Joel Fox, Fired Deputy, Wants to Delay Appeal Hearings if Feds are Investigating Case as Criminal Matter

A judge wants to know whether a criminal investigation is open on Joel Fox, the fired Maricopa Sheriff's Office captain at the heart of the infamous "SCA" campaign-financing scandal.

Which is great, because so do we.

Fox has been fighting to get his job back in a lengthy appeal proceeding that began last month, has already run through several witnesses including Sheriff Joe Arpaio, and still has days to go. Some interesting info has already come out, and we're always curious to learn what the feds are doing with their criminal investigation into Arpaio's office.

During today's hearing in the appeal, (all the hearings are taking place in the Board of Supervisors' Auditorium, 205 West Jefferson in Phoenix), Fox's lawyer, Ed Moriarity, argued that if a criminal probe was going on that targeted his client, they should let that run its course first.

In other words, delay the hearing until the criminal investigation is either dropped or produces fruit.

Robert Sparks, the administrative law judge overseeing the proceedings, then instructed the Maricopa County Attorney's Office, (which is representing Maricopa County, the defendant, in the appeal), to contact the U.S. Attorney's Office and find out if the investigation into Fox was ongoing.

Apparently, Sparks is supposed to get his answer by tomorrow and then decide whether or not to proceed with the hearings.

By the way, we're getting this info from Cari Gerchick, the county spokeswoman who was at the public hearing today. We might go tomorrow, when Frank Munnell is expected to testify. This will be the first time (that we can think of, anyway), that the public has heard from Munnell, the man who blew the whistle on Arpaio's corrupt command staff.

Sheriff Joe Arpaio fired Fox in May after an internal investigation based on Munnell's bombshell allegations concluded the former captain, along with other members of Arpaio's command staff, likely broke the law in the campaign scheme.

For months in 2009, Fox refused to tell state officials who donated tens of thousands of dollars to a fund later used to buy a TV ad targeting Dan Saban, Arpaio's 2008 political opponent. Arpaio recently admitted he knew all along who many of the donors were.

The state Attorney General's office looked into the scheme, interviewing dozens of witnesses and concluding that the case involved potential money laundering, fraud and obstruction of justice in addition to campaign-law violations. The case stalled, never resulting in criminal allegations -- but never officially shut down.

Tom Horne, sometime after taking office in January of last year, looked at the case and found that the U.S. Attorney's Office "has investigated, or is investigating , the same matters as part of an on-going federal investigation." He gave the case away to the feds, which has presumably kept it open.

Or not.

We'll find out tomorrow, it seems.

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Ray Stern has worked as a newspaper reporter in Arizona for more than two decades. He's won numerous awards for his reporting, including the Arizona Press Club's Don Bolles Award for Investigative Journalism.

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