PHOENIX - Attorney General Tom Horne paid a $300 fine Wednesday - $582 with surcharges - to settle a criminal misdemeanor charge he left the scene of an accident without leaving a note.
Horne, in a prepared statement, did not say whether he knew the vehicle he was driving last March 27 had struck another car. The incident was witnessed by FBI agents who were tailing him as part of an investigation into the finances of his successful 2010 race.
But in his statement, Horne sought to minimize the entire incident, saying it "at most left a paint scratch."
"The vehicle's owner stated the car already had a dent that the federal agents who noted the incident wrongly assumed I caused," Horne said. "Had I known there were scratches, I would have left my name and contact information so that I could have taken care of this personally."
He did not return repeated calls. But documents from Phoenix Municipal Court confirm he agreed to plead "no contest" to the charge, which could have resulted in a $500 fine and 30 days in jail.
The deal also requires him to reimburse the owner of the vehicle he hit for any damages.
In his statement, Horne did not address assertions by FBI agent Brian Grehoski that he did not stop and leave information because he was trying to conceal an extramarital affair he was having with the passenger in the vehicle, one of his employees. But in October, when the FBI report was made public, called those allegations "completely baseless."
"If I thought there was damage, why wouldn't I have left a note?" Horne said at the time. "It's no big deal for me to pay somebody $1,000," which according to police was the repair estimate on the other vehicle.
Payment of the fine ends this part of Horne's legal problems stemming at least indirectly from the FBI investigation into his 2010 campaign.
He had pleaded not guilty, with attorney Michael Kimerer arguing in court papers he was being singled out for prosecution. Horne had been scheduled to go to trial later this month.
By paying the fine, Horne loses any chance to use the case to try to get more information from the FBI agents - the only witnesses to the accident - about why they were tailing him in the first place.
Horne still faces allegations by Secretary of State Ken Bennett he violated election finance laws by illegally coordinating his election bid with what was supposed to be an independent campaign committee. While a judge last week tossed the civil complaint on procedural grounds, the charge remains.
The FBI report says Horne left the Attorney General's Office that day in his own gold Jaguar and then met up in a parking garage with Carmen Chenal, who had left the office five minutes earlier in a borrowed vehicle. That car emerged several minutes later with Horne now wearing a baseball cap.
From there, they went to the residential parking section of another garage.
When the gate to the residents' parking section did not open, the FBI report says, "Horne attempted to back up to exit the parking structure and hit the front passenger side of a white Range Rover with the rear passenger side of the Passat."
According to the FBI, Horne then drove to the visitors' parking area on the lower level where the two "walked to the resident entrance gate, entered a code and entered the resident area of the building."