Arizona Attorney General Says He Was Defamed

     PHOENIX (CN) – Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne claims in court that a conservative group defamed him on TV, Facebook, and a website, falsely claiming that the FBI was investigating him.
     Horne and his wife sued the Arizona Public Integrity Alliance and three of its directors, in Maricopa County Court. Horne – suing as an individual, not in his official capacity – claims the defendants published the defamatory ads since Nov. 7.
     The Arizona Public Integrity Alliance Management Co. also is a defendant. Horne claims the Arizona Public Integrity Alliance is registered as a nonprofit, “in good standing,” but the Management Co. is “not in good standing” for failing to file an annual report.
     Horne says in the lawsuit that the FBI’s investigation of him ended in September 2012 when it agency decided there were no criminal charges to pursue against Horne, and passed the case along to Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery, who also decided not to criminally prosecute.
     The FBI investigated Horne’s alleged involvement with an independent expenditure committee that spent more than $500,000 on attack ads against Horne’s 2010 opponent, Democrat Felecia Rotellini.
     Prosecutor Montgomery did slap Horne and an aide, Kathleen Winn, with a civil penalty in October 2012 for Horne’s receipt of the campaign contributions, money raised and handled by Winn through the Business Leaders of Arizona.
     In the new lawsuit, the Hornes claim that when Arizona Public Integrity Alliance published its ads, it “knew that any FBI investigation (whatever its merit was, if any) had ended more than a year earlier with no criminal conduct alleged.” (Parentheses in complaint.)
     The Hornes claim the defendants made the statements to “intentionally to deceive the public as part of a strategy to illegitimately undermine Mr. Horne’s public standing before the 2014 election where Mr. Horne will be campaigning to be re-elected as the Arizona attorney general.”
     Horne claims the defendants changed the advertisement on their website and TV after he notified them of the false statements, but did not change the ad on Arizona Public Integrity Alliance’s Facebook page.
     Also named as defendants are the group’s directors Steve Cox, Pace Ellsworth and Trevor Denton.
     The Hornes seek declaratory judgment that the statement in the ads is false, and compensatory and punitive damages for defamation.
     They are represented by Sandra Slaton and Joel Sannes of Slaton and Sannes in Scottsdale.

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