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Mecham's Final Strategy: Attack! Attack! Attack!

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Mecham: (jauntily) Well, thank you for your opinion.
Westmoreland: (embarrassed) That's probably not going to be a vote for you.

Mecham: (chuckling) You can never tell. She may change her mind.

I pulled into the hotel parking lot just as MacPherson, Mecham's lawyer, was getting out of his Silverado pickup with the West Point license holder on the rear. MacPherson is a Vietnam veteran who was graduated from the United States Military Academy.

The room set aside for the press conference was not quite filled. Those who weren't with television, radio or print press were long-time Mecham supporters.

At the height ot the confrontations between Mecham and the press, these events were charged with energy and acrimony. You could never tell when Mecham would laugh delightedly or explode with anger. There were always Department of Public Safety men on hand to protect him. Or were they all really pursuing that purpose? Now, the atmosphere has changed. Mecham seems to have mellowed.

MacPherson opened the press conference and spent fifteen minutes explaining his strategy before the Supreme Court. It was a strategy that hadn't made much sense the first time and didn't gain anything through explanation.

Then Mecham rose to speak. Physically small, almost tiny, Mecham wore a white shirt and tie and gray business suit. He was almost smiling as he took the microphone.

"I have two $400,000 words," Mecham said. "One is `exacerbate' and the other is `egregious.' I learned these from my high-priced lawyers." One of the few endearing qualities about Mecham is that he has what used to be called a tin ear. He has no sense of saying anything that is funny on purpose. Mecham spoke briefly of his situation. And his view made sense.

"Impeachment is something that's only used when a high official can thumb his nose at the usual criminal procedures," Mecham said. "It's to be used only as a court of last resort.

"I had one case that was already in the criminal court. I was facing a recall election. So there was no constitutional duty for the House of Representatives to bring impeachment proceedings." He summed up his feelings toward the possibility the Supreme Court might not act.

"That's a copout," Mecham said. "The judiciary can enter into anything they want." Mecham's lawyer had just finished telling the crowd that he did not mean to criticize Chief Justice Gordon.

Mecham put his own spin on that.
"I'll tell you what Gordon did," Mecham said, pounding on the lectern. "He prevented us from putting on our case. He exercised judicial restraint. And there wasn't enough of them in the Senate that had the guts to stand up to him and do something about it." Mecham's anger was feeding itself now.

"He wouldn't let us follow our testimony into really examining Ralph Milstead. He was ready to crack. Anyone who knew about stress could see we had him. There were 21 places where Milstead lied." Earlier, Mecham had said on KTAR that he now has information that Beau Johnson, another DPS officer who had been on his staff, also lied on the witness stand.

"Beau Johnson lied. . . . Colonel Phelps lied . . . and Milstead lied.
"And if the county attorney has guts enough to stand up for what ought to be done, he'll bring 'em in and have a grand jury. He's got plenty to indict them and make them stand trial for perjury." Mecham grinned, finally.

"When your top cops lie under oath that's what I call an `egregious' crime. At least that's what I've learned from my $400,000 lawyers." It was finished for now.

Later in the day, the legislature passed the Martin Luther King bill, hoping to bring the Super Bowl to Arizona.

Sam Steiger was celebrating up in Prescott but feeling suddenly used up by his courtroom ordeal at the hands of Corbin's henchmen. Hurricane Hugo headed up the East Coast bringing torrents of rain. The eye of the storm had passed.

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Tom Fitzpatrick