TUCSON (CN) - A deputy sheriff claims in court that the former general counsel for Arizona's police union defamed him by spreading false rumors that he is a "pedophile and child molester."
Joe Escorza sued Michael Storie and Storie's law office, in Pima County Court.
Escorza, a 20-year veteran of La Paz County Sheriff's Office and president of his local chapter of the Arizona Conference of Police and Sheriffs (AZCOPS), accuses the Tucson-based attorney of defamation and breach of fiduciary duty.
Storie was as general counsel for AZCOPs from November 2010 to March 2012, when he was fired, Escorza says in the complaint.
During that time, Storie administered the union's legal plan and "played a major role in determining whether a particular matter would be covered by the legal plan and to which outside counsel a particular matter would be assigned," according to the complaint.
Escorza says he contacted Storie in April 2011, hoping the union would fund a lawsuit on his behalf against La Paz County. He claims that Storie dragged his feet for months on the case, failing several times to present the request to the union's finance committee after promising to do so, and taking a month-long vacation.
Then, Escorza claims, Storie emailed him, demanding to know the details of an investigation into claims that Escorza had trespassed into his girlfriend's home. That investigation, which cleared his, was handled by the Pinal County Sheriff's Office, Escorza says.
Escorza says he attended an August 2011 AZCOPS general membership meeting to request funding for his lawsuit himself, but Storie blocked his efforts.
"Storie told the finance committee that there were serious allegations against Escorza; that Escorza was a child molester and pedophile," according to the complaint. "Storie's statements were false."
"In fact, there were no such allegations against Escorza. Escorza was seeking financial support for a suit against his employer."
As legal plan administrator, "Storie told Escorza that his case would only be funded if Storie's firm handled the case or if Storie supervised his friend, Jimmy Cool, as he handled the case," the complaint states.
Escorza claims that Storie also tried to interfere with the investigation of the trespassing claim.
He claims that Storie called Sgt. David Hausman, president of Pinal County's union affiliate, and told him that Escorza was a "pedophile and child molester," had "burglarized a home" and had "inappropriate conduct with a minor in 2004." Storie claimed that the "minor who was now an adult was terrified of Escorza" and wanted to talk to the police, according to the complaint.
Escorza claims that Hausman forwarded the allegations to Pinal County Det. Joey Cruz, who was conducting the investigation.
"Days earlier, Cruz had interviewed the very witness that Hausman was now urging Cruz to interview," the complaint states. "The witness had completely exonerated Escorza. The witness was Escorza's girlfriend!"
Cruz exonerated Escorza in his report, and AZCOPS fired Storie in 2012, according to the complaint.
"After Storie's dismissal Escorza learned that Storie had been repeatedly telling the AZCOPS board that Escorza was a child molester and a pedophile beginning at the Aug. 20, 2011 meeting," Escorza claims.He demands punitive damages.
He is represented by Martin Bihn, with Bihn & McDaniel, of Phoenix.
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