Just back from a trip to Pinal County, where former sheriff's Deputy Louie Puroll is seeking reinstatement to his job at a hearing of the county's Merit Commission. Bottom line: Puroll this morning in Florence exercised his right to have the hearing closed to the public. This meant TV cameras had to leave, and the press was relegated to the lobby until we took our leave.
Puroll's attorney, Denis Fitzgibbons, would tell us only that his client chose to keep the matter behind closed doors, which is his right.
Puroll himself declined to utter a word during a break to the media types present.
It was quite a different approach than the one he took a few years ago when the deputy's words to us (and his subsequent lies to Internal Affairs detectives about some of the things he'd told us) led to his stunning dismissal from the PCSO.
Readers will remember Puroll, as we wrote about him incessantly a few years ago after he claimed to have engaged in a wild shootout with marijuana-toting drug smugglers in the remote Vekol Valley. (Puroll sustained a minor gunshot wound to his side during the alleged clash and was treated and released at a local hospital).
We advanced a theory that no such shootout ever occurred, not that Puroll's boss, Sheriff Paul Babeu, chose to believe us. The deputy's yarn played right into claims that Babeu had made that his county would host a violent confrontation with drug smugglers.
Here is the original piece about the deputy's controversial account of what happened to him in the desert on that warm April day back in 2010.
Babeu fired his prized deputy just weeks after trying to make him into a "poster child" for the anti-illegal immigration movement in the wake of the alleged April 2010 incident between Casa Grande and Gila Bend. The alleged shootout occurred exactly one week after Arizona Governor Jan Brewer signed the anti-immigrant Senate Bill 1070 into law.
Link here to find out why the sheriff, then an up-and-coming political figure on both state and national fronts, canned the veteran range deputy.
We'll write more about Puroll and his closed-door hearing later, including some great quotes from his attorney's pre-hearing brief to the commission about why the aggrieved deputy deserves his job back.