Joel Fox Gets His Stuff Back from State AG's Office, Tells Repub of SCA Fishing Trip in Alaska

Captain Joel Fox finally received his computer equipment back from the state Attorney General's Office, which is investigating him on allegations of making improper political contributions.

Fox, typically chatty, has been mostly silent in the last few months as rumors swirl that he's going to be indicted.

But the other end has been silent, too. The rumors still swirl, but nothing's happened (unless you count state Attorney General Terry Goddard keeping his head down on the matter, in case some supporters of Sheriff Joe Arpaio want to make Goddard the next governor).

Fox tells the Arizona Republic in an article published today that he's encouraged by that silence:

"I think they're struggling to find a charge so they can justify entering into my house and taking my property and holding it for a year," Fox said. "If they don't have a crime, then they don't have a reason to get in my house, and that makes the search warrant unconstitutional."

As the Repub's JJ Hensley reports, though, the "probe" goes on. Hensley makes a lot of hay out of a "no comment" by the FBI, but what the heck.

Fox may have his hard-drives back, but that's only because the state has copies of them -- not necessarily because investigators are ready to throw in the towel.

The part we found most interesting about the article was near the end, where Fox says the connections to big-money donors like developer Steve Ellman...

... were made when sheriff's Special Operations Director Larry Black was on an Alaskan fishing trip with the donors in November 2006.

This was the first time we heard anyone give a specific time reference to this fishing trip, which we first reported back in December.

It's funny that Fox knows exactly when the meeting took place, since he wrote in July of last year that "there has never been a meeting of SCA donors." Fox just can't keep his story straight.

But even more intriguing: We had speculated that a November 1, 2006 Sheriff's Office expense charged to a fishing outfitter in Alaska could be connected to this SCA fundraising meeting. Fox's admission that the meeting in question did, in fact, take place that same month only deepens our suspicion that taxpayers funded part of trip.

As spreadsheets linked to our previous articles on the matter show, the Sheriff's Office purchased tickets to Anchorage that October (possibly business- or first-class), and made purchases in Alaska for car rentals and gas. There was also a $204 charge at the fishing place, McClure's Rustic River.

Steve McClure, the facility's owner, said he had no information or details about MCSO personnel doing business with him that November.

The spreadsheets show that the Sheriff's Office went to Alaska many times in 2006 and 2007 for various reasons, including extradition of prisoners, so it's too early to draw any hard conclusions. We've put in a request for records of the schedules of the SCA donors who worked for the Sheriff's Office -- not only do we have a hunch that county funds paid for at least part of this SCA fundraising trip, but that Black wasn't the only sheriff's official who went.

As we reported, Black pitched Ellman and several other fat cats on the idea of contributing to the SCA during the trip, according to the donors' lawyer, Grant Woods. In April 2007, the first check came in -- $25,000 from a buddy of Ellman's, Dallas businessman James Wikert.

By early 2008, the fishing-trip pals had chucked in tens of thousands to the SCA. Yet the public is supposed to believe that neither Fox, Black, Hendershott, nor anyone from the sheriff's office made any follow-up calls or further solicitations.

Written comments on two of the checks showed clearly that the big-money donors thought they were contributing to a political action committee or Arpaio's campaign outright.

Fox and Black later met with a Republican operative to discuss donating the SCA money to the Republican Party. But when Fox made $105,000 in donations to the Party, he hid the source of the funds.

The Republican Party returned the money, but only after using it to fund mud-slinging TV commercials against the opponents of Arpaio's and County Attorney Andrew Thomas'. Fox only revealed the names of the donors after he was threatened with a $315,000 fine.

Despite Fox's assertion that none of the funds came from Hendershott or corporations, the evidence showed otherwise.

One last note: Fox must not be feeling that confident -- as far as we can tell, he never followed up on a threat to sue the county for allegedly violating his rights.

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