UPDATED 9/27 to add County Attorney’s comments
La Paz County Sheriff John Drum issued a statement Friday alleging misconduct by the County Attorney’s Office during the Ackerman murder case, an allegation that Chief Deputy County Attorney Karen Hobbs described as “dirty politics”.
According to the statement, Drum submitted an ethics complaint with the Arizona State Bar against Hobbs and her boss, County Attorney Tony Rogers, saying that Hobbs had visited the crime scene and advised a Sheriff’s deputy to conceal her identity in his official report.
As part of her investigation of the case, Hobbs had reportedly wanted to determine the lighting conditions at the house where the crime occurred in the BlueWater Lagoon neighborhood of Parker. So she met with a Sheriff’s deputy at the property, who wrote a report of the visit. Drum claims that Hobbs wanted to be identified in the report only as a ‘Caucasian woman’ to avoid her being called as a potential witness. But a Sheriff Sergeant would not allow that description on the report, and insisted on identifying Hobbs by name. Drum says that Rogers agreed with Hobbs that the term ‘Caucasian woman’ would be an adequate description.
Drum characterized Hobbs’ request to keep her name off the report as a “pattern of actions that strive to manipulate, deceive, modify and/or conceal facts with County Attorney Tony Rogers supporting Ms. Hobbs activities, showing either collusion or support from her superior.” He says the end result is “attorney actions that discredits the entire criminal justice system and results in perpetuating the general distrust of law enforcement by the general public.”
In response to the statement Monday, Hobbs called the bar complaints a “smear campaign and dirty politics”, saying she believes the actions of the Sheriff are timed to cause damage to Rogers’ campaign ahead of the November election. Rogers is up for re-election as County Attorney in November’s general election against challenger Kathy Field, who has been supported publicly by Drum at campaign events and currently serves as the Public Defender.
“Several months ago Attorney Sandra Carr, a deputy to Public Defender Kathy Field, warned us that Kathy had taken her to a meeting with Sheriff John Drum and Commander Larry Irwin to explore the possibilities of a bar complaint against the County Attorney,” Hobbs said. “Sandra warned that the meeting was political and that we should expect a bar complaint sometime prior to the election in order to smear the County Attorney’s Office before the elections, but we didn’t want to believe it.”
With respect to the Bar complaints themselves, Hobbs says she believes her actions did not breach any ethical boundaries but that the Bar would have to decide. She said that the complaint and public statement was filed “on behalf of, and for the benefit of Kathy Field.”
Parker Live reached Field Monday to ask her if she had something to do with the Bar complaint and the Sheriff’s statement. She said she is limited in what she can say as an attorney, but said she thinks the allegations are “very very serious” and criticized her opponent Rogers for his office’s handling of “multiple” cases going through the courts.
“Smear campaign? Sure it’s going to be a smear, because if someone gets suspended from the practice of law, is that smear or is that an example of something being done about serious misconduct?” she asked. “Would it be right to keep this hidden, or does the public have the right to know?”
Hobbs said the timing of this complaint and Friday’s press release were conspicuous.
“[Drum] didn’t raise this question in March, or April, or May, and all of a sudden he wants to make this an issue,” she said. “If this small incident regarding me is the best they can come up with after 4 years, it speaks very highly of Tony Rogers and the job he is doing as County Attorney.”
Rogers released his own statement on Tuesday, saying in part, “Throughout my four years in office I have striven to keep the peace and work in cooperation with all County departments. … Now it is nearly re-election time and the peace has been broken by the politicians. I guess it will be this way until the election. Too bad. I will fight to keep my nose to the grindstone and continue to do my job. I am sure that the politicians will let us all get back to work after the election.”
Rogers added that Sandra Carr, who had reportedly warned Rogers and Hobbs that a bar complaint was coming several months ago, had told them this information in confidence and “objects to the public release of her information.” Rogers said that her statements were not intended for public dissemination.
Sheriff Drum ran against 3 opponents in the Republican primary and lost to Bill Risen, who will now face Frank Vidrine in the general election. County Attorney Rogers will face Field on the same ballot.
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Sheriff’s statement in full
Hobbs’ written response in full
Several months ago Attorney Sandra Carr, a deputy to Public Defender Kathy Field, warned us that Kathy had taken her to a meeting with Sheriff John Drum and Commander Larry Irwin to explore the possibilities of a bar complaint against the County Attorney. Sandra warned that the meeting was political and that we should expect a bar complaint sometime prior to the election in order to smear the County Attorney’s Office before the elections, but we didn’t want to believe it.
Sandra Carr had previously made it known to Kathy Field that she herself (Sandra) would run for County Attorney. Shortly thereafter Sandra became the victim of a bar complaint.
Both these bar complaints were filed by other persons, but appear filed on behalf of, and for the benefit of Kathy Field.
Both the bar complaint against the County Attorney’s Office and the complaint against Sandra Carr appear politically motivated to remove any obstacle between Kathy Field and her goal to become the County Attorney. It appears to be a smear campaign and dirty politics.