Pay Back

In late June, David Hans Schmidt placed a birthday card on the grave of his infant son Ben, who died eight years ago at birth.

A month later, New Times wrote about Schmidt's rollicking campaign to milk $6.5 million in damages from the county for Jefferson Davis McGee, who had his spleen removed after a protracted drubbing by inmates in county jail who wrongly believed he was a child killer.

Schmidt, marginally famous for brokering deals to get Tonya Harding and Paula Jones topless in nudie magazines, savaged county officials in the New Times story, then posed for the accompanying photo shirtless wielding a medieval battle ax.

He was Braveheart, the County Hunter.

Instead, the hunter became the hunted.

A few days after the story appeared, Phoenix police arrested Schmidt at gunpoint on charges of felony "aggravated domestic violence." His crime: leaving the card on his son's grave the month before.

Clearly, Schmidt is not an angel. He is renowned for his verbal abusiveness. He got caught with marijuana and drug paraphernalia back in 1999.

Schmidt and his attorney, though, say this most recent belated arrest is retaliation for Schmidt's representation of McGee and his rabid verbal attacks on police and county officials.

The catalyst for this retaliation, they say, is the mother of Schmidt's two daughters, with whom Schmidt is embroiled in a ferocious custody battle.

Before the card incident, that custody battle already had spawned three curious charges of harassment and abuse against him.

Then, on June 25, the mother of his two daughters told police the birthday card frightened her because Schmidt wrote on the envelope: "To be opened by Ben's sisters."

The day after Schmidt's arrest, August 1, a judge, apparently unimpressed with the card's criminality, released Schmidt from jail on his own recognizance.

The Maricopa County Attorney then obtained a grand jury indictment and had Schmidt rearrested on the same charge. Deputy county attorney Susan Brnovich described Schmidt's list of violations of visitation orders laid out in the couple's domestic relations case. The violations, called "domestic violence offenses," were actually cases of Schmidt calling his daughters a few minutes later than the times ordered in the custody proceedings.

A second judge agreed with prosecutors and police to hold Schmidt without bond in maximum security at Madison Street Jail.

Schmidt's attorney, Jason Lamm, says Schmidt has been targeted by an overzealous cop. He also believes the county attorney has a conflict in the case because of Schmidt's representation of McGee against the county.

"They're out to get him," Lamm says.

"These guys are trying to break me, but it isn't going to work," Schmidt says in a jailhouse interview. "They're just making it worse for themselves."

Schmidt's sordid tale is less Braveheart, more a three-ring War of the Roses. He represented McGee, in part, to get a platform to blast Phoenix police and the County Attorney's Office for their handling of accusations made by the mother of his two daughters.

Schmidt was arrested in April on a charge of felony abuse for allegedly hurting his 11-year-old daughter's toe during a late March visitation at his home.

Schmidt apparently was stretching his daughter's toes, which had caused her problems after years of ice skating. The girls' mother say Schmidt wouldn't stop pulling and popping the girl's toes after his daughter asked him to stop.

Phoenix Police Detective Stephanie Gombar testified to a grand jury on April 17 that a doctor who examined the girl "stated that at first he believed it was a fracture and possibly a fracture in the growth plate of the foot," then told the jurors that x-rays confirming the theory hadn't been released.

The grand jury handed down an indictment and Schmidt spent the next few months in county jail.

In fact, the doctors who had examined the girl had faxed their findings to Gombar on March 27, three weeks before her testimony. Their x-rays showed no fractures. Indeed, the doctors both stated in affidavits they would have testified to the grand jury that the only problems with the girl's feet were much earlier injuries apparently caused by skating.

Gombar also testified that Child Protective Services believed the abuse story. But later, on June 20, CPS officials sent Schmidt and his attorney a letter saying CPS had found the allegations against him to be without merit.

Based on these facts, Schmidt's attorney has a motion to dismiss the charges waiting in Superior Court. And Schmidt wants the girls' mother arrested for false allegations of child abuse.

Last month, Schmidt filed a complaint with the Phoenix Police's Professional Standards Board (internal affairs) regarding Gombar, who he believes is targeting him.

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Robert Nelson