WITH A WHIMPER, NOT A BANG: Judge Anna Baca unseals court records; Dennis Wilenchik takes a powder.

No surprise today that Judge Anna Baca unsealed all the records of the grand jury in the New Times case. Actually, according to her, there was technically no grand jury yet, so the stuff wasn't really secret! (Huh?) Specifically, she said that is was OK for her to release the docs 'cause they were "not secret anyway." So, uh, why did my bosses get arrested again?

Baca was responding to the request from the Arizona Republic and Channel 12 to make everything public. Counsel Sally Wells on behalf of the County Attorney told the judge she was all for it too. Former special prosecutor Dennis Wilenchik, it seems, had filed a motion to be removed from the case today, which is too bad. (Sniff.) The whole thing would likely have been a lot more contentious had ol' Wilencheckbook been present.

There were plenty of other lawyers around, though, with some fellow representing the AZ Bar, and a legal beagle apiece for reporters John Dougherty and Paul Rubin, who each got separate subpoenas. Baca noted that those specific subpoenas were not in the file, but Wells promised the blackrobe that she'd get hold of them tout de suite. The PDFs I have seem to have those subpoenas in there, but maybe Baca and Wells are referring to some other document. I'll look into that further and get back atcha.

(I later learned Baca was referring to the original subpoenas, along with their affidavits of service, not the copies of those subpoenas, which are part of other filings.)

Otherwise, the proceeding was relatively uneventful. David Bodney, the lawyer on behalf of the Rep and Channel 12, gave a nice little speech about how the public had a right to know, and that the prompt release of the docs was necessary for the "furtherance of justice." Baca agreed, and all of the reporters in-house were soon filing down to the clerk's office to get their personal CD with all the PDF files on them.

A lot of it's pretty boring, but there's an actual breakdown of all payments to Wilenchik & Bartness in there totalling $1,838,422.60. This covers from 5/17/05 to 9/21/07. Wonder if Wilencheckbook's over the $2 million mark in public money yet?

There's some good stuff in the transcripts (see below) of one particular appearance before Baca on October 11 where she chides Wilenchik for attempting to establish ex parte communication with her through a third party, in this case political insider Carol Turoff. As mentioned by Michael Lacey in the double-bylined cover story he did with Jim Larkin, Grand Jury Targets New Times and Its Readers, Turoff phoned Baca in an attempt to try to set up some contact between Wilenchik and Baca, a big-ass no-no in the world of attorneys.

Wilenchik told Baca that what he wanted was some sort of "global" discussion of the issues. Baca replied that, "The timing of that was absolutely inappropriate."

To which Wilenchik retorted, "Well, Your Honor, with all due respect, I think the timing is absolutely appropriate with respect to what's going on..."

Shortly thereafter, there's a recess during which Paul Rubin and Wilenchik have words and challenge each other to fisticuffs. Well, they don't actually do the man-dance, but when the recess is over and court is back in session, Wilenchik crybabies to the judge about a "threat that was just leveled at me," by Rubin and also by Dougherty. Dougherty had nothing to do with it, it was between Rubin and Wilenchik. But for some reason, Wilenchik made a point of implicating Dougherty too.

"Mr. Dougherty basically challenged me to a fight," claimed Wilenchik. "And approached me closely."

Then Tom Henze, one of New Times' lawyers, gave the other side of the tale, where Rubin cracked to Wilenchik, "Nice about Carol Turoff."

According to Henze, Wilenchik shot back, "Mr. Henze, if you don't control your client, I will." And that's when both parties seemed ready to throw down. But, as they say, cooler heads prevailed. When told about this non-tussle, Baca fell back upon something she used to have to do in family court to keep people away from each other's throats: She dismissed the New Times folks first. Then waited a bit before dismissing the government's side. This, so there'd be no pummeling afterwards.

I'd actually pay to see that match-up between Wilenchik and Rubin. Wilenchik looks a little bigger than Rubin, but Rubin's a feisty fucker, and energetic, so I wouldn't bet against him. W. might last a couple of rounds if he did the rope-a-dope thing. I'd call it Rubin in three-rounds by a TKO.

More posts to come. I'm backed up like I just ate a bowl of cashews.

Read the transcript.

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