The Board of Executive Clemency was impressed that singer Pat Boone, two former Arizona lawmakers and a figure in the 1970s Watergate scandal all went to bat for Greg Shideler as he sought a pardon for a 2001 aggravated assault conviction.
But in this case, the endorsements were not what they seemed.
The board on Jan. 6 sent its recommendation for a pardon to Gov. Doug Ducey, the first to land on his desk. The board took the position that Shideler was protecting his home and property when he aimed a shotgun at a process server and scuffled with the man over control of the firearm. The weapon went off without killing or injuring anyone. He was sentenced to five years in prison for the incident and was released 10 years ago.
Shideler is now an ex-convict whose name appeared on the marquees of daytime television talk shows before the FBI targeted him and others in a probe into a militia. His supporters say he is a man of good character who has endured an injustice.
But the glowing letters the board considered from Charles Colson, the former White House counsel who compiled President Richard Nixon’s famous enemies list, and Boone were written almost 15 years ago. They supported Shideler’s attempt at getting his sentence reduced while he was still in prison. Colson died in 2012. Boone no longer stands by his endorsement.
Former Sen. Linda Gray, a Glendale Republican, and former Rep. Debra Brimhall Pearson, a Phoenix Republican who served six years on the Maricopa County Community College District Governing Board, still stand ardently by Shideler.
“We can’t allow the government to be out of control like this,” Pearson said.
Ducey has no deadline for signing or rejecting the pardon. On May 11 the board is set to consider a second pardon request for a theft case that contains allegations of connections to a violent militia with plans to ambush federal agents, and the use of worthless “credit notes” to steal $200,000 in new vehicles from Scottsdale dealerships. He was sentenced to six months in prison in connection with the crime after pleading guilty to a low-level count of theft.
A court document refers to allegations from other suspects in the theft case that stealing the vehicles marked the start of a scheme to kill FBI agents stationed at an 81-day standoff with the Montana Freemen, an anti-government group, in 1996.
Shideler, who spent a total of five years in prison, declined a request for an interview through Gray. He told the Clemency Board he wants the pardon because the felony convictions hurt his trademark business.
Gray, who served 16 years in the Legislature, is well versed in Shideler’s case. She studied the court files and she sought the opinion of a retired police detective who pored over the files, too, and found the charges to be unjustified.
She also doesn’t believe the allegations that Shideler was connected to any anti-government militia.
“This guy files his taxes, licenses his trucks, all the things militia groups try not to do,” Gray said.
She contends the jury in the assault case never got to hear about the shady character of the victim. She said Shideler was on a heightened state of alert because of previous burglaries when the man walked past a no trespassing sign and began banging on his door and looking into his windows.
Pearson said Gray brought the case to her attention when they served in the Legislature together. Pearson thought immediately after reading the case reports that there was an intentional attempt by the state to break Shideler.
He was convicted by a jury on a charge of aggravated assault and pleaded guilty a short time later to a low-level felony count of theft.
Mark Anderson, a Chandler defense attorney who was a deputy Maricopa County attorney who prosecuted Shideler, said the theft case had wild allegations from the FBI but not much else.
“I didn’t feel like I had what I needed to make the case,” Anderson said.
Gray said Boone introduced her to Shideler’s case when she met the singer while attending a conference for women lawmakers.
Boone said in a 2002 letter to the board he had known Shideler and his family since Shideler was a teenager, and he would be happy if he had married any of his daughters.
“He is, and has always been, a good son, father, husband and community-responsible person. He’s certainly not a criminal,” Boone wrote.
Boone is politically active. In 2012, he endorsed Kirk Adams, now Ducey’s chief of staff, in his unsuccessful run for Congress.
Boone also touted Shideler’s talents as an entertainer. Shideler did a comedy act featuring an assortment of vocal noises.
A brochuire from 1972 described the act as a highly animated situation comedy, “from kittens purring to jets and explosions all by his voice alone.”
Boone wrote: “I began to take Greg with me on the road, even including trips to the Far East, as my opening act and part of my own performance; this was over a period of many years.”
Shideler took his act to the “Dinah Shore Show,” the “Mike Douglas Show,” the “Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson,” and the “Merv Griffin Show.”
A poor-quality copy of a photo in the court record shows him seated beside daytime TV show host Mike Douglas. Shideler is holding a microphone to his face in a comedic contortion while another guest, who appears to be Jerry Lewis, is in a full-hearted laugh slapping his knees and lifting his feet.
Boone said through an assistant on April 5 that the singer had lost contact with Shideler over the years and he can no longer confidently vouch for his character.
Colson, a self-described hatchet man for Nixon, founded Prison Fellowship Ministries and became a leading voice for prison reform after a transformation to Christianity. He served a seven-month sentence for obstruction of justice for trying to discredit former Pentagon official Daniel Ellsberg, who was suspected of leaking classified information on the Viet Nam war to the press.
Colson admits in his letter to the board in 2003 he didn’t know all the facts of Shideler’s case.
“I am never the less quite convicted (sic) by what appears to be a gross injustice placed on Gregory and his family as a result of doing what I believe anyone of us would have done under similar circumstances – protect their family in the sanctity of their home,” Colson wrote.
Pearson believes innocent people are sacrificed by prosecutors who want to appear to be tough on crime. She said she advised Shideler to leave Arizona when he was released from prison in 2005.
“I was convinced they were going to trump up anything and pull whatever rabbit connection they could make to destroy this man’s credibility and his ability to be heard for the things that were being done to him,” Pearson said.
Shideler moved to Indiana, where he said his family was being harassed and someone spit in his face in his hometown over his record.
By 2008 the Frederic Art Museum in New York sued him in U.S. District Court and accused him of a host of claims, including fraudulently misusing a trademark, false advertising and unlawfully using the museum’s name.
Shideler had founded Frederic Remington Trust 1861 and sold products ranging from handbags, clothing, and cologne under the trademark when he got out of prison.
Frederic Remington was an artist in the 1800s whose work depicted the Old West.
The case was eventually dismissed in 2010 because the museum’s attorneys couldn’t find him to serve him. They said they thought he knew about the lawsuit and was trying to evade them.
Arizona authorities also contend he tried to run from his 1996 indictment. When he was finally arrested in 2001, he was booked under the alias of Randy Shideler, his brother’s name. Shideler told the Clemency Board he wasn’t charged immediately after his arrest, so he thought the matter was over and he moved to California.
At one point after his release from prison, a process server, led by Shideler’s father, went to a home thought to be where he was staying and gave a woman believed to be Shideler’s wife a copy of the lawsuit.
The museum attorneys and a federal judge got letters from Randy Shideler accusing the process server of stalking, trespassing and disturbing the peace.
“Police reports have been lodged and I have brought the matter of this fellow’s criminal acts committed upon me while claiming to be a federal process server, to the Indiana Federal District Court,” the letter from Shideler’s brother read.
Meanwhile, Greg Shideler had one more brush with trouble.
His father, Dean Shideler, who is now deceased, alleged that his son swindled him out of property after his release from prison and he also failed to appear at court proceedings stemming from that dispute, according to a 2010 affidavit from the father.