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Home / Election 2014 / 2014 Legislative Races / Store video sheds new light on Robson sign case

Store video sheds new light on Robson sign case

(Screenshot from video)

(Screenshot from video)

A convenience-store surveillance video shows a mystery man believed to be a sign thief getting into a truck like Rep. Bob Robson’s on Aug. 9, new evidence that the Chandler lawmaker may have been involved sign shenanigans.

A home-made video that has been on the web for over a week has shown the mystery man, clad in a wide-brimmed hat that hides his identity, hustle to get into a white full-sized pickup truck like the one Robson owns. The video had been accompanied with text alleging the truck belonged to Robson and the video was shot shortly after the alleged theft of a sign belonging to a Robson opponent.

The store video, released today by the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office, shows the mystery man emerge from a cluster of campaign signs with something in his hand that he rolls up and sticks into a trash can before getting into a white pickup truck. The store is located at Dobson and Warner roads in Chandler.

A Maricopa County Sheriff’s report says the Chandler lawmaker, who is running for reelection in Legislative District 18, refused to tell detectives who got into his truck.

But Robson’s attorney, Tom Ryan, contends the legislator did not break the law because the sign in question wasn’t for a political candidate.  Ryan also said Robson never tampered with or stole a campaign sign.

The Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office cited Robson Aug. 18 with tampering with a political sign, a misdemeanor punishable by up to four months in jail and up to a $750 fine. He is scheduled to appear in front of Justice of the Peace Keith Frankel on Sept. 2.

Ryan said the signs that were allegedly stolen do not fit the election law statute Robson is accused of violating.  It states that a person commits a crime by tampering with the sign of “any candidate.”

Rather than belonging to a candidate, the signs in question belonged to LD18 precinct committeeman Mike Richardson.  They were about 18 inches by 24 inches with a red arrow and “Voted for Obamacare” printed on them, referring to Robson.  The signs looked similar to other signs with arrows and “Endorsed by the Chamber of Commerce” printed on them, also referring to Robson.

“If anyone tampered with that sign at all – none of that is clear – what was the candidate?” Ryan said. “’He Voted for Obamacare’ is not a candidate.”

Ryan said there are also technical problems with the citation given Robson because it is incorrectly filled out to accuse him of committing the crime at his house.

Robson and seat mate Rep. Jeff Dial have been targeted for defeat by the Free Enterprise Club, which advocates for lower taxes and free market policies, for his vote on Medicaid expansion. The group has spent roughly $33,000 to defeat Robson. He has gotten $94,970 in spending from independent expenditure committees supporting him, including $15,000 from Gov. Jan Brewer’s IE, Arizona Legacy.

Richardson recently posted on the Internet video captured by another man, Christian Herre, showing the events at the convenience store unfold from a different point of view than the store surveillance video. Herre’s video did not capture the theft, however, just a man getting into a white pickup truck. The 48-second video then cuts to a shot of “Robson” vanity plates on the rear of a white truck.

Herre told MCSO he was at the gas station staking out the signs because there had been thefts of them recently, and he claims to have seen the theft and identified Robson as the driver of the truck, according to a written MCSO report.

Herre picked Robson out of photo lineup.

Detectives interviewed Robson Aug. 18 at his home.

“When I asked who the individual was that jumped out of his car he told me that he did not have to disclose that,” Det. John Graham wrote. “I told Mr. Robson that someone jumped out of his car and committed a crime.”

Robson, who is on the faculty of the ASU School of Criminology and Criminal Justice, told Graham he didn’t think it was a crime because it wasn’t a campaign sign.

The report states that Robson argued with the detective before invoking his constitutional right to counsel and refusing to hand over his identification.

As news broke about Robson’s troubles on Aug. 20, video surfaced of a man stealing the signs that touted endorsements by the chamber for Robson and Dial.

The video identified that man as Richardson, the “sign coordinator” for LD18 candidates John King, Jill Norgaard and Tom Morrissey.

Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio has endorsed Morrissey.

Ryan said he is not going to trouble police by reporting that alleged theft, which he said effectively amounts to illegally spitting on the sidewalk.

Ryan said he is going to report the incident to the Secretary of State, however.

Herre originally reported the gas-station theft to Chandler police, who interviewed him and Robson and looked at Herre’s video.

Chandler police decided not to pursue the case after determining there was no evidence to prove a crime was committed.

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