Feds, Phoenix police said Horne left accident scene to hide affair

Jeremy Duda//October 30, 2012

Feds, Phoenix police said Horne left accident scene to hide affair

Jeremy Duda//October 30, 2012

Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne (Photo by Evan Wyloge/Arizona Capitol Times)

FBI agents concluded that Attorney General Tom Horne left the scene of a hit-and-run accident in a parking garage to hide an extramarital affair with a subordinate.

On March 27, FBI agents were following Horne and Carmen Chenal, a longtime colleague who is in charge of foreign extraditions at the Attorney General’s Office. According to an FBI report, released by the Phoenix Police Department as part of a public records request, an agent watched Horne back a Volkswagen Passat into a white Range Rover in the parking garage at Chenal’s apartment complex, at 202 W. Roosevelt St. Horne then parked in another spot and the two walked into Chenal’s complex, the report said.

“It should be noted that through the course of the investigation, (agents) SA Grehoski and SA Mason learned that Horne is having an extramarital affair with Chenal and that they utilize Chenal’s apartment in furtherance of that affair. Though motive is not an element of the criminal statute listed above, it stands to reason that Horne did not want any record of his presence in the parking garage of Chenal’s apartment complex, thus he did not leave a note.”

Horne was later cited with a Class 3 misdemeanor for the accident. His court date in Phoenix Municipal Court is Nov. 2.

FBI agents witnessed the accident while conducting an investigation into alleged campaign finance violations by Horne and a subordinate who ran an independent expenditure committee to assist his 2010 campaign. The Maricopa County Attorney’s Office, which worked the joint investigation with the FBI, concluded that Horne illegally coordinated with an independent expenditure committee run by Kathleen Winn, who currently serves as community outreach director at the Attorney General’s Office. Horne and Winn both deny the allegations.

The agents turned over information about the accident to Phoenix police, who conducted an  investigation. According to a police report, Horne refused to speak with the Phoenix PD about the incident.

The FBI’s report said the owner of the Range Rover, Goodyear resident Kevin Montano, did not know that his vehicle had been hit until FBI agents told him about the accident. He said the black mark on the front passenger-side corner of the car was caused by his son parking in the garage.

In a press statement on Tuesday, Horne did not directly address the allegations of the alleged affair in his statement. But he did deny the FBI agents’ conclusion as to why he left the scene.

“The parking area is the main parking area for people who have lunch at Pita Jungle and other restaurants in the immediate area. Leaving contact information for a paint scratch in that area would have been irrelevant to whether there was a passenger or not, and the FBI agent’s speculations are without basis,” he said.

Horne also reiterated previous comments that he was not aware of any damage he caused to the vehicle. He noted that the vehicle’s owner himself said it may have been caused by someone else.

“The incident may have caused no damage to that vehicle. At worst, pictures show nothing but some scratched paint. ‘Hit and run’ is a misleading image for, at worst, paint scratches with no dents,” Horne said in the press statement.

Horne has refused to comment on allegations that he has a sexual relationship with Chenal, a former law partner and subordinate from his time at the Arizona Department of Education. He said he does not remember details of the day of the accident, but that he frequently eats at the Pita Jungle next to the garage.

According to FBI reports, Horne and Chenal left the Attorney General’s Office in separate cars and met in a parking garage at 10th Avenue and Washington Street. Horne left his car in the garage and left in the Passat, but with him driving and wearing a baseball cap.

Horne has said he did not realize at the time that he did any damage to another vehicle, and has since pledged to pay for the damage done to the other driver’s car. According to documents released by the Phoenix Police Department, the accident did about $1,071 in damage to Montano’s vehicle. The estimate included $231 for paint, about $26 for other parts and supplies, and $790 for paint and body labor.

FBI and Phoenix police interviews contradict Horne’s assertion that he was unaware that he hit the car. FBI Special Agent Mervil Mason wrote in his reports that Horne was trying to enter the residents-only parking area for the garage that also serves several nearby restaurants. When the gate wouldn’t open, he backed up and hit the Range Rover, which Mason said shook visibly when it was hit

After hitting the Range Rover, Horne sat there for 10 to 20 seconds before driving away and parking in a different spot, Mason wrote. Mason said Chenal and Horne did not get out of the car or look out their windows to check for damage.

But in a May interview with FBI agents, Amy Rezzonico, Horne’s official spokeswoman, said Horne told her about the accident. She also said she had heard that FBI agents were following Horne at the time.

The agents told Rezzonico that Horne and Chenal had buffed the scratches out of the car, which Chenal had borrowed from a colleague. An agent also told Rezzonico that Chenal and Horne lied to the colleague whose car they drove, telling her they got out to inspect the vehicle and determined that there was no damage.

“It’s an ethical thing. You’ve got a guy having an affair. You’ve got a guy (who) hit and run,” Special Agent Brian Grehoski told Rezzonico in the May 24 interview.

After Horne hit the vehicle, Chenal said he told her to look out the window to see what he hit, according to a Phoenix police report from an interview with her. According to the report, she said she didn’t see any damage, so they left. Later, they saw a “superficial scratch” on co-worker Linnea Heap’s car.

“I advised her that her story did not match what the FBI agents told me. The agents were in the parking garage and saw the collision and them leave without looking for damage or making any attempt to leave information,” read the report from Phoenix police officer Christian Loeffler.

In an April 20 interview with the FBI, Heap said Chenal, a close friend, told her about the accident.

“What she actually told me was that … when backing up the car she hit another car and checked out that car. And there wasn’t any damage at all,” Heap told Grehoski and Mason.

In a June 1 interview, Heap told the FBI agents that Horne offered to pay for the minor damage to her car. Chenal said the accident caused no more than $100 in damage to Heap’s car.

Portions of Heap and Rezzonico’s interviews with the FBI were redacted.