Polygamy report circulated during governor’s race was forgery

Associated Press, Aug. 8, 2003

A document about an investigation into polygamy in Colorado City that was circulated during last year’s gubernatorial campaign was a fake, according to the Arizona Department of Public Safety.

A five-month investigation of the forgery, however, didn’t identify who was responsible for the fake document, nor were any suspects named. Prosecutors declined to take the case to court because they said there was little chance of getting a conviction.

Authorities had wanted to question failed gubernatorial candidate Richard Mahoney, whose cell phone was linked to a number listed on another document that was investigated.

Mahoney, an independent who accused the front-runners of being soft on polygamy, agreed initially to talk to authorities but later backed out of the interview. Mahoney’s attorney said his client had nothing to do with the forgery.

The fake document was purported to have come from an unnamed supervisor in the Arizona Attorney General’s Office, which at the time was led by Janet Napolitano. She went on to narrowly win the governor’s race more than a month after the memo was faxed to two news organizations.

Even though investigators had spent more than two years looking into accusations of child abuse and other crimes in Colorado City, Napolitano’s office had maintained the document was a phony.

The fraudulent document suggested the state’s Public Records Law should be used to keep details of the investigation from the public. It also used language like a “Waco-level problem in Colorado City” and included an analysis of obstacles to the investigation.

Polygamy is practiced openly in Colorado City, a remote enclave on the state line with Utah that is dominated by the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. The sect split from mainstream Mormonism after the broader church renounced polygamy more than a century ago.

The fundamentalist group touts plural marriage as a key to reaching the highest place in heaven.

The Arizona Attorney General’s Office said a polygamist faces criminal charges in its investigations of Colorado City but officials wouldn’t answer other questions about its inquiries.

The office also declined several requests to discuss details of the examination of the phony report, saying only that there wasn’t enough evidence to prove the case.

The Department of Public Safety, the agency that investigated the case, wouldn’t make its detectives available to answer questions about their report.

The investigative report said a phone number atop the faxed forged document matched a phone line in a secure computer equipment room in the basement of a state Department of Corrections building in Phoenix.

There was no way to trace calls made from that line or track who had entered the room, the report said. Investigators didn’t find a connection between corrections employees with access to the room and the investigation of Colorado City.

A document that accompanied the forgery was purported to have been written by a woman who alleged she was raped in Colorado City. She also wrote that she reported the rape of a girl to the Mohave County Sheriff’s Office.

Investigators were unable to find the woman. A Mesa address listed as the woman’s turned out to be erroneous, investigators said.

Furthermore, the Mohave County Sheriff’s Office has no record of her making such a complaint, said sheriff’s spokesman Jarrod Lyman. “In our research, that never happened,” Lyman said.

Around the time the fake document was faxed to the media, calls were made between a cell phone number written on the woman’s statement and phones belonging to Mahoney and Samuel G. Vagenas, a political consultant reported to have worked for Mahoney, the DPS report said.

Vagenas, who also served as a spokesman for last year’s unsuccessful voter initiative to relax Arizona’s marijuana laws, declined to speak with authorities about the fake document.

The investigative report doesn’t say explicitly whether investigators learned the contents of the phone calls.

Numerous efforts by The Associated Press to reach Vagenas and Mahoney this week for comment were unsuccessful.

Mahoney’s attorney, Michael Piccarreta, said his client had nothing to do with the forgery.

Piccarreta said he was unable to explain the call between the phones of his client and the woman, except to say a gubernatorial candidate such as Mahoney was can make or receive thousands of calls in a given month.

Piccarreta said it was his decision to decline the police interview because he was given few details of the case.

“I will not let anyone sit down with an investigator unless you have time to review the documents,” Piccarreta said.

Vagenas’ attorney, Thomas Rawles, is out of his office for two weeks and couldn’t be reached for comment.

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Religion News Blog posted this on Saturday August 9, 2003.
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