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$10 million legal claim accuses Arizona AG Tom Horne of cover-up

A legal claim filed by a longtime criminal investigator said that Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne engaged in a cover-up when he was accused he participated in illegal campaign activities.

The claim was filed Thursday by Margaret “Meg” Hinchey and alleges that Horne — along with his staff — destroyed important materials, overlooked illegal behavior by Horne and other staffers and retaliated against her when she brought information to the FBI.

Hinchley was asked by Horne in 2011 to conduct a confidential internal investigation into Horne’s office.

The claim said that Horne and Arizona Deputy Attorney General Eric Bistrow hired outside counsel in an attempt to discredit Hinchley and protect Horne and other staffers.

Horne also made it clear that he would retaliate against Democratic employees, or those who supported a rival running against him for office. Some of those employees were fired, according to the claim.

Hinchley felt so pressured that she changed her voter registration party from Democrat to Independent.

As Hinchley continued her investigation, she was told by other employees, including Public Information Officer Amy Rezzonico, that Horne had spent campaign money on private expenditures. When Hinchley asked Maricopa County Elections Director Karen Osborne who would investigate the Attorney General’s Office, she responded that it would either be the county attorney or FBI.

At the conclusion of her investigation, Hinchley turned over her findings to the FBI, including the disclosures of two witnesses within Horne’s office.

According to the claim, Horne then asked quietly around the office if they could delete Hinchley’s findings by wiping her computer or labeling the report as a memo or draft to prevent them from becoming public record. He also allegedly inquired into Hinchley’s political affiliations and actions.

Hinchley’s lawyer wrote Horne a cease and desist letter to deter him from smearing Hinchley’s name. Horne responded with a letter that said there was no smear campaign nor investigation into Hinchley.

Hinchley’s findings led James Keppel, the head of the criminal division of the Arizona Attorney General’s Office, to resign after meeting with Horne and Bistrow over Hinchley’s findings and her bringing them to the FBI.

The claim also said that Hinchley was discriminated against by Horne when cases normally given to her were given to others and that it became “dangerous” to befriend her.

Horne has denied the allegations that he participated in illegal campaign activities and also said Hinchley’s claims are false, because her investigation was allowed to proceed and is still on-going.

In a statement, Horne said that no person was fired when he took office, including Democrats or supporters of a rival campaign.

The statement also said that the publication of the legal claim before it was submitted to Horne’s office demonstrated an attempt at negative publicity, rather than a report.

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Read the full claim from Hinchley’s lawyer