The Olivia Cortes Case

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Olivia Cortes has withdrawn her candidacy in the Senator Russell Pearce recall election, but her name remains on the ballot. Attorney Tom Ryan, who filed a lawsuit on behalf of a Mesa citizen to try to keep Cortes off the ballot, talks about the case.

Ted Simons: Good evening, and welcome to "Horizon," I'm Ted Simons. Olivia Cortes dropped out of the Russell Pearce recall election last week. She did so amid allegations that she was a sham candidate brought into the race to siphon votes away from Pearce challenger Jerry Lewis. Joining me to talk about the is Tom Ryan, who filed a lawsuit to disqualify Cortes from the election. Who did you represent?

Tom Ryan: A voter from LD18 named Mary Lou.

Ted Simons: Did you find her or did she find you?

Tom Ryan: I knew Mary Lou previously. She was a founder of the Mesa Republican Club. I was a Republican and I recently became an independent. At any rate, I had a discussion with her. She wanted to challenge the Olivia Cortes campaign and I told her I would represent her.

Ted Simons: Why would she want to challenge the campaign?

Tom Ryan: There was strong evidence there was fraud. The Pearce campaign had been having petition gatherers go out and get signatures in LD18.

Ted Simons: I want to get to more on those in a second. The but the initial ruling on this case, what were your thoughts on that?

Tom Ryan: I thought Ed Burke was brilliant in what he did. You don't ininquire into the motives of why someone would run. He found the people who put her on the ballot were not honest in what they had done.

Ted Simons: He said she should stay on the ballot?

Tom Ryan: Correct. He gave us an opportunity to do further investigation.

Ted Simons: When did you learn -- I think that opportunity was a major factor in this whole situation. When did you learn of the additional testimony that you were prepared to present last week, last Friday?

Tom Ryan: The Thursday before there had been a rather sizeable 4 evidentiary hearing in which the local media was present. Afterwards there was a tremendous amount of publicity about the evidence that had come out from that. Over that weekend other people came forward and identified additional acts. We had not had the information before the Thursday hearing.

Ted Simons: Were you surprised the judge allowed that additional testimony?

Tom Ryan: No, he had told us, look, if you show us that it was something other than just Olivia Cortes or that she was not being honest in her testimony, we will allow the additional hearing.

Ted Simons: Okay. What did you find? Give us some examples. Were there any bombshells ready to be dropped here? What went off?

Tom Ryan: Well, I think so. The testimony that would have come out would have been witnesses who saw Judge Lester Pearce driving his daughter around Mesa with Russell Pearce campaign signs in the back of his car, and his daughter was getting out and getting Olivia Cortes signatures on the petitions. That's totally inappropriate. He was literally working for two campaigns and I believe that's a violation of the judicial code of conduct. You're not supposed to be doing that.

Ted Simons: What about a criminal offense?

Tom Ryan: If you are stuffing a petition box, just like stuffing the voting box, that is a violation. 5 It's a classify V felony, a very serious allegation. This is some of the evidence we intend to turn over to the attorney general's office, the secretary of state's office and the count attorney's office.

Ted Simons: Have any of those offices expressed interest in pursuing what you have turned over and what you have learned so far?

Tom Ryan: The secretary of state is already investigating. During the testimony in the one hearing, Olivia Cortes and her campaign manager Greg Western testified they didn't know who put up the signs, who paid for the signs; they didn't know who paid for the petition pros who went out and got the signatures on her petitions. The secretary of state said wait a minute, so now they are investigating that.

Ted Simons: That aspect or more?

Tom Ryan: Well, we intend to turn over more evidence. I know it's a bit frustrating, but we don't want to just do a records dump on these agencies. We need to put the evidence in a useable fashion and put them in statements and so forth, so the attorney general, the county attorney and the secretary of state can have it in a useable form.

Ted Simons: So you're saying the testimony would have implicated the Pearce campaign?

Tom Ryan: Yes. Think about it for a moment. I'll give you this. It's highly improbable that a woman, Olivia Cortes, who's never run a campaign in her life, hires Greg western. In three days' time they get a thousand signatures, signs magically appear all over in the tricolors of the Mexican flag all over LD18. They don't know where the money's coming from. That's an incredible feat. Only the campaign of the most powerful man in Arizona would have been able to achieve it, had he done it.

Ted Simons: Did the evidence suggest he was implicated personally?

Tom Ryan: The evidence would have shown that Greg western and Russell Pearce were in a room in LD18, and someone thought they were going to a political party meeting, only to be pushed out because they were making this plan. I want to get that evidence, there's more, to the county attorney general's office so that they can evaluate it.

Ted Simons: Who is Constantine Corrard?

Tom Ryan: He's a political consultant, calls himself a vendor, he runs two companies in town. He has an incredible success rate supposedly, for the candidates that he runs. This is not the first time I've run into him.

Ted Simons: He was implicated in this additional testimony?

Tom Ryan: Yes. I believe that the evidence would show that the green and white and red signs with the Si Se Puede phrase came from Mr. corrard.

Ted Simons: What's your history with him?

Tom Ryan: The first time was 2004, he ran an early vote by mail center for the Republican Party. Unfortunately for him, the Republican Party had no idea he was doing that. The Maricopa County Republican Party and Tom Liddy asked me to help. Again, I did it for free. 7 We were in front of Judge Mark Armstrong and got an injunction shutting the process down and compelling him to turn in the early forms.

Ted Simons: We're talking history there. Do you have a history with Jerry Lewis?

Tom Ryan: No. I have never met Jerry Lewis. I look forward to the day that I could. It's not about Jerry Lewis or Russell Pearce, it's about maintaining the purity of the electoral process. That's what our constitution guaranteed.

Ted Simons: That's what they want to know, are you involved with the Lewis campaign.

Tom Ryan: I've not walked for him, donated money or spoken to him. I did not in any way help out the Lewis campaign.

Ted Simons: What about Russell Pearce? Any history there?

Tom Ryan: No, I've never come across Russell Pearce.

Ted Simons: Pro bono, why?

Tom Ryan: It's important to maintain the purity of the electoral process. I wanted to make sure we have a clean shot at whoever we elect to the office. I'm an officer of the court. Just like a judge or a member of the state legislature, I take an oath to preserve the Constitution and I take it seriously. This is an area I know, an area I love. When I see something going wrong like that, I will not hesitate to step in as I did in this case.

Ted Simons: Was there a deal? Seems like we're getting conflicting reports from you and your co counsel. Was there a deal? Cortes quits, you pull the lawsuit?

Tom Ryan: No. Here's what happened. Two nights before the first hearing I had said if he would withdraw, if Olivia would withdraw, then there would be no attorney's fees or costs assessed against his client. He or his client could withdraw at any time, and the moment she withdrew that ended everything. I told him we would not assess the fees and costs. He called me on the Thursday morning. He asked if the offer was still there for him to do. I told him to do it by noon. The reason was I wanted Olivia withdrawn from that race.

Ted Simons: As far as the overall information, is there -- are there things you know you have turned over that implicate other people or further implicate the people we've talked about tonight?

Tom Ryan: There are things I know that I have not yet turned over. We are putting them in an organized and useable format. It's a lot of material. I don't want to just do a records dump on somebody. I've had that done to me, and that's not fun. So there will be an easy to follow format for the county attorney, the attorney general, the secretary of state.

Ted Simons: Where do we go from here? Where does this case go from here, this whole affair?

Tom Ryan: I hope the media continues its attention and continues to ask the tough questions. 9 I'm frustrated. I wanted to go to that hearing and put the evidence out there. I believe that had we been able to continue on, we would have gotten higher up the food chain than we were allowed to do. Once they withdrew, I lost my subpoena powers and my power to depose people and get more information. Where it goes from here, I hope the media keeps the attention on it and the investigative and prosecutorial authorities take what we've got and follow through on it.

Ted Simons: Tom, good to have you. Thanks for joining us, we appreciate it.

Tom Ryan: Thank you.

Tom Ryan:Attorney

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