Horne's alleged hit-and-run gets tawdry
PHOENIX -- Tom Horne caused more than $1,000 worth of damage to another vehicle before driving away without leaving a note, ostensibly according to FBI agents to conceal an affair.
Phoenix police records obtained Tuesday by Capitol Media Services detail eyewitness accounts of FBI agents who said they watched Horne, in a borrowed vehicle, back into a white Range Rover in the parking garage of a Phoenix residential complex. FBI agents said he and the woman, since identified as Carmen Chenal, a subordinate, then walked off and entered the residential area of the complex.
Horne acknowledged Tuesday the incident did cause some scrapes to the borrowed car he was driving. But he maintained that he did not know there was any damage to the other vehicle.
He also dismissed claims that he purposely did not leave any identifying information so as to conceal what FBI agent Brian Grehoski said was an affair, calling the comments in written reports “completely baseless.''
“If I thought there was damage, why wouldn't I have left a note?'' Horne told Capitol Media Services.
He said where the accident occurred also serves as parking for nearby restaurants, as well as the residential complex where Chenal lives.
“It's no big deal for me to pay somebody $1,000,'' he said.
Horne also lashed out at the FBI for tailing him in the first place.
The federal inquiry involves claims of campaign finance violations in his successful bid 2010 for attorney general. It resulted in accusations by Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery that Horne illegally coordinated his campaign with what was billed as an independent expenditure committee run by Kathleen Winn. She raised $513,340 toward the end of the tight race against Democrat Felecia Rotellini.
That issue is currently awaiting a hearing before an administrative law judge.
“What were they doing surveilling me?'' Horne asked. “It seems to me that's something that people should raise.''
“We have no comment at this time,'' responded FBI spokesman Manuel Johnson to an inquiry.
The most immediate issue is the March 27 accident. And that goes to the issue of what did he know about the damage to the other vehicle, and when.
Arizona law makes it a misdemeanor to cause damage to another vehicle without either trying to locate the owner or leaving a note with identifying information. Horne, by his own admission, did neither.
But wrapped up in all of that is the FBI surveillance and the allegations that Horne's actions showed he was hiding something.
The FBI report details how Chenal left the Attorney General's Office that day in a Volkswagen she borrowed from Linnea Heap, another employee at the office. Five minutes later, Horne left in his own gold Jaguar.
According to the report, they both went to the same parking garage, emerging several minutes later with Horne, now wearing a baseball cap, driving the Volkswagen.
They then went to the residential parking section of a garage at 202 W. Roosevelt St.
When the gate to the residents' section did not open, the FBI report says “Horne attempted to back up to exit the parking structure and hit the front passenger side of a white Range Rover with the rear passenger side of the Passat.''
According to the FBI, he then drove to the visitor parking on the lower level where the two “walked to the resident entrance gate, entered a code, and entered the resident area of the building.''
Horne apparently was aware he had hit something.
Heap, in an interview with FBI agents, said Chenal informed her that day that Horne was backing up and “hit someone.''
“She said the damage to your car is very minor, it's just paint, and the other car wasn't damaged,'' the FBI report quotes Heap.
Chenal, in a separate interview with Phoenix police, said she was aware of “a very superficial scratch'' on Heap's vehicle. Chenal, however, said she told Heap about the incident two or three weeks later.
Chenal told the FBI she saw no damage to the other vehicle.
But FBI agent Merv Mason, one of the two who was following Horne and witnessed the incident, said it did not happen that way.
“They sat there for about 10 seconds,'' he said.
“Nobody checked the damage on the car,'' Mason continued. “They weren't even at an angle where they could see the damage to the car. And then they drove away.''
On Tuesday, Horne said he saw no damage that day to the other vehicle. And he said the repair estimate of $1,071 means nothing.
“It looks like they're charging a lot for painting to me,'' he said. And he pointed out that one of the FBI agents even said during one of the interviews that virtually any damage to a Range Rover costs at least $1,000.
Less clear is what damage Horne caused.
A photo released by Phoenix police shows some damage to the right front bumper of the Range Rover along with a black mark. Police said the owner, Kevin Montano, told them the mark had been caused earlier by his son.
Mason, in an interview with Heap, the owner of the Volkswagen, described the damage as taking off “all the paint'' all the way down “to whatever the bumper's made of.''
Whatever happened that day, the possibility of the whole incident being exposed apparently unnerved Horne.
Amy Rezzonico, the spokeswoman for Horne's office, told FBI agents that Horne came into the office one Monday in April “and he looked like a ghost,'' describing him as “the color of this piece of paper.''
Rezzonico said Horne told her the FBI had interviewed Heap the prior Friday and that the agents had shown her some pictures and questioned her “about him hitting and running.''
“And I said, why did you do that,'' Rezzonico told the agents.
“And he didn't really have any good answer, other than to say that they looked and that . . . they couldn't see any damage,'' she continued.
Grehoski made it clear in several of the interview transcripts released he believes Horne was hiding something.
“You know, we've heard that Tom is supposed to be honest to a fault,'' he told Heap during an interview with Heap about a month after the accident.
“But he isn't,'' Grehoski continued. “He's driving someone else's car, crash, and left the scene of an accident. Having some rendezvous with Carmen in her apartment. I mean, that's not ethical. That's not honest. That's slimy.''
And in the interview with Rezzonico, Grehoski says outright, “You've got a guy having an affair.''