State Bar declines to probe complaint

Paralegal's charge vs. prosecutor is called employment dispute
2013-03-01T00:00:00Z 2013-03-01T07:48:13Z State Bar declines to probe complaintKim Smith Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
March 01, 2013 12:00 am  • 

The State Bar of Arizona will not investigate allegations made against a state prosecutor by a paralegal fired in September.

Tari Parish filed a complaint against Kim Ortiz, claiming Ortiz fired her in September 2012 because she refused to alter a signed affidavit Ortiz filed on behalf of another prosecutor.

In a letter dated Feb. 26, State Bar counsel Carol Dahle Stiles informed Ortiz the Bar "determined no further investigation is warranted" and the file had been closed. Stiles also indicated she told Parish the issue was an employment dispute and she should consult an attorney about other possible options.

Ortiz, who is the section chief counsel for the Border Crimes Enforcement unit, said in an email to the Star that she's never had a bar complaint filed against her and she is a devoted public servant who is committed to ethical and just prosecutions.

In related matters, Rick DeBruhl, the chief communication officer for the State Bar, said his office has not received any complaints regarding the prosecutor for whom Parish wrote her affidavit.

On Jan. 31, Pima County Superior Court Judge Paul Tang announced he was going to ask the State Bar to investigate Richard Wintory for possible ethical violations.

Wintory was assigned to prosecute Darren Goldin, 52, in the March 2000 drug-related slaying of Kevin Estep.

Because Wintory was seeking the death penalty against Goldin, Goldin's defense team hired a confidential intermediary to investigate his birth family.

It was revealed at an August 2011 hearing that the confidential intermediary, Mary Fornino, was upset with the defense team and felt she was being pressured to violate ethical rules.

At the same hearing, Wintory said Fornino had called him with her concerns.

Within weeks, Goldin's defense attorneys filed a motion asking for Wintory and the entire AG's Office to be removed from the case.

As part of the investigations launched by the AG's office and Goldin's lawyers, Wintory signed an affidavit asserting he and Fornino spoke twice on the phone - when he returned her call about the defense team and when she called Wintory to complain she hadn't been told a hearing had been postponed.

But according to court documents, phone records show the pair spoke at least seven times.

Although Ortiz argued in court documents there was no need to remove the AG's Office from the case, she did tell the judge that Wintory failed to disclose some of the conversations with Fornino.

She also said Wintory did not immediately tell her that Parish was present for the first phone conversation and could corroborate what was said.

Parish corroborated Wintory's account of that conversation in a signed affidavit. It is that affidavit that Parish claims Ortiz wanted her to amend.

Ortiz ultimately removed Wintory from the case, and he left the office some months later. He is now the chief criminal deputy in Pinal County.

Goldin was allowed to plead guilty to second-degree murder, and he was sentenced to 11 years in prison on Jan. 31.

In announcing his intention to have Wintory investigated, Tang referred to the dispute over Fornino and said he was troubled because the victim's family may never know if the prosecution of the case was "compromised" by Wintory, allowing Goldin to escape the death penalty.

Later that day, Ortiz said that "as the Tucson Criminal Section Chief and Mr. Wintory's supervisor at the time, it was my duty to report his alleged misconduct to the court and the defense attorneys. The bench, opposing counsel, and the public can count on me as a career prosecutor, and the attorneys who work under my supervision, to tell the truth, no matter what."

Wintory expressed dismay that Tang was forwarding the case to the State Bar without first giving him an opportunity to defend himself.

Still, Wintory said he "welcomes the Bar's review" of his actions.

He continues to insist that he and Fornino did not discuss details of the case and that nothing unethical occurred. The first time they talked, he said he advised her to hire an attorney to help in her battle with the defense attorneys. Subsequent conversations focused on the "mechanics" of doing that and whether the AG's Office could help, since she was a state employee.

On StarNet: Follow courthouse news at Kim Smith's blog at azstarnet.com/courthouse

Contact reporter Kim Smith at 573-4241 or kimsmith@azstarnet.com . On Twitter: @KimSmithStar

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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