How Convenient!

Sex, lies and audiotape: This plumed penman reckons that could've been the subhead for Paul Rubin's New Times cover story last week on Sheriff Joe Arpaio's 2004 primary foe Dan Saban and Saban's lawsuit seeking a million smackers over the smear tactics of Arpaio's underlings, including Joe's chief deputy David Hendershott ("Boob's Tube," January 25, 2007).

Back in '04, the Jabba the Hutt-size Hendershott spearheaded a sleazy attempt to dredge up a 30-year-old rape allegation against Saban by his estranged adoptive mom Ruby Norman. Though the statute of limitations had expired, and though the sheriff's office had a conflict of interest bigger than Squaw Peak, Hendershott questioned Norman by phone in a taped confab. Later she was officially interviewed at her Apache Junction abode by members of Sheriff Arpaio's Threat Assessment Squad (now called the Selective Enforcement Unit).

The goal? Turning this info over to pro-Arpaio Channel 15 reporter Rob Koebel, so he'd do a hit piece on Saban. This Koebel did. But after it was revealed that Koebel'd made a $100 contribution to Arpaio's reelection coffers, Channel 15 canned his brown-nosin' ass. The damage, however, was done. Arpaio overcame his strongest political challenge since first being elected, beating former Mesa police commander Saban by the slimmest margin of his career, though it would've been a landslide for any other pol.

The so-called rape case was eventually kicked over to Pima County, much in the same way Arpaio's attempt to indict New Times for revealing the lawman's home address on the Internet in an investigation of his real-estate transactions two years ago has been turned over to Pinal County (< href="/Issues/2006-12-21/news/Bird2.html">"Joe Strikes Back," December 21, 2006). Not surprisingly, Pima refused to indict Saban on his adoptive ma's three-decade-old allegations. As for Pinal County Attorney Robert Carter Olsen, he's yet to decide whether to participate in Arpaio's vendetta against New Times and prosecute us.

It never ceases to amaze this outraged owl how Arpaio's able to rope in other AZ jurisdictions to pursue his enemies, even as Arpaio and his underlings remain free from prosecutorial scrutiny. Rubin reported that Hendershott admitted he'd taped over his initial interview with Saban's mother, but not before playing that tape for Koebel to hear. How convenient! In The Bird's estimation, Hendershott destroyed freakin' evidence, after pressuring Koebel with a phone call to do a televised Saban smear.

Isn't destruction of evidence by an Arpaio henchman worthy of an inquiry? Are Arpaio and his underlings above the law? They shouldn't be, but as PHX legal beagle Mike Manning opined to this avian, they are effectively beyond the reach of Arizona justice.

"Should they be investigated and tried? Of course," stated Manning of Hendershott, et al., in the Saban case. "They have a pattern of doing this. But it's been virtually impossible to get other law enforcement agencies to investigate and prosecute them for their crimes."

Manning's an expert on Arpaio skullduggery, having successfully sued the county and the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office for multimillion dollar settlements and awards in the deaths of Scott Norberg and Charles Agster. Later this year, Manning'll be going for the trifecta in a lawsuit over the Tent City beating death of Phillip Wilson, one of the MCSO's own informants.

"Because of the political relationship between Arpaio and the County Attorney's office, you will not get any effective, independent investigation done of crimes or potential crimes by the MCSO," Manning maintains. "They just won't do it."

Indeed, Arpaio's lawyer is Dennis Wilenchik, a crony of County Attorney Candy Thomas. Candy once worked for Wilenchik & Bartness, and has steered lots of work for the county toward the bilious barrister ("Bully Pulpit," June 29, 2006). Given such lucrative and incestuous political ties, Candy's more likely to shave that dirty Sanchez mustache of his than investigate Arpaio or hatchet man Hendershott.

But this snarky seagull's a punishment glutton, so it rang up Candy's chief flack Barnett Lotstein to ask him whether or not Candy's inclined to indict Hendershott for destroying evidence. While at it, why not investigate Arpaio spokeswoman Lisa Allen MacPherson and sheriff's Sergeant Steve Bailey for possible perjury in their Saban depos? MacPherson claimed she was "kept in the dark big-time." However, Koebel stated MacPherson and pals phoned him about the case, and that MacPherson was present when Hendershott turned over the Saban police report to him. Bailey asserts he didn't discuss the case with Koebel before interviewing Saban's momma. Phone records suggest otherwise. These stark contradictions should at least be looked into.

Lotstein pleaded ignorance on the matter, telling this talon-bearer, "I don't even know what you're talking about." He went on to say that the county attorney's office was refusing to put The Bird on its mailing list to be notified when press conferences by County Attorney Thomas are scheduled.

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Stephen is a former staff writer and columnist at Phoenix New Times.
Contact: Stephen Lemons