Ben Bethel, Phoenix City Council Candidate, Pleaded Guilty in '96 to Selling Drugs; Clarendon Hotel Owner Had Rights Restored

bethel ben candidate shot.JPG
Image: benbethel.com
Ben Bethel, owner of the Clarendon Hotel and candidate for the Phoenix City Council's District 7, pleaded guilty in 1996 to two counts of selling drugs. He says he's since turned his life around.

Want to make sure the whole world finds out about your drug-dealing past?

Run for political office.

If Ben Bethel, owner of the Clarendon Hotel, hadn't filed paperwork to run for the Phoenix City Council's District 7 seat, we'd never have known or cared about his past convictions. Now, having discovered his secret during a quickie background search of current candidates, we feel compelled to pass this tidbit on to potential voters.

Court records show that Bethel pleaded guilty in 1996 to one count of selling dangerous drugs and to another count of selling narcotics. He was sentenced to probation and got his rights restored a few years later.

When we reached him this morning, he wasn't too keen on dredging up the past. Bethel even hinted that reporting the gossipy tidbit about him might be open up New Times to a libel lawsuit. A few years ago, he had his lawyer scare off the Arizona Republic from printing anything about the convictions, he says.

"All that stuff was dropped," Bethel says of the restoration-of-rights process. "It's like it never happened." 

 

bethel on balcony 1.jpg
Image: Clare Lawton
Bethel relaxes with roommates on his penthouse balcony back in October.

We reminded him that, in fact, it did happen. And we can't help but be curious: What kind of drugs was he slinging? Meth? Heroin? Or just plain ol' weed?

Bethel would only say that "it was a stupid time in my life," and that he'd been "hanging out with the wrong crowd."

He's turned his life around, he notes, and has been involved in local community politics in the last few years. The entrepreneur hasn't done too badly by himself, either -- our own Jackalope Ranch featured his swank penthouse in an October article. (The article notes that he'll take nearly anyone as a roommate except a Republican, so he still may be your candidate regardless of his rap sheet.)

"Hopefully, the past won't cost me" in the election, Bethel says.

One of his many ideas on his candidate Web site briefly hints that he's had his share of personal challenges:

MUSEUM OF CONSEQUENCE & REALITY

I've had the idea to build a "Museum of Consequence & Reality" for years now: to get children and adults to realize that there are consequences to all actions that can affect their lives and the lives of everyone around them. I'd like to put this into a thought-provoking format that gets people to think about topics such as child-hood pregnancy, staying in school, driving under the influence, texting and driving, substance abuse, gang violence, child abuse, bullying, racism, discrimination, hatred, etc. After my own experiences and struggles almost two decades ago, I decided to turn my life around, give back to the community, and do everything within my ability to make this the best community possible.


The election is scheduled for August 30.



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10 comments
Such Dog
Such Dog

The Phoenix New Times should be sued!   They are lucky Ben is a nice person and did not do so.    He is a great person and would be a wonderful person to have in Phoenix politics.  

Mark
Mark

This candidate seemed ready to push this town  to its full potential.   What better symbol for a city named Phoenix,  which by the way is in desperate need of a comeback of its own, if you haven’t noticed?   Deeds count more than anything.   Yes it matters when someone's personal failure is offset and he contributes to the public good (growing a successful business,creating jobs and helping to improve the wretched image that this city has elsewhere.) And where are the journalistic standards?  If a “quickie background search of current candidates” was conducted, what information was found?  It doesn’t seem a safe assumption that every other candidate has a perfect record.  But the answer to this mystery is absent from the article along with any perspective about the candidate’s accomplishments and their relevance to the office he was seeking.   Somehow this writer seems to think he did his job but take a look at his accomplishment.  He stopped a candidate and succeeded in delaying progress in the city of Phoenix for another 20 years.

JohnW
JohnW

Way to buy into an article that was clearly written by a journalist who thrives on sensationalism. If people were actually engaged in researching their candidates, instead of forming their conclusions based on articles posted on a web site who’s sole interest is generating advertising revenue. They would see the amazing things Ben has accomplished for the city of Phoenix. Just research the history of the Clarendon hotel. In a short span of seven years he has turned a neighborhood that was riddled with crime into a stable community. He has also devoted countless hours volunteering for various city projects, which is something I am sure none of you have done. It is very easy to sit at your computer and criticize someone who is genuinely trying to make a difference. He knew when he chose to run for city council that his criminal record would be broadcaste, and he still decided to run. Which should say something about his character. He also decided to run his campaign on a budget of $500, unlike the other candidates that you will probably vote for who will raise a ridiculous 250k+. His decision to run was purely out of his own desire to help the community. I would much rather have my vote go towards someone with real life experience and a true passion for the people. Instead of some over-polished puppet who is only interested in the political game and has no real ideas for change. Do your homework people, if you talk to anyone who actually knows Mr. Bethel they will tell you how driven he is for the well fare of the community. But I guess that would take some initative on your part, which might interfere with your current role as a spoon-fed media drone.

Mistalee
Mistalee

Truth is an absolute defense against libel. Guess he didn't get that memo.

Tommy Collins
Tommy Collins

Well, heck yes. Ted Bundy wasn't really a bad guy either, unless you happened to be an attractive brunette...

cbreitel
cbreitel

He's also got a pending civil lawsuit against him by Marshall & Ilsley Bank. What's that all about?

cbreitel
cbreitel

I can deal with the arrest in his past with an open mind, depending on the circumstances. But what my mind is "open" to is his response to this disclosure, and his response (threatening to sue a newspaper; 1st Amendment anyone?) doesn't exactly tug at my heart strings.

Police
Police

Scum bags are everywhere these days.

Ben Bethel
Ben Bethel

Thanks for the support John - I've actually had a lot of positive support from this, but regardless I withdrew from the election before becoming a candidate.

Ben Bethel
Ben Bethel

in response to cbreitel: This is Ben Bethel, and I have a few points of clarification to this article...

1) The charges were dropped and the guilt vacated, so I was told this was as close to an expungement as you can get in Arizona. 2) This was in '96, I was young, and although serious, it wasn't as serious as it sounds - I ended up paying fines and spent about 14 hours in tent city, less than someone who's convicted of a first time DUI. Even Rush Limbaugh, George Bush, and the McCain family have been found guilty of far worse things.3) Before and after this period in my life I've been very committed to the community, and always will be.4) I'm not a candidate for council - I'm only a candidate after the petitions have been filed, and I'm not going to file them. I've decided that sensational journalism will win out over my efforts to make this a better city, so I'll focus these efforts outside of council, and I'll still get a lot done.5) The strongest candidate for District 7 is extremely conservative, is a hater, and takes tons of money from special interests. Their campaign manager is considered a great campaign manager, but far from a decent human being. It looks like this will continue.6) It's interesting that the New Times make a big deal of this... they're in the business of selling ads, and so much of their ad revenue these days is coming from marijuana dealers, growers, dispensaries and patients. You think they'd be a little more positive as in "hey, here's this guy who's been involved in the community for 27 years, had a rough patch of 2 years, and came back even stronger, changing the community, turning a huge source of crime and blight into one of the highest rated hotels in Phoenix, and coming up with good ideas for the city"... but that didn't really happen.7) On the M&I bank, that's a foreclosure.... I had a piece of land in Flagstaff, and when the hotel economy tanked with the rest of the economy, especially after the city of phoenix built a 1,000 room $400 million taxpayer-funded hotel down the street, we were hit very hard... that's one reason the article above mentioned my roommates - I live with enough roommates to help offset the cost of living.

That's about it in a nutshell.... but as of now I've withdrawn from the election, and was never a candidate as the article inaccurately says.... hope this helps to explain some things...

Thanks/Ben

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