Mary Rose Wilcox Investigation by Arpaio and Feds has Hurdles to Clear

Josh Bernstein of Channel 15 [KNXV-TV] reported a story over the weekend that seems to be pushed heavily by the Maricopa County Attorney's Office and doesn't deliver the goods on Mary Rose Wilcox.

But it comes close.

Wilcox, [pictured], one of five County Supervisors and a longtime political opponent of Sheriff Joe Arpaio's and County Attorney Andrew Thomas', is being investigated by Arpaio's office and, apparently, the FBI. Part of that investigation seems to overlap with a long-running investigation into Wilcox by Thomas' office regarding a bad check by a local boxing promoter.

The allegations and "evidence" in Bernstein's story haven't been picked up by other media yet, though his story has been promoted in Sonoran Alliance blog, [probably by the County Attorney's office] and by Arpaio himself, who calls it "interesting" on his Twitter account and provides a link.

It just doesn't seem right for a sheriff to speak publicly about the investigation of his political rival this way, and it could be considered a conflict of interest to investigate her at all -- but those are side issues.

Bernstein's article did make Wilcox look bad, and danced around potential issues of corruption. The article says:

*Wilcox took sides in an argument between boxing promoter Peter McKinn and boxing manager Joe Diaz over a bad check for $5,000 used to pay a fighter in 2004. *Wilcox faxed the county attorney's office information that defended McKinn, her husband's buddy, who claims he had paid Diaz the fighter's money in cash. *Police believe Diaz's alleged signature on the receipt for that cash is a forgery; Diaz claims he was never paid. *Wilcox's husband, Earl, and McKinn allegedly had an improper discussion with Justice of the Peace Carlos Mendoza, [who's now retired], beseeching him to dismiss a warrant for McKinn's arrest over the bad check. *When Channel 15 asked McKinn if he remembers that meeting in Mendoza's chambers, McKinn responded with the famous phrase, "I don't recall." *An associate of McKinn's had a rubber stamp made that read, "Joe Diaz, Certified State

Liar." The stamp showed up on a fax Wilcox sent to the county attorney's office. *Wilcox, a state Boxing Commission member, presided over the denial of a license for Diaz and a boxing permit for one of his fighters.

Lisa Aubuchon, a top prosecutor with Thomas' office, has been looking into the bad-check case for nearly five years, but still hasn't got anything solid. Although the receipt for the $5,000 in cash appears to be forgery of Diaz's signature, the only copy of the receipt seen by authorities was from a fax -- hardly a pristine example. And no match of the signature was made to either Wilcox's or McKinn's handwriting.

McKinn's lawyer faxed the receipt to Thomas' office first, but Wilcox included the receipt in her own fax to Thomas' office. If the receipt can be proven a forgery, that would make Wilcox look like an accomplice to the crime.

On the other hand, Wilcox's fax also shows that Diaz had been accused of lying previously about receiving a separate check for $3,000. At the least, this seems to muddy the waters of Diaz's statements regarding the $5,000 payment. Diaz filed a lawsuit suit in federal court over the same issues in 2007 and lost.

Indeed, the County Attorney's office loved the complexities of the check case so much, they've dropped it at least twice. A deputy county attorney dismissed the case in July of 2005 "in the interest of justice." The case was turned down again in April of 2007 due to lack of evidence.

But what about the improper communication between Wilcox's husband and retired Judge Mendoza? Hard to say. Channel 15's story says Mendoza quashed the warrant, as the men asked him to do. The FBI has talked to Mendoza in the past year about the incident, Channel 15 says, attributing that piece of information to a sheriff's investigative report. Was Mendoza truly intimidated into doing something he didn't think was right, or was the conversation with Wilcox and McKinn really no big deal?

Perhaps the FBI will figure it out. But wait a minute -- the FBI works for the Justice Department, and according to Arpaio, the Justice Department itself may be corrupt [when it comes to them investigating him, that is].

Too bad we can't put all these county officials in ring and let them go at each other. Wilcox would probably win a real boxing match -- she's tough enough to take a bullet.

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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.