A Notice of Claim has been filed against the Pima County Attorney’s Office, Pima County Attorney Barbara LaWall, and Deputy County Attorney Andrew Flagg by the head of the Counter-racketeering Group, Aaron Ludwig. In his Notice of Claim, Ludwig alleges that LaWall and Flagg exerted “pressure on KGUN to kill news coverage of the RICO funds scandal.”
A Notice of Claim must be filed before a lawsuit against a government official or entity may proceed. The law requires a claim to “contain facts sufficient to permit the public entity, public school or public employee to understand the basis on which liability is claimed. The claim shall also contain a specific amount for which the claim can be settled and the facts supporting that amount.”
Ludwig is seeking $1,990,000.00 in damages.
Ludwig’s claims are backed by email messages between himself and other as well as emails between Flagg and Leon Clark, Vice President and General Manager of KGUN.
Pima County has been embroiled in controversies surrounding RICO (Racketeer Influenced Corrupt Organizations) funds resulting in an FBI investigation. The abuse has been blatant, that in February last year, Arizona Rep. Bob Thorpe’s House Federalism and Public Policy Committee heard testimony from Lieutenant Joe Cameron of the Pima County Sheriff’s Office (PCSO) regarding the issue. Following that testimony, Thorpe, who has worked to reform Arizona’s asset forfeiture laws over the years, advised Pima County supervisors in an email that he was concerned about “past and current practices within the office of County Attorney Barbara LaWall and the Pima County Sheriff’s Department.” Thorpe questioned LaWall’s use of RICO funds for donations to organizations like the Perimeter Bicycling Association of America.
RICO funds are intended to be used for crime fighting activity, but among LaWall’s past proposed RICO funded projects were free infant car seats, and pajamas.
Ludwig’s Notice of Claim reads in part:
Following a story by investigative reporter Valerie Cavazos broadcast on television by KGUN-9 News on or around November 7, 2017, Pima County/Pima County Attorney’s Office, Barbara LaWall, and Andrew L. Flagg (collectively, “the Defamers”) made, said, and/or wrote defamatory statements of fact (“the Statements”) about Aaron S. Ludwig. The Defamers were exerting pressure on KGUN to kill news coverage of the RICO funds scandal involving the Defamers and, with the intent to add justification for KGUN to bench Ms. Cavazos, the Defamers were doing a smear job on Mr. Ludwig, a RICO funds expert featured in the story who criticized the Defamers’ RICO funds program. Having exercised his First Amendment right as a United States citizen to speak out about government abuse, the Defamers retaliated against Mr. Ludwig in violation of 42 U.S.C. §1983. On or around December 11, 2017, but less than 180 days before the filing/serving of this Notice of Claim, Mr. Ludwig realized that he had been damaged by the Statements and he discovered that the Defamers are the cause, source, and instrumentality of the damage.
The Statements include, but are not limited to, 1) emails on or around November 8, 2017 from the Defamers to Leon Clark, Vice President and General Manager of KGUN, the television station owned by the E.W. Scripps Company; 2) statements spoken by the Defamers to Mr. Clark on or around November 8, 2017 during the hand-delivery of the letter dated November 9, 2017 from the Defamers to Mr. Clark marked “Via Hand-Delivery” (“the Letter”) 3) the Letter, received by Mr. Ludwig on or around December 11, 2017 pursuant to a public records request; 4) statements of the Defamers repeated by Mr. Clark to employees of KGUN, employees of the E.W. Scripps Company, and others, which repetition was reasonably to be expected by the Defamers; 5) statements of the Defamers repeated by employees of KGUN, employees of the E.W. Scripps Company, and others to others, which repetition was reasonably to be expected by the Defamers; 6) emails on or around December 14, 2017 from the Defamers to the Arizona Daily Independent (ADI), a member of the Arizona Newspapers Association; and, 7) comments posted on or around December 21, 2017 by the Defamers on ArizonaDailyindependent.com, the website of ADI.
Mr. Ludwig is a longtime prosecutor and, as the former chief of the racketeering and asset forfeiture section of the Arizona Attorney General’s Office (AGO), he was responsible for the prosecution of all asset forfeiture cases and he directed the entire, statewide asset forfeiture program responsible for generating more than $12 million of RICO funds annually and distributing them to law enforcement agencies and victims. He was responsible for advising and training all county attorneys and law enforcement agency command staff regarding RICO funds and he approved or rejected their RICO fund spending requests.
Mr. Ludwig has developed expertise in counterracketeering, asset forfeiture, and RICO funds and it is his goal to help Arizona law enforcement compensate victims at unprecedented levels, achieve more law enforcement goals, and convert guilty property into millions of dollars for law enforcement agency budgets through counterracketeering and asset forfeiture. Mr. Ludwig is in the business of providing consulting on these matters to law enforcement agencies and prosecutorial offices and, like he did for Ms. Cavazos as referenced above, he has given his expert opinion on RICO funds to chiefs of police, members of Congress and the Arizona Legislature, Arizona Corporation Commissioners, advisors to the Governor of Arizona, and many others.
When Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich took office in January 2015, Mr. Ludwig spoke with and got enthusiastic response from Brnovich’s advisors and executive staff about Mr. Ludwig continuing with the very successful strategies that, as the chief of the racketeering and asset forfeiture section, Mr. Ludwig previously implemented. Unfortunately, Brnovich hired Don Conrad to be interim chief of the Criminal Division and Conrad didn’t like Mr. Ludwig’s plans to 1) ensure that the AGO spend its RICO funds legally and 2) compensate victims through counterracketeering and asset forfeiture. Conrad implemented a policy of NOT pursuing asset forfeiture cases for victim compensation, so all RICO funds go to law enforcement and none of them go to victims, and he ordered Mr. Ludwig to stop meddling with the RICO funds. (See the attached email from Conrad to Mr. Ludwig about meddling with the RICO funds). Two days later, Mr. Ludwig was forced to resign.
As retribution for Mr. Ludwig’s questioning the legality of certain expenditures of RICO funds by the AGO, and in an attempt to teach Mr. Ludwig a lesson and make sure that he would never again interfere with Conrad’s AGO RICO funds, Conrad trumped up a criminal charge against Mr. Ludwig and maliciously prosecuted him for it. Conrad personally referred the case to the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office (MCAO) knowing that, because referrals between the AGO and MCAO are trusted to be fully-investigated cases based on probable cause that have a reasonable likelihood of conviction upon prosecution, the case would not be turned-down or returned to the AGO for further investigation, but instead would be automatically prosecuted by the MCAO without question, regardless of the fact that the police report on which it was based is false and the case (Conrad has admitted in a sworn deposition) was NOT based on probable cause. Just weeks after Conrad initiated the malicious prosecution, Mr. Ludwig demonstrated the wrongfulness of the charge to MCAO and it dismissed the case.
The case upon which Conrad based his malicious prosecution of Mr. Ludwig started on May I, 2015 when Mr. Ludwig went with his wife to recover her car that was illegally towed by a towing company known by police to be a racketeering enterprise that traffics in stolen vehicles, burglarizes vehicles, and commits theft, extortion, and other racketeering offenses. Mr. Ludwig informed the convicted criminal owner of the company that the tow was illegal (a class-I misdemeanor) and he made sure the company released the car as required by law, didn’t hold the car hostage, and commit more extortion. Mr. Ludwig left his business card with the convicted criminal owner so he could receive and deal with the illegal bill for the tow (a separate, additional class-I misdemeanor), but he accidentally left an old card from his time at the AGO.
The convicted criminal owner called the AGO and gave a false police report about harassment by Mr. Ludwig. The AGO special agent who took the complaint referred the convicted criminal owner to the Glendale Police Department for any alleged harassment and set about closing the matter, but Conrad and Chief Special Agent Andy Rubalcava wanted to punish Mr. Ludwig for his previous interference with their RICO slush fund that forced Mr. Ludwig’s resignation from the AGO just a couple of months earlier.
Conrad and Rubalcava ignored the harassment complaint and decided to do a quick and dirty report about Mr. Ludwig committing felony impersonation, in violation of the unconstitutional statute intended to make it a crime to dress up as a utility company employee to gain access to people’s homes to later burglarize them. This statute is not only unconstitutional because it criminalizes harmless, free speech, it is also entirely inapplicable to this event because 1) the property is Mr. Ludwig’s/his wife’s car, not a home; 2) the company was required by law to return the car regardless of payment; and, 3) the company had already committed two class-1 misdemeanors and likely would have committed more crimes.
Conrad and Rubalcava agreed that incompetent Special Agent Georgia Davies should be assigned to the matter, even though she was recently very close to being fired for doing very poor investigations and she has been the subject of internal affairs matters involving her sexual intercourse on the job in a police station and in a police cruiser. Conrad and Rubalcava also agreed to make a false claim of conflict-of-interest to quickly refer and send the case off to MCAO for prosecution.
Conrad personally and repeatedly checked to make sure that Davies only took just a couple of days (instead of the months that AGO cases normally take) to put together a report of just some of the facts. Davies put false information in the police report; ignored the false information previously provided by the convicted criminal owner; interviewed but ignored the new, false information provided by the convicted criminal owner; ignored the company’s multiple crimes committed in this case; did not interview Mr. Ludwig; did not interview Mr. Ludwig’s wife who was a witness to everything that occurred; did not interview Glendale Police then-Officer now-Detective Nick Magley who, on the street outside of the company just before Mr. Ludwig and his wife went inside, advised Mr. Ludwig about the convicted criminal owner and her racketeering enterprise; and, did not review the surveillance camera footage evidencing both the business card accident and the fact that, at no time did Mr. Ludwig ever present to anyone his softball-sized Super Bowl Commemorative Clip that was clipped to the outside of his business card holder. Most importantly, Davies put false information in the “Statement of Probable Cause” section of the Release Questionnaire (Form IV) that she submitted to MCAO to ensure that Mr. Ludwig would be wrongfully charged and prosecuted.
Mr. Ludwig received by mail a Direct Complaint from MCAO; he was not indicted and MCAO dismissed the case so fast that Mr. Ludwig was never booked and neither he nor his lawyer ever had to appear in court. After MCAO dismissed the case, Mr. Ludwig tried to stipulate with MCAO for the court to enter an order clearing and sealing the records of this matter to prevent harm to Mr. Ludwig’s reputation. MCAO refused to stipulate and Mr. Ludwig was forced to petition the court pursuant to the unconstitutional statute that required Mr. Ludwig to start off guilty (even though the case and charge were already dropped and Mr. Ludwig was/is innocent because there was no conviction), then prove his innocence at a full-blown “clearance” trial.
At the trial, Mr. Ludwig was required to prove his innocence and the wrongfulness of the charge, NOT prove the absence of probable cause. This trial was a civil proceeding, not a criminal grand jury proceeding or a criminal “preliminary hearing” at which the existence of probable cause is determined. Pursuant to the Arizona Constitution, a determination of probable cause is made by either a grand jury returning a “true bill” indictment or a court finding of probable cause after a preliminary hearing. Again, this civil, clearance trial was neither a criminal grand jury proceeding nor a criminal preliminary hearing. However, contrary to the Arizona Constitution, the court found probable cause and, based on that finding, denied Mr. Ludwig’s clearance petition. Unfortunately, this denial occurred nearly a year before Mr. Ludwig learned during sworn deposition testimony by Conrad and Rubalcava that they did not believe that there was probable cause for the charge. Mr. Ludwig’s appeal to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals regarding the unconstitutional statutes and actions in this case is pending.
As described above, Mr. Ludwig appeared on the television broadcast of the story by Ms. Cavazos about the RICO funds scandal involving the Defamers and he criticized the Defamers’ RICO funds program. In response, the Defamers made, said, and/or wrote the Statements that impute to Mr. Ludwig the criminal charge trumped-up by Conrad. Like Conrad before them, the Defamers made, said, and/or wrote the Statements as retribution for Mr. Ludwig’s questioning the legality of certain expenditures of RICO funds by the Defamers and the Statements are the attempt by the Defamers to teach Mr. Ludwig a lesson and make sure that he would never again interfere with the Defamers’ RICO funds.
The stories and comments published on ArizonaDailyindependent.com, the website of ADI, are viewed daily by thousands of people across Arizona and millions of people across the United States and abroad. Many of the stories published by ADI are “picked up” or re-published by other news outlets in Arizona and throughout the United States. Thus, the comments posted on or around December 21, 2017 by the Defamers on ArizonaDailyindependent.com were viewed by thousands of people across Arizona and millions of people across the United States and abroad.
The Statements were false; the Defamers made, said, and/or wrote the Statements to a third person; and, the Statements caused Mr. Ludwig to be damaged. In addition, at the time the Statements were made, said, and/or written, the Defamers knew that the Statements were false or the Defamers acted in reckless disregard of whether the Statements were true or false.
The Statements are defamatory because they tend to bring Mr. Ludwig into disrepute, contempt, or ridicule and/or they tend to impeach Mr. Ludwig’s honesty, integrity, virtue, or reputation. The defamatory nature of the Statements is easily determined by the natural and probable effect that a reading of the entire statement in context would have on the mind of the average reader or hearer. The Defamers are liable not only for the Statements that they directly made, said, and/or wrote, but also for what they implied by the Statements. Also, the Defamers are liable for the repetition of the Statements by third persons because the repetition was reasonably to be expected.
The Defamers acted with reckless disregard of the truth or falsity of the Statements because they had serious doubts as to whether the Statements were true or false and because they consciously disregarded whether the Statements were true or false.
Because the Statements impute to Mr. Ludwig 1) a criminal offense punishable by imprisonment or regarded by public opinion as involving moral turpitude and 2) unfitness for the proper conduct of his lawful business, trade, or profession, damages are presumed and Mr. Ludwig is not required to prove any damages. Regardless, the Statements caused significant damage to Mr. Ludwig that he can and will prove and that would not have happened without the Statements.
The Statements caused Mr. Ludwig 1) to suffer impairment of his reputation and standing in the community and it is reasonably likely that Mr. Ludwig will suffer such impairment in the future; 2) to experience emotional distress, humiliation, inconvenience, and anxiety and it is reasonably probable that Mr. Ludwig will experience such emotional distress, humiliation, inconvenience, and anxiety in the future; and, 3) to experience monetary loss and it is reasonably probable that Mr. Ludwig will experience such monetary loss in the future.