Feathered Bastard

Jeff Flake's Son, Daughter-in-Law Going After Arpaio, County for $8 Million

My, how the canine crazies will howl.

Actually, they're howling already, because on Thursday, Austin and Logan Flake, the son and daughter-in-law of U.S. Senator Jeff Flake, submitted a notice of claim to Maricopa County and Sheriff Joe Arpaio, demanding $8 million for their wrongful indictment in last year's Green Acre dog-boarding tragedy.

More than 20 dogs died from heatstroke after an air conditioning unit, which had been cooling the 9-by12-foot room the dogs were in, went on the fritz in the incident at the Gilbert facility.

Though initially described by one sheriff's deputy as a "horrible, tragic accident," the case quickly turned into a witch hunt, with the media and the public stirred up by Arpaio and seeking the hides of the owners of the home-based business, MaLeisa and Todd Hughes, and of the Flakes, who had been minding Green Acre while the Hugheses were away.

In December, multiple felony indictments against the Hugheses and the Flakes were dismissed by County Attorney Bill Montgomery after the Flakes' lawyers, Dennis Wilenchik and his son Jack, sought a remand to the grand jury, revealing that the lead MCSO detective may have lied under oath to grand jurors about the case.

The Hugheses still face one felony count each for fraud.

Montgomery later stated during a press conference that if the county had not dismissed the animal cruelty charges, the judge would have sent the case back to the grand jury, which then would have delivered "no true bill."

The notice of claim, which operates as a prelude to a lawsuit, reads like an indictment of Arpaio and his deputies, and details the "malicious investigation and prosecution" of the Flake couple.

This is somewhat astounding, considering that the lawyer who signed it, Dennis Wilenchik, once was Arpaio's ally.

Read the Flakes' $8 million notice of claim against the county, the MCSO and Sheriff Joe.

Judging from passages such as this, he is now the sheriff's deadly enemy:

Sheriff's deputies knew from the outset that the air conditioning [at Green Acre] had gone out unexpectedly in the middle of the night and originally dubbed the incident an accident. The critical proof of a felony -- intent to harm the animals -- was clearly missing.

The Sheriff was undeterred by the facts, however, and after conducting a rigged investigation, sent his detective in to lie to the grand jury. When all of this was brought to prosecutors' attention, they were ethically obligated to dismiss the Indictment. The Flakes' legal claims include violations of 42 U.S.C. § 1983; malicious prosecution; conspiracy; abuse of process; negligence/gross negligence; defamation; false light invasion of privacy; and intentional and/or negligent infliction of emotional distress.

Wilenchik methodically reviews the evidence in the case, pointing out that by putting 28 dogs in that room on the night in question, the Flakes were following the instructions given to them by the Hughes couple. They were doing what had been done on countless nights before, with the same number or more dogs, with no harm to the animals.

Wilenchik writes that, "There was never probable cause to believe that the Flakes intended for these animals to die, or that the Flakes had actual awareness that they were going to cause the animals to die and then decided to go ahead and do it anyway."

But Arpaio has never allowed the lack of probable cause to get in the way of his media whoredom.

To this point, Wilenchik writes:

Since at least 1998, Maricopa County Sheriff Joseph Arpaio has pursued a long string of "animal cruelty" investigations to enhance his public image, despite lacking credible evidence or even probable cause to initiate them. His artificial targets have ranged from, inter alia, a mailman to a K9 police officer to animal shelters. Arpaio freely confesses that the investigations are a "political goldmine," and that he publicizes them heavily to obtain fundraising from animal-rights groups and sympathizers. He is notorious for pursuing cases for propaganda value, for publicity, and for political spite -- but not for evidence.


...Sheriff Arpaio and Lisa Allen -- his longtime media advisor -- decided to push the case further for media hype, given the nature of the case and the Defendants' name. Unlike the thousands of serious criminal matters confronting county law enforcement on a daily basis -- cases of rape, child molestation, assault, theft and burglary -- this case had everything that Arpaio loves, and that real police work lacks. It had Pets -- dead ones, and a lot of them. It had Publicity. And it even had a Politician. The one big "P" that it lacked? Probable cause. But never one to let the law get in his way, Arpaio prioritized this investigation over others -- calling it "one of the most exhaustive professional investigations of anybody in this country," with "over 17 people" working on the case, "around the clock."

Such passages make this notice of claim a joy to read, and it is especially delicious given Wilenchik's onetime friendly relations with ol' Joe.

Wilenchik also discusses how Arpaio went prosecutor-shopping, trying to get former Attorney General Tom Horne to take the case.

Check this paragraph, which almost reads like something a New Times scribe would pen:

Arpaio -- who pretends to be ignorant about the law, but in fact knows it well -- knew that he had no criminal case and no probable cause but wanted the case to be prosecuted anyway. However, he feared that the County Attorney would reject it. By law, he is required to send his cases to the County Attorney -- so two days after his office received the SRP Report, and fearing that the County Attorney would reject the case, Arpaio approached Attorney General Tom Horne and asked Horne if his office would consider taking on the case.

Arpaio was supporting Horne for re-election at the time, and looking for a friendly prosecutor who would take on his case in exchange for his political graces -- in other words another "Andrew Thomas," whom Arpaio unsuccessfully supported in a run for Attorney General in 2010, and who was later disbarred as a direct result of pursuing groundless political prosecutions on Arpaio's behalf. In August, Horne failed to win re-election. So Arpaio came up another plan, using his favorite tool of all -- the media.

Needless to say, the irony of Wilenchik's "Andy Thomas" line would take me another whole blog post to do justice.

Actually, there were and are two favorite fools of the sheriff: the media and the public. Both wanted a modern-day lynching, as I've discussed in previous blog posts and columns.

Even now, the Internet peanut gallery continues to bay for blood. Want evidence? Read the ignorant and stark-raving mad comments on the news item about this notice of claim at the Arizona Republic's website.

Some may question the dollar amount of the claim. But considering how high-profile this case has been, the calumny endured by the Flakes and the threat of 21 felonies hanging over their heads, it makes perfect sense to me.

Wilenchik writes that the $8 million claim is reasonable given the "irreparable and permanent harm to [the Flakes'] reputations and economic loss; loss of educational opportunities; reduction in employment opportunities and advancement within their employment; reduced earning capacities throughout their lives; and even lost opportunities to serve in political or public office."

He also observes that the Flakes "will never be able to purge this indictment from the public record, or end the reporting and chatter on social media regarding the case."

One criticism: Wilenchik should have written "vicious reporting and chatter."

In general, that viciousness continues apace.

Got a tip for The Bastard? Send it to: Stephen Lemons.

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