Liar? Unfaithful? When are hardball questions too hard?
Photo: Video by kgun9.com
Reporter: Craig Smith
TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) - Slimy, unethical, unfaithful. Those are all things FBI agents said about Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne to people who work for him.
The agents were investigating Horne and were squeezing his employees about a hit-and-run parking lot scrape that's no more than a misdeameanor.
Are high pressure tactics like that standard procedure?
KGUN9 News asked a veteran defense attorney.
Tom Horne said he thinks it's a stretch to call what happened a hit-and-run.
"When you hear hit and run you think of a corpse on a highway," he said. "Here we're talking about no dent and a little scraped paint."
Horne questioned how hard FBI agents squeezed two of his employees over a misdemeanor grade hit and run in a parking lot under this building.
The agents trailed Horne to the parking lot. They said he was in a car with a woman, on Horne's payroll, who agents said is his mistress.
The agents said they saw Horne back into an SUV, then leave without leaving a note to take responsibility. Horne says he didn't stop because he didn't think there was damage.
We should note he agreed to talk to KGUN 9 on condition we did not ask about the claim that he was in an affair.
But transcripts show FBI agents talked about it, and used it to pressure the woman who loaned Horne the car and Horne's Public Information Officer.
FBI is apparently looking at more than some scraped paint -- exactly what is the mystery.
Agents urged the two to protect themselves and not let loyalty to Horne make them hold back what they know.
"He's just flat lying to you,"one of them said. Agents went on to say, "You've got a guy having an affair. You've got a guy hit and run."
Defense attorney Mike Piccarreta is not defending Horne. He calls techniques the agents used unethical, but not unusual.
KGUN 9 reporter Craig Smith asked: "So anything that can be a leverage point -- fair game?"
Piccarreta: "It's not fair game, but it's game."
And federal officials trained to bust big-time crime spending time on a small time parking scrape?
Piccarreta: "Normally, these type of tactics are not used on misdemeanors, hit-and-runs and especially not by Federal agents."
Piccarreta said if you're not under subpoena and talking to investigators voluntarily, you're within your rights to stop the interview if you feel it's become abusive.
He finds it ironic that Horne's complaining about hardball questions. Piccarreta said he suspects Horne's own investigators use them too.
"As they said, a civil libertarian is a conservative under investigation and I think that's what you have here."