Horne enters not-guilty plea in alleged hit-and-run

Horne enters not-guilty plea in alleged hit-and-run

Credit: cactusbillaz via flickr

Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne speaking at Pima County Republican Club meeting Tucson in Tucson on April 19, 2011


by Catherine Holland


Posted on November 2, 2012 at 11:45 AM

Updated Wednesday, Nov 7 at 1:13 AM

PHOENIX -- Attorney General Tom Horne is due back in court later this month after entering a not-guilty plea in connection with a fender-bender that was witnessed by FBI agents.

Horne's lawyer entered the not-guilty plea in Phoenix Municipal Court Thursday. A pretrial conference was scheduled for Nov. 21.

The accident happened on March 27.

At the time, the FBI was investigating Horne for allegedly violating campaign-finance laws in 2010. Agents saw him hit a parked car as he was leaving the home of Carmen Chenal, the woman with whom Horne allegedly was having an affair. Chenal, who was first hired by Horne when he was the superintendent of public instruction, is an assistant attorney general who handles foreign extraditions.

According a report released this week, Horne was behind the wheel of a borrowed car when he allegedly backed into a parked Range Rover and then left the scene with leaving a note on the damaged vehicle.

The police report indicates that Chenal was in the car at the time.

"Though motive is not an element of the criminal statute listed above," the report said, referring to Arizona's hit-and-run law, "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."

While Horne and Chenal said they did not see any damage to the Range Rover, repairs were estimated at $1080, according to paperwork released by the police.

"If I had been aware there was damage, I would have left contact information," Horne said in a statement released Tuesday. "'Hit and Run is a misleading image …."

Arizona law (ARS 28-663) requires a driver who hits an unattended vehicle to either find the owner or leave a note containing his or her contact information, including a driver license number and a license plate number, as well as a brief description of the incident.

Horne, who was elected attorney general in 2010, now faces a class 3 misdemeanor charge, which could carry a jail sentence of up to 30 days, up to a year of probation and/or a fine of up to $500.

Horne is slated to be back in court on Nov. 21.

At this point, Horne has not commented on the allegations that he was or is having an affair with Chenal. Tuesday's statement addressed only the car accident and questioned why FBI agents were watching him in the first place.

"No one has explained why FBI Agents, investigating whether there were alleged campaign finance violations in 2010, were surveilling me in 2012," the statement reads.