Feathered Bastard

Tom Horne Pleads "Not Guilty" on Fender-Bender, Avoids Friday Hearing

Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne has entered a plea of "not guilty" in Phoenix Municipal Court for his March fender-bender at the love nest of his state-financed mistress Carmen Chenal.

That's the accident witnessed by agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, who had been dogging Horne over his alleged violation of campaign finance laws in the 2010 election, and the possible obstruction of justice involved in Horne's alleged cover-up of that violation.

See also: -Tom Horne's Court Date Set for Friday on Hit-and-Run Charge -Tom Horne's Fender-Bender: Photos for the Curious -Tom Horne's Snakepit, Bill Montgomery's Dirty Money, and the Problem with Carmen Chenal

As a result, Horne's Friday arraignment was canceled. Bummer. Guess the media scrum will have to look for another victim on short notice.

A pretrial conference has been set for November 21. Meanwhile The Arizona Republic spilled some more ink today on what I'm dubbing "Chenal-gate" (or "Carmen-gate" or "Horne-y-gate," take your pick).

That's because this all started when Horne ordered an investigation into my supposed source for a story I did on Chenal last year. That was the first domino.

Horne's investigator ran into info on the alleged campaign finance shenanigans, which she turned over to the FBI, which began interviewing witnesses, some of whom the FBI believe may have been tampered with, coached, and so on.

On Thursday, the fishwrap of record called for Horne to apologize for "debasing" the high office he now holds.

Apologize? Next they'll want to give him a time-out and start him on Ritalin.

Meanwhile, Republic columnist Rob Robb has been arguing in the same newspaper and elsewhere that Horne should shrug off calls for his resignation from Democrats. His sin was no different than President Bill Clinton's over his dalliance with Monica Lewinsky, Robb contends.

If that calls to mind Carmen Chenal in a blue dress or Carmen Chenal and a cigar (both being Cuban, BTW), well, you have Robb to blame for that.

Horne is a slithery character, and a survivor. I can't see him throwing in the towel by resigning, unless it was to save his neck or the necks of his loved ones, like his sister and sister-in-law, who donated beaucoup bucks to an independent expenditure committee run by Kathleen Winn, now Horne's outreach director.

Perhaps if the U.S. Attorney grew a pair and indicted Horne, his resignation could be part of the deal.

But the USAO has so far only shown interest in pursuing much smaller local fry, like former state Representative Ben Arredondo.

This, while the really big sea bass just keep on going, lures lodged firmly in their gobs.

That is, Sheriff Joe Arpaio gets a pass from the feds, and so far, Horne does, too.

Officially, the USAO has said it has "no ongoing investigation" into Horne.

Former and current high-ranking law-enforcement officers I know have told me that based on that cryptic statement, and based on the massive data dump of FBI docs (which they argue would not have been allowed if the USAO was still poised to indict), they conclude there are no criminal charges pending.

Like they always say, it's the cover-up that gets you in trouble. Assuming the prosecutor is doing his or her job.

And if the prosecutor puts on the urban sombrero and hibernates in his or her office?

Well, then there's no reason to apologize, resign, or even plead guilty on a misdemeanor hit-and-run, right?

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Stephen is a former staff writer and columnist at Phoenix New Times.
Contact: Stephen Lemons