash projectile-vomited at this point, because just three days earlier, Jacobs and Golic changed their minds about interviewing Paul Rubin, the New Times reporter who wrote that awesome KJ piece.
"I don't want to publicly humiliate Kevin any more than he's already been hit," Jacobs told Rubin.
Rubin asked if Jacobs had read the New Times piece.
"Yes, I have," he replied. "And it raises some good points. I think he [KJ] is a little weird. But what happened here is I think some sick slut and her attorney fed you the story after KJ told them to take a hike in the lawsuit."
Such a claim is ludicrous--keeping the allegations secret was the greatest lever KJ's accuser had in demanding a settlement. Nobody associated with the teenage girl leaked the story. Interestingly, though, "sick slut" was exactly how one of KJ's lawyers described the teen.
Rubin informed the pair that they had balls the size of peas.
"I won't deny that they've shrunk a little bit this time," Jacobs trilled.
Meanwhile, over at the radio home of the Suns, KTAR, the merits of the KJ story were being robustly debated.
KTAR's Ned Foster: "I don't think it's a story. I don't think it should have been reported. . . . [U]ntil charges are filed, particularly in a case involving somebody with a name like KJ, an underaged accuser, this is very, very thin ice."
KTVK-TV Channel 3's news director Phil Alvidrez (whose station actually broke the KJ story minutes before New Times posted Rubin's piece on its Web site) told Foster: "I think this station [KTAR] did report the Jake Plummer story. And no charges have been filed against Jake Plummer."
Foster (tap dancing): "Absolutely, mea culpa. I mean, I agree with that. I mean that's not a decision I agree with."
Foster went on to say that he's the one who decides what news will be aired at KTAR. Alvidrez asked Foster if KTAR had reported the KJ story at all.
Foster: "We reported it once."
Foster: "Because there was an extensive discussion in the newsroom about that, the story was out, we decided that in our brief reportage of the story that we wanted to emphasize that the accusation--as we understand the story--came to the police through the young woman's therapist." (Foster apparently is ignorant of the fact that therapists are required by law to report suspected sex crimes involving minors.)
Alvidrez got Foster to admit that he hadn't read the police report into the girl's allegations.
Alvidrez: "So you reported the story without reading the report. . . . I leave that to listeners to judge a news department."
Does David Go Lieth?
The controversial David Libidowits, a Republic employee, took a swipe at New Times last week, suggesting in a column about East Valley Democratic gadfly Eileen Fellner that we left-wing pinkos write fiction.
We actually do write fiction a couple of times a year. Readers who needn't move their lips are generally capable of discerning it.
Libidowits is craftier with his own fiction.
Fellner says he misquoted her and misrepresented their exchange.
"He's not being accurate in his reporting," Fellner tells The Flash.
"He's not an honest person."
What he is, apparently, is a horn dog. His good pals at Tribune Newspapers dubbed him Libidowits because he possessed the spanielesque habit of humping the legs of colleagues and pretty much anything else with a pulse.
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