New Marijuana-Legalization Ballot Campaign Launched in Arizona

Categories: Marijuana

A new marijuana-legalization initiative campaign was filed with the state today, but its organizers aren't ready to say much about it.

The chairman of the campaign, Dr. Gina Berman, is the same chairman of the Marijuana Policy Project of Arizona initiative campaign launched in September.

The MPP group, which was responsible for the 2010 Arizona Medical Marijuana Act, has been working with various stakeholders' groups -- or not working with them, depending on who you talk to -- and hasn't yet released an official draft initiative.

Berman's new group doesn't have any ballot language to offer the public yet, either. And she's not answering questions about today's filing or why she's apparently now running two campaigns.

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Joe Arpaio's Ex-Lawyer Tim Casey Fights Testifying About Joe's Contempt of Court (w/Update)

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Note: Please see update on Friday's hearing below.

Sheriff Joe Arpaio's former lawyer Tim Casey doesn't want to tell what he knows about Arpaio's contemptuous conduct in the ACLU's big racial profiling case Melendres v. Arpaio, so he's invoking attorney-client privilege to avoid subpoenas and discovery requests in the case.

Casey, who has been Arpaio's mouthpiece on Melendres practically since the lawsuit was filed more than seven years ago, begged off the case in November of last year.

His attempts to dodge depositions and document-requests related to his former clients will be one subject of a hearing Friday at 2 p.m. in Phoenix before federal judge G. Murray Snow.

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Arizona Lawmakers Pass Bill to Crack Down on Panhandling

Categories: Arizona Capitol

Arizona lawmakers have again attempted to crack down on panhandling in the state.

The state's anti-panhandling law passed in 2013 was struck down in the courts, while former Governor Jan Brewer vetoed a toned-down version of the law last year. Lawmakers this year have passed another proposal, intent on outlawing "aggressive" panhandling.

Republican Senator John Kavanagh, the bill's sponsor, explained to a Senate committee last month that the bill is aimed at people "who go past, 'Hey mister, can I have a dime.'"

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Woman Blames Amanda Stanford, Pinal County Superior Court Clerk, for Husband's Affair

Categories: Sex

Amanda Stanford
A woman cited recently on suspicion of biting her husband at work claims he cheated on her with Amanda Stanford, the new Pinal County Superior Court clerk.

Heather Ojeda, a facilities maintenance painter for Pinal County, tells New Times that she wants her husband, a Pinal County court bailiff, "humiliated" publicly following her March 11 "long-form" citation in connection with an alleged disorderly conduct and assault charge.

She wants Stanford exposed as the underlying reason for her troubles.

Ramon Ojeda, Heather's husband and alleged biting victim, agrees with his wife. He describes Stanford, a 30-year-old Republican politician who beat her former boss in November's election, as a temptress who made advances at him at work at the start of their two-and-a-half-month relationship.

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Flake and McCain Push for "Zero Tolerance" on Illegal Border Crossings

Categories: Immigration

Three activists wrap themselves around the wheel of an Operation Streamline bus in Tucson in 2013 to protest criminal prosecution of undocumented immigrants.
U.S. senators John McCain and Jeff Flake have proposed an amendment to the federal budget that would create a spending-neutral reserve fund to support a zero-tolerance approach to prosecuting illegal border crossers.

The motion follows reports that the Arizona U.S. Attorney's Office plans to stop using a controversial program, called Operation Streamline, to indict people who are caught crossing the border illegally for the first time. Instead, Yuma County Sheriff Leon Wilmot has said, law enforcement is instructed to concentrate on rounding up those who have criminal rap sheets or a history of immigration violations.

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Maricopa County Mugshots of the Week: Keepin' It Classy

At the end of the week, we bring you a roundup of visitors to the desert's own Fourth Avenue Jail. To be considered for our Maricopa County mugshots of the week, get arrested, strike a pose, and we'll take care of the rest.

This week, we bring you only the classiest looks from jail. Just kidding.

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Video: Arizona Lawmaker Suggests Law Requiring Attendance at Church

Categories: News

Republican Arizona Senator Sylvia Allen suggested this week that lawmakers should debate forcing people to attend church services once a week.

Allen acknowledged such a law would never be allowed, but floated as an idea to create what she described as a much-needed "moral rebirth of this country."

"How we get to back to a moral rebirth of this country, I don't know, since we are slowly eroding religion at every opportunity that we have," Allen said. "Probably we should be debating a bill requiring every American to attend a church of their choice on Sunday to see if we can get back to having a moral rebirth."

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Wife Bites Husband: Pinal County Employees Fight at Work, Leave Marks

Categories: Crime, Family

A Pinal County painter bit her husband, a court bailiff, during a recent fight over a cell phone in the Superior Court building.

Heather Ojeda, a facilities maintenance worker, is suspected of suspicion of assault and disorderly conduct in the incident, according to a March 11 Florence Police Department report.

Ojeda happens to be one of three county-employed convicted criminals who were mentioned in a 2013 TV news report about Pinal County's hiring practices.

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Arizona Lawmakers Weakening Animal-Cruelty Laws, Animal-Welfare Advocates Say

Categories: Arizona Capitol

Agricultural Research Service
Animal-welfare advocates are calling on Governor Doug Ducey to veto a bill that the advocates say weakens the state's animal-cruelty laws.

House Bill 2150, passed by the Arizona Legislature this week, creates a new classification of cruelty toward livestock and poultry, separate from other animals.

"HB 2150 simply creates new problems," Republican Senator John Kavanagh said. "That's why law enforcement . . . is opposed to this bill."

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Phoenix 4-Year-Old Finds Gun, 3-Year-Old Brother Fires It

Categories: News

Vladimir Dudak
A 3-year-old Phoenix boy fired a gun on Sunday while playing with his siblings in their parents' bedroom, police say.

The kids, ages 3, 4, and 9, were playing in the bedroom when a handgun fell off the bed and onto the floor. Phoenix Police Officer James Holmes says the 4-year-old picked up the gun, but the 9-year-old knocked it out of her hand. The 3-year-old boy then picked up the gun and fired it, though no one was hit.

However, the children weren't out of harm's way.

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"Secret Police Bill" Passes in AZ Senate Amidst Protest

Categories: Arizona Capitol

Miriam Wasser

Members of the ACLU, NAACP, and other local activist organizations assembled at the State Capitol minutes after the Arizona Senate passed SB 1445, the controversial bill that prevents police departments from releasing the name of an officer involved in a violent incident for 60 days. The final vote held Tuesday afternoon was 20 to 8, and the bill is now in Governor Doug Ducey's hands.

"We are here to demand a veto of SB 1445," said Channel Powe, one of the event's organizers. "The Arizona legislature is sending a message that one life is more valued than another."

Supporters of the bill contend that it provides a "cooling-off period" to temper public outrage after an officer-involved shooting incident. Opponents say the bill limits transparency and increases community distrust of the police.

"With everything that is happening nationally, with everything that has happened locally, we have to ask if this is good enough for Arizona," state Representative Reginald Bolding told the crowd. "This has never been about being pro-police or anti-police...I don't think this bill does anything to bring the community together."

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David Hendershott, Joel Fox and Larry Black Lose in Appeals Court

Categories: Arpaio

David Hendershott
Three disgraced, former Maricopa County Sheriff's Office leaders have lost their appeal of a failed lawsuit against officials including their former boss, Joe Arpaio.

Tuesday's 3-0 ruling by the Arizona Court of Appeals rips the incompetent claims of David Hendershott, Larry Black, Joel Fox and their Montana lawyer, Ed Moriarity, who was disbarred last year in Arizona over a related case.

The group's 2012 lawsuit stemmed from the years-long feud between county officials that resulted in, among other things, the disbarment of ex-politician and former county attorney Andrew Thomas.

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Arizona on Track to Close Gender Pay Gap -- in 29 Years

Categories: News

Maciej Zygmunt/Flickr
Arizona could be one of the first states in the nation to close the gender pay gap, according to a new report from the Institute for Women's Policy Research.

Women in the United States are paid about 78 cents on the dollar compared with men, which is about 16 cents better than the 1960s. If progress continues at this rate, nationally, men and women will not earn equal wages until the year 2058.

By IWPR's estimates, however, Arizona could get there more than a decade sooner -- by 2044. Only Maryland, California, and Florida are predicted to do better.

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Debra Milke: I Had "Absolutely Nothing" to Do With Son's Murder

Categories: News

Debra Milke spoke publicly for the first time yesterday after more than two decades on Arizona's death row for her son's murder.

A federal court overturned Milke's conviction after finding that the state unconstitutionally withheld information about the key witness in the case, a former Phoenix cop who claimed Milke confessed to him, though he never recorded the confession.

Knowing that there are at least some people who still don't believe Milke is innocent, she stated emphatically that she didn't participate in her son Christopher's murder.

"I had absolutely nothing to do with the brutal murder of my son Christopher and i did not give a confession to [Detective Armando] Saldate," Milke said.

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Positive Developments in Sky Harbor Noise Problem

Categories: News


For any Phoenix residents expecting an evening of lip service by the city's Aviation Department, last night's Community Outreach Meeting was a pleasant surprise.

After six months of disruptive, and at times, constant airplane noise, Chad Makovsky, Assistant Aviation Director at Sky Harbor, assured the room that his department is "working every day to mitigate this [problem] and find a path forward." And, he added, "it does appear we're making some inroads with the FAA."

Over the course of the two-and-a-half hour meeting, Makovsky, along with Rob Adams from the private consulting firm Landrum and Brown, presented three pieces of good news:

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New Tax Break for Arizona Religious Groups Approved by Governor

Categories: News

Toby Hudson
Governor Doug Ducey signed a bill that gives a new tax break for certain religious groups.

House Bill 2128, being pushed by the Center for Arizona Policy, was vetoed by Governor Jan Brewer after it was passed by lawmakers last year, but it got a better reception from Ducey.

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Arizona Ballot Initiative Proposed to Cap In-State Tuition

Categories: News

Nick Schweitzer
An organization is working on a proposal to cap in-state tuition rates at Arizona's universities.

The group, Save Our Students, is hoping to gather enough signatures to get the proposal on 2016 ballots.

"A large number of students get priced out for every increase there is," Save Our Students president Matthew Capalby tells New Times. "The Legislature and unforuntely now the governor seem to ignore . . . the Arizona Constitution that says higher education needs to be 'as nearly free as possible.'"

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Darren Sharper Gets Nine Years in Prison for Sex Crimes

Categories: News

Former NFL safety Darren Sharper was sentenced today in Maricopa County to nine years in prison after pleading guilty to two sex crimes.

Sharper was accused of drugging drinks and sexually assaulting two women in a Tempe apartment in late 2013, and this morning pleaded guilty to sexual assault and attempted sexual assault.

Sharper faces similar accusations and charges in several other states.

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Cleaning Company to Pay at Least $250,000 for Hiring Undocumented Workers

Categories: Immigration

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A Valley-based company that specializes in cleaning LDS temples and churches will pay at least $250,000 to the federal government for hiring undocumented immigrants, its owner says.

Joel Votaw, operating officer and founder of Valley View Building Services, tells New Times the payment will be part of a deal still in the making with the feds. Last week, the federal government filed forfeiture paperwork in the five-year-old case for "a monetary judgment of not less than $250,000," which represents the profit made by the company made from its violations.

The case stems back to a 2010 raid by the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office that resulted in five arrests, including that of one undocumented suspect who'd been providing cleaning services at Fort Huachua, home of the U.S. Army Intelligence Center.

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"No to Loan Sharks!" in Arizona, Community, Faith Leaders Say

Elizabeth Stuart

A bill that would put an end to a nearly five-year ban on payday lending is languishing in the Arizona Senate after narrowly slipping through the House with a 31-29 vote.

Still, about two dozen legislators, faith leaders, and community activists gathered in a gravel parking lot sandwiched between two auto-title loan offices Friday to protest the proposal.

"I won't believe the bill is dead until they adjourn the session," said Kathy Jorgensen, a member of the board of directors at the Society of St. Vincent de Paul in Phoenix, who attended the rally. "It's like zombie land up there at the legislature. You think you've killed something and it comes back."

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