Longform

Lord of the Lies

Page 5 of 9

Debus has a vastly different recollection of how Owens got involved:

"Branon told me he'd spoken to Tom Thinnes about Owens, and I said, 'Hire him if you want.' I never paid Bob a nickel in the Branon case, and I didn't know what he was up to. He reported to Tom, who promoted him as the hottest thing since popcorn."

Billie Rosen chuckles when told of Larry Debus' comments.

"Larry told me from the start that Owens would be doing some witness interviews for the case," she says. "And he did. Of course he was working for Larry. I wasn't advised that Tom Thinnes was on the case until much, much later."

Court records indicate Thinnes wasn't officially on the case until June 2002. That was three months after the near-fatal shooting of Richard Rosen, who slowly recovered from his physical injuries.

Branon says he paid Thinnes $50,000 to join the team after "Owens told me that [Tom] was the best in town, better than Larry in court. I was facing life on a weed rap, and I thought me and Bob were tight."

That hardly turned out to be the case.

Police records, interviews and other documentation show that Bob Owens called an officer assigned to a local DEA task force soon after the attempted murder.

According to a Glendale police report, Owens said a friend of Branon's "had stated [to Owens] that he knew Mark Branon was going to have something done to Rosen." It marked the first of increasingly juicy tidbits tossed to police by Owens.

A DEA agent repeated Owens' allegation to Glendale police detective Bruce Lowe, who already was hot on Branon's trail for the Rosen hit.

Then, in early June 2002, police arrested two men in a stolen car near El Cajon, California. Inside the car were ski masks and a 9mm handgun.

Prominent Phoenix attorney Mike Kimerer says Bob Owens contacted him shortly after that: "Branon apparently had admitted to Owens that he'd arranged for the contract hits of [San Diego attorney] Sherman and Billie Rosen, and Branon had provided Bob with the name of the person who was going to do the hit."



The man's name was Daniel Martyn.

"This person had gotten stopped by the police," Kimerer continues, "and was under arrest for something as he and another guy were on their way to kill Sherman. Bob said he was coming forward because he didn't want anyone to get hurt. I'm not aware of any fabrications by him along the way."

Owens mentioned an ongoing criminal investigation against him by county prosecutors, Kimerer says, "and he asked me to put in the good word for him about the information he was coming forward with. I did."

The County Attorney's Office filed no charges against Owens stemming from that unspecified investigation.

Kimerer says he also notified Billie Rosen's boss at the time, then-attorney general (and now Governor) Janet Napolitano, about the developments.

On July 18, 2002, Kimerer and Owens met with Detective Lowe at the lawyer's office in Phoenix.

Lowe wrote in a report that "Mr. Owens said there is still a viable danger to the witnesses and attorneys involved in the case against Mark Branon. Mr. Owens says he has spoken directly to Branon about the [Rosen] incident."

Kimerer says Owens also told him around that time that Branon wanted to have Larry Debus killed for unknown reasons.

In spite of that allegation, unsubstantiated as it was, Debus (who says he learned about it from Thinnes at the time) and Thinnes continued to represent Branon for two more months.

Says Debus, "Until the court tells us we're not representing him, we have no choice. When Tom and I discovered that Owens had knowledge that was going to hurt our client, we took the appropriate ethical action, the nature of which I can't disclose to you because it's part of a sealed record. What we did later resulted in action after the authorities dicked around for weeks."

Neither Debus nor Thinnes had any way of knowing that the Glendale detectives were working a totally different angle on the Rosen case, involving Bob Owens himself as a possible suspect in the murder-for-hire plot.

That June, detectives met with an informant at the Madison Street Jail who said he'd heard that a gang member named Luis Pecina had put out murder contracts on Billie Rosen and a second person.

Much later, at Mark Branon's federal trial, his attorney asked Detective Lowe, "And what's more, [the informant] told you that somebody named Bob Owens was involved with this?"

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Paul Rubin
Contact: Paul Rubin