In a press release issued last week, the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office expressed "disappointment" with the fact that witnesses friendly to the sheriff, including Chief Deputy David Hendershott, hadn't been called to testify at a Tuesday hearing.
But if they were trying to blame the judge or defense attorneys, the Sheriff's Office erred: It appears the decision not to call the witnesses in question was in the hands of the sheriff's own attorney, the Maricopa County Attorney's Office.
A little background: Tuesday's hearing allowed defense attorneys representing Supervisor Mary Rose Wilcox to make their case that Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas should be disqualified from prosecuting Wilcox. To that end, the defense attorneys called former Yavapai County Attorney Sheila Polk, Thomas himself, and Wilcox's longtime chief of staff, Terri Leija.
Polk's testimony was extremely damning -- you can read our summary here and watch video here -- and Thomas hardly did his office's case any favors, either. The coverage the case, even if the legal conclusion is still up in the air, has been bad for the sheriff.
So here's how the always media-savvy MCSO has fired back. They issued a press release regretting that they didn't have a chance to tell their side.
But, as it turns out, they could have -- had their lawyers chosen to take it.
In its press release, the Sheriff's Office notes that it filed a complaint against Polk with the State Bar of Arizona. ('Cause, you know, that makes their conduct so much more palatable.) Then they say this: "The Sheriff's Office is disappointed that there was not enough time in court today for sheriff's detectives, Polk's assigned special prosecutor [former Navajo County Attorney Mel Bowers], and Chief Deputy David Hendershott to testify."
One of our readers cried foul.
IF ALL THESE PEOPLE like Hendershott, detectives, etc. were supposed to testify at the hearing, but the hearing RAN OUT OF TIME - don't you think the judge would have continued the hearing?
I think the MCSO is lying about Hendershott, detectives or anybody else being scheduled to testify. This makes NO SENSE.
New Times: can you get confirmation from Colin Campbell or ANYBODY that refutes what the MCSO has put out in another of their lying press releases?
These are good questions. And, since your wish is (generally) our command, here's what we were able to find out.
We were at the hearing until the bitter end, and we did not hear any attempts on behalf of the deputy county attorneys on the case to call more witnesses. We didn't hear anyone ask for more time or another afternoon of testimony, either. And while Judge John Leonardo kept things moving, he didn't appear to be in a rush.
Indeed, when it was the county attorney's chance to rebut testimony, his lawyers didn't mention Mel Bowers or, indeed, Hendershott. They merely called Deputy County Attorney Chris Keller, who flatly (and somewhat unconvincingly, we thought) attempted to rebut Leija's testimony that Wilcox once called Keller for help in preparing her financial disclosure forms.
Then they rested.
As best we can tell, there was never even an intimation that Hendershott would be called to testify.
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We tracked down the "state's notice of potential rebuttal witnesses," filed before the hearing by the prosecutors on the case, Lisa Aubuchon and Paul Kittredge. In it, Aubuchon informed the other side that she might call Dennis Magrane, who is Sheila Polk's chief of staff. She also said she might wish to call the former special prosecutor, Mel Bowers, three detectives who worked the case for the Sheriff's Office, and Deputy County Attorney Keller.
So Hendershott, according to the document, was never even on the witness list. And while Bowers and the three detectives on the case were -- and we hear they were at the hearing, waiting outside -- Aubuchon chose not to call them.
Maybe she sensed Judge Leonardo had had enough. Maybe she realized that any further testimony would just make things worse. But it was her choice not to call them, not Judge Leonardo's.
The sheriff has a regular feature on his Web site where he points out "The Truth Behind the Headlines." Consider this humble blog post our attempt to provide the truth behind the press release.