Cafe Reviews


Page 7 of 28

It's been an incredible campaign, in which Steiger is writing the greatest comeback story in Arizona political history.

Here's a man who Attorney General Bob Corbin tried to send to prison as part of his sweep of Evan Mecham's administration.

It didn't occur to Corbin or anyone else how ironic this would turn out to be. While trying to send Steiger to jail, Corbin was sitting on $50,000 of Charlie Keating's money. Corbin's daughter Laurie was working for Keating in setting up the physical fitness center at the Phoenician resort. And Corbin was leaping slavishly off speaking platforms to embrace Keating publicly at every opportunity.

Corbin failed for the obvious reason that Steiger wasn't guilty. The state Court of Appeals threw the case out.

At one point, Steve Twist, Corbin's top aide, said to reporters: "Why doesn't Steiger just stand up and take his medicine like everyone else?" Twist is now running for Corbin's vacated seat as attorney general. The only surprise is that he isn't running for the same office in the new united Germanies.

Corbin and Twist feared Steiger because he clearly looked down upon both of them and said so at every opportunity.

Steiger was called as a witness during Mecham's impeachment trial.
State Senator Alan Stephens asked Steiger if he perceived Corbin as playing a political role in Mecham's downfall.

"Mr. Corbin is not very bright but is a very effective politician," Steiger said. "He has deluded many of you into believing he is a competent person.

"Corbin has administered an agency that has become, under his guidance, the most expensive of its kind in the United States." Stephens followed up:

"Do you think Corbin might have set up Mecham?" Steiger simply shook his head. "These people are capable of setting up anybody," he said.

I have spent much of my time in this business in courtrooms. I have seen how the ordeal of sentencing affects human beings.

I saw one convicted murderess topple over backward like a fallen tree. She suffered a concussion when her head struck the courtroom floor.

A small-time mob boss who had shot a man in the face at point-blank range during a card game begged for another chance to become a productive member of society.

A former governor of a Midwestern state, who'd been a World War II general, dissolved into tears.

A Chicago city councilmember slumped into the chair at the defense table, unable to move.

A convicted Superior Court judge walked into the cloakroom, put on another man's hat and coat and walked through a forest of television cameras in a daze.

The immediate prospect of a prison term turns some of the toughest defendants into jelly.

In this situation, Steiger was the most courageous and outrageous man I have ever seen. Nobody comes close.

I clearly remember the morning of his sentencing. Steiger walked into the courtroom fully expecting to be sent to prison. His offense was giving orders to a member of the state Board of Pardons and Paroles. He was accused of trying to intimidate him. Steiger moved jauntily. He carried his blue blazer over his arm. He was wearing the bright-red suspenders that are his trademark. The courtroom was packed. It was like a public hanging.

Steiger's lawyer was Tom Karas, one of the best in the state.
"Today is not a day for lawyering," said Karas.
"The foreman of the jury told us that he didn't believe Sam intended to commit a crime. They looked for a way to acquit. The jury believed the attorney general had carried out a vindictive prosecution." Judge Ronald Reinstein invited Steiger to say a few words before sentencing.

Steiger was facing five years in prison. He also was standing before a tough and intelligent judge, who was a former career prosecutor. Not long before, Reinstein didn't blink an eye when sentencing a man to three consecutive life terms for drunken driving in a case which involved the paralysis of a former Mesa police chief.

Nearly 200 community leaders, both Democrats and Republicans, had written to the judge asking for leniency for Steiger.

So this was the perfect moment for Steiger to display the white feather. All he needed to do was tell Judge Reinstein he'd acted with excessive zeal as Evan Mecham's top aide. This would give the judge an easy way to grant probation with some time doing public service.

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Penelope Corcoran