Arizona

Feb 14, 2013 2:34 AM by Associated Press

AG Horne wants traffic case tossed

PHOENIX - Lawyers for Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne asked a judge Wednesday to dismiss a misdemeanor hit-and-run case against him, arguing he's being singled out for prosecution and FBI agents who witnessed the incident while tailing him are refusing to answer questions.

A court filing obtained by The Associated Press also said the FBI's top agent in Arizona personally called Phoenix Police Chief Daniel V. Garcia and asked him to investigate after FBI agents tailing Horne saw him back into another vehicle and leave. Horne's lawyer, Michael D. Kimerer, wrote in his court filing that police did so even though it violated their own written policy of not investigating noninjury cases involving less than $5,000 in private property damage.

Kimerer wrote that singling out Horne for prosecution violates the U.S. Constitution's Equal Protection clause because the only logical explanation for doing so when others are not investigated or prosecuted for similar crimes is that Horne is an elected official. He also said the FBI agents' refusal to answer questions that would assist Horne's defense was a reason for dismissing the case, if they continue to refuse to answer questions.

Horne is accused in Phoenix city court of not stopping or leaving a note after he backed a borrowed car he was driving into another vehicle. He has pleaded not guilty.

FBI reports released by Phoenix police in October say he left the scene because he was having an affair with a female employee who was in the car and he didn't want their relationship to be reported.

Horne has declined comment on allegations of an affair and repeatedly said he didn't know he had caused any damage. He declined comment Wednesday, referring instead to the court filing.

A Phoenix police spokesman declined to comment and referred calls to city prosecutors. A message seeking comment from the prosecutor's spokeswoman wasn't immediately returned Thursday.

FBI spokesman Agent Manuel Johnson said in an email "it would be inappropriate for the FBI to comment on these allegations due to the ongoing case involving Tom Horne."

The agents who were following Horne in March 2012 had apparently been doing so during the course of a campaign finance investigation, although agents interviewed by Kimerer refused to say that was the case.

The FBI waited seven months before notifying Phoenix police, until after the Maricopa County attorney's office filed civil charges in the campaign finance case. They also declined to explain that delay, Kimerer said.

"It just shows animus the way they pursued this," Kimerer said in an interview. "They were just rabid to get him."

The damage was minor, totaling a little more than $1,000. Kimerer said in his filing that the agents took two months to look at the Land Rover SUV that Horne allegedly damaged, and the owner told them scratches on the bumper were made by his son. The agents "surmised" one scratch they found was caused by Horne, Kimerer wrote.

In the campaign finance case, Horne and employee Kathleen Winn are accused of illegally coordinating with an independent expenditure committee during the 2010 election. Horne is appealing Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery's findings that Horne illegally coordinated his 2010 campaign with a group that was supposed to be operating independently. The group aired television advertising critical of Horne's general election opponent.

Montgomery is demanding that Horne's 2010 campaign and the other group, Business Leaders for Arizona, return up to $513,000 of contributions. There also could be large civil fines.

Because of the alleged coordination, the contributions made to a group headed by a Horne ally who now works in his office actually were contributions that exceeded campaign finance limits on money given to candidates, Montgomery said. Candidates aren't allowed to discuss strategy or other matters with so-called independent expenditure committees, but there's evidence that Horne was involved in both raising money and deciding how to spend it on advertising by Business Leaders for Arizona, Montgomery said in October.

Horne, a lawyer who is the top-elected law enforcement official for the state, denied any coordination. He had been considering running for governor but now says he'll seek re-election in 2014.

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