- Associated Press - Tuesday, February 11, 2014

PHOENIX (AP) - An FBI agent who led a criminal investigation into possible campaign-finance violations by Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne acknowledged Tuesday he collected no direct evidence that Horne conspired with an aide to sidestep state campaign finance laws.

FBI agent Brian Grehoski’s testimony came on the second day of a hearing into civil allegations that saw attorneys for Horne and aide Kathleen Winn sharply question whether the agent was biased against their clients. The day ended with the defense pleading for the administrative law judge hearing the case to throw it out because Yavapai County prosecutors hadn’t proven their case.

Horne and Winn deny the civil allegation of illegal campaign coordination brought by the Yavapai County Attorney in October. They are accused of working together on a campaign ad paid for by an independent group Winn was running called Business Leaders for Arizona. That “coordination” is illegal in Arizona. The group collected money to buy an ad attacking Horne’s Democratic opponent in 2010.

Winn and Horne are expected to testify in the hearing as early as Wednesday.

“They have to produce real evidence that there was coordination here,” Timothy La Sota, Winn’s attorney, told the judge as he sought to have the case thrown out.

That didn’t happen, with Judge Tammy Eigenheer of the Arizona Office of Administrative Hearings saying she was charged with overseeing a complete hearing and intended to do just that.

Yavapai county prosecutors are trying to show that Winn consulted with Horne before giving final approval for an ad targeting Democrat Felecia Rotellini in the 2010 general election. They point to a series of emails and phone records showing Horne communicated with Winn as she was giving final approval for an ad campaign overseen by consultant Brian Murray. They acknowledge the evidence against the pair is purely circumstantial.

“It’s circumstantial evidence, no doubt about it,’ Deputy Yavapai Deputy County Attorney Jack Fields told the judge. “But let’s look at that circumstantial evidence - it’s very good.”

Grehoski was grilled for hours Tuesday morning by Winn attorney Larry Debus, who also asked Eigenheer to throw out the agent’s testimony because he refused to discuss a parallel criminal case he pursued against Horne. Grehoski said Tuesday that case technically remains open, although the U.S. Attorney declined to file charges.

Debus made it clear he was preparing for an appeal if Horne and Winn are found to have violated the law. He also provided Eigenheer with previous appeals-court decisions to back his request for the agent’s testimony to be barred.

“I understand this is all complicated by the other investigation that was going on, the dual nature,” Eigenheer said before deciding to allow Grehoski to continue testifying.

Late in the day, attorneys for Winn and Horne scored points when a real estate broker who was interviewed by the FBI said he never told them that Horne didn’t consult with Winn over real estate deals. Greg Tatham, whose wife is a former Horne spokeswoman, said that statement in an FBI report was false.

Defense attorneys say Winn, who used to work in real estate, and Horne did discuss a real estate deal during the period under investigation. But Grehoski said none of the emails he has reviewed show they were discussing a real estate deal.

Winn was a volunteer for Horne for most of 2010, before forming an independent group weeks before the election, collecting more than $500,000 from donors and launching an attack ad against Horne’s Democratic opponent in the November general election.

Yavapai County Attorney Sheila Polk determined in October that Horne violated the law and must repay $400,000 to donors and pay three times that amount in fines.

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC.

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