May 8, 2013 9:58 PM by Associated Press
PHOENIX (AP) - Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor hit-and-run charge filed after FBI agents apparently trailing him in a campaign finance case saw him back into a parked SUV while driving a borrowed car, his office said Wednesday.
Horne issued a statement saying he paid a $300 fine. He also said if he had known he had damaged the Range Rover he would have left a note for the vehicle's owner.
Horne's case in Phoenix City Court had been repeatedly delayed as his lawyer took depositions from the FBI agents and asked a judge to throw the case out for selective prosecution. They alleged the minor damage would normally not prompt a police investigation.
FBI reports released by Phoenix police when charges were filed in October said 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 repeated the part about not causing damage Wednesday.
"Had I known there were scratches, I would have left my name and contact information so that I could have taken care of this personally," his statement said.
Horne's office released the statement announcing the plea just before 5 p.m.
Horne has been set for trial before a judge on May 28.
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 Horne attorney Michael 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 in February. Kimerer could not immediately be reached for comment Wednesday evening, but he previously said the way the FBI pursued the case showed they "were just rabid to get him."
Just last week, a Maricopa County Superior Court judge blocked the county attorney from pursuing the campaign finance case filed against Horne. The judge ruled the Secretary of State violated procedure by not sending the case to Horne himself for review.
Horne and current aide Kathleen Winn were accused of illegally coordinating outside hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign spending for Horne during his 2010 campaign.
The case is now back with Secretary of State Ken Bennett. Bennett spokesman Matt Roberts said this week that he plans on complying with the judge's order and sending the case to Horne.
Horne is expected to declare a conflict of interest and refer the campaign finance case to another outside prosecutor.
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