150Arizona Republic: Jurors Threatened
- Jul 29, 2001Symington jurors, secretary threatened
By William Hermann and Pat Flannery
The Arizona Republic
Oct. 16, 1997
One of the lingering mysteries in the trial of Fife Symington
deepened Wednesday when documents came to light showing that two
jurors received death threats and bribe offers as the jury
A gruff-talking stranger, calling from a central Phoenix pay phone,
threw the trial into a brief crisis in August when he called the
jurors, and Symington's secretary, to offer a $10,000 bribe and
threaten them if they didn't vote as he instructed.
The threats forced closed-door hearings that went unexplained until
Wednesday, when a detailed portrait of the affair emerged from court
transcripts, police reports and interviews.
Juror Janice Elaine Pettes thought she recognized the caller as
Symington attorney John Dowd, the governor's lead defense lawyer.
Dowd denied making any calls. And within minutes of Pettes getting
her threat at 8:14 p.m. on Aug. 21, Carol Henderson, Symington's
secretary, got a threatening call while Dowd was at her home having
Symington juror Charlotte Hartle also got a threatening call between
8 and 8:30 p.m. that night.
All three said the caller addressed them by name.
Prosecutors have suggested that the caller was an insider who had
access to names and phone numbers of the jurors -- information
unavailable to the public. But an ongoing FBI investigation has not
identified who is responsible. The Symington case ended with the then-
governor's conviction on seven fraud charges following 17 weeks of
sensational disclosures and the dismissal of a juror who said she was
railroaded for sympathizing with Symington.
Dowd is preparing an appeal of Symington's conviction. He has also
has asked U.S. District Judge Roger Strand to set aside the verdicts
and acquit Symington. But he said he will make no assertions of jury
tampering, saying he is convinced that the jurors were not swayed by
Dowd said Wednesday the strange calls baffled him.
"I don't know what was going on," Dowd said. "There is nothing in my
judgment more horrible than someone trying to subvert the system."
Juror describes call
Pettes told police the voice was "gruff," and seemed to be that of a
white male in his 50s. She recalled the conversation this way:
Caller: "Hello, Janice."
Caller: "If Fife goes down . . . ten grand . . .
Then, Pettes was unsure whether the caller said "he'll" or "you'll
get the death penalty."
Pettes then asked: "What? Who is this?"
The caller said: "You know who it is."
The Phoenix police report of the incident, obtained Wednesday, says
Pettes "did not believe the voice was disguised."
She had, in court, listened to Dowd speaking for scores of hours. And
she believed he was the caller.
The FBI confirmed Wednesday that it is investigating the calls, but a
spokesman wouldn't say whether the agency has any leads.
Dowd at dinner party
The day of the threats, Dowd had asked Strand to declare a mistrial.
He based his motion on the dismissal earlier that week of 74-year-old
juror Mary Jane Cotey, whose colleagues had told Strand that Cotey
could not focus on the deliberations.
Dowd felt Cotey had been unjustly targeted by her colleagues because
she was sympathetic to Symington, and he was sharply critical of
Strand's decision to dismiss her.
But Dowd said he wasn't making phone calls the night of the threats.
He was at Henderson's house.
Henderson said she, Dowd and several other guests, including defense
attorney Terry Lynam, were in the backyard patio after dinner when a
call came to the house sometime between 8 and 8:30 p.m.
She said the voice sounded like "a disguise, a rough, gruff voice."
She thought at first that it was a joke.
The caller said, "If Fife goes down, you get $10,000. If he goes
free, you die. Got that?"
Henderson said in an interview Wednesday that she didn't immediately
take the conversation seriously but relayed it to Dowd and Lynam.
"They thought it was pretty serious," she said.
Her son suggested she trace the call by dialing *69. Dowd told her to
call the governor's Department of Public Safety detail.
Henderson gave Sgt. Chuck Wright, head of the security detail, the
traced phone number. Wright investigated it the next morning, telling
her it belonged to a telephone booth at the 7-Eleven market at 24th
and Campbell streets.
Henderson has not received any similar calls since. In retrospect,
she said, she felt concerned.
"Not worried, not scared. Concerned," she said.
'Harsh' offer repeated
Hartle told Strand that when she answered the phone a "harsh" voice
Hartle answered, "Yes," and then the voice said, "Fife goes free, you
get ten grand."
Hartle said, "What did you say?"
The man repeated his offer, Hartle said.
"I just hung up," Hartle said.
Dowd said he didn't know about the other two calls until the next
morning when he was writing a report to Strand about the call to
Dowd said he was interrupted by a call ordering him to Strand's
Jury deliberations were put on hold as Strand huddled with Dowd and
prosecutors for more than three hours to discuss what was then
described publicly only as "a matter that brings security issues to
the court's concern."
During the the conference in Strand's chambers, prosecutor David
Schindler said, "It is clear someone who has access to the jurors'
names and Carol Henderson's name is attempting to disrupt this jury.
"Clearly, someone who, I don't want to say affiliated with the
governor, but who is attempting to derail this trial - that call to
Ms. Henderson to us appears to be patently designed to cover the two
other calls to these jurors."
Jurors vow to continue
When Pettes was called in to recount her experience, Strand first
emphasized that the court had determined that Dowd could not possibly
have been the person who called her. He then asked her and later
Hartle whether they felt they could continue as jurors.
Both women said they could.
After the conference, Strand declined to discuss the incidents in
open court, saying the security matter "could be jeopardized." Strand
then ordered details kept under seal, and they remained so until
Wednesday, when he decided to release information after consulting
with Dowd and Justice Department officials.
The Arizona Republic had asked the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals two
weeks ago to unseal the information or force Strand to issue detailed
reasons supporting his order.
After being contacted by reporters regarding Pettes' police report,
Dowd asked Strand to unseal a transcript of the closed-door court
Dowd said he wanted the transcript released to clear his name. He
said that when the threats were discussed in Strand's chambers,
Pettes did not directly accuse him of calling her, but rather said
the caller sounded like him.
After Pettes received her call, she began to call her boyfriend,
Richard Martin. But she stopped and used the *69 function on her
telephone, which told her that her call had come from a number she
Martin arrived within a half hour and called police. The police
report said Martin described Pettes "as being frantic and upset about
Pettes told police she "may have been singled out from other jurors
because she is single and the youngest." She thought she might be the
easiest to intimidate.
Pettes also noted that her photograph, and that of another juror --
not Hartle -- had appeared on the front page of the Mesa Tribune that
When Pettes told police she thought the caller sounded like Dowd,
they asked her to rate the certainty of her identification of Dowd on
a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being most certain. She said 6 or 7.
Pettes told police this was the only threatening call she had
received. But, she said, "Another juror had complained of receiving
multiple phone hang-ups earlier in the week."
Detective Thomas Herrgott and Lt. Kenneth Tims drove to the 24th and
Campbell convenience store phone.
The clerk told Herrgott that he thought he recalled a white male
between 40 and 50 coming into the store between 8 and 8:15 p.m. that
night. The clerk said the man "complained about Sheriff Joe Arpaio
and said he'd like to kill the sheriff over some of Arpaio's stands
The clerk said he did not know the man but believed him to be from a
nearby alcohol counseling center. The clerk said he did not know
whether the man made a phone call.
Police noted that the inside of the store is monitored on videotape
and took the tape. Tims had the phone receiver dusted for
The next day, Phoenix police notified the FBI about the threatening
call, and federal marshals told them about the other two.
FBI agent Dan Ralph took over the case. Police gave him the videotape
from the market and fingerprint cards from the pay phone.
An FBI official Wednesday told Strand the investigation into the
calls is continuing "as aggressively as possible."
Pat Flannery can be reached at 444-8629 or at pat.flannery@...
via e-mail. William Hermann can be reached at 444-4875 or at
william.hermann@... via e-mail.