March 15, 1988
By LINDA DEUTSCH
PHOENIX, Ariz. (AP) — A woman who claims she was a lover of Gov. Evan Mecham’s chief accuser testified at Mecham’s impeachment trial Tuesday about the relationship despite the presiding officer’s order to keep sex out of the trial.
Defense witness Christina Johnston told senators she was “intimate” with the state’s top lawman, Department of Public Safety Director Ralph Milstead.
Milstead has testified that Mecham ordered him not to cooperate with an investigation of an alleged death threat by a state official against a prospective grand jury witness. Milstead has said he did cooperate.
The alleged obstruction of the death-threat probe is one of three broad charges against Mecham at his impeachment trial. He also is accused of concealing a $350,000 campaign loan and of misusing $80,000 from a state fund by loaning it to his auto dealership.
Mecham, 63, a first-term Republican and the first U.S. governor to face an impeachment trial in six decades, has not attended since the proceedings began Feb. 29.
The defense has claimed it can raise Milstead’s sexual activities to attack his crediblity and character, but Arizona Supreme Court Chief Justice Frank X. Gordon Jr. earlier ruled the issue irrelevant.
Prosecuting attorney Paul Eckstein repeatedly objected Tuesday that Mrs. Johnston’s testimony, elicited by Mecham lawyer Fred Craft, violated Gordon’s order, but she managed some comment on their relationship.
Mrs. Johnston testified she had known Milstead since 1979 and had no professional relationship with him.
“Have you had a personal relationship with him?” asked Craft.
“Intimate and personal,” she answered in a forceful voice before a prosecutor could object.
Milstead has said he knew her as a DPS informant, but he was not asked about a sexual relationship.
Mrs. Johnston and her husband, Mark, a former DPS officer, have said publicly they are “out to get” Milstead.
Craft angrily declared Tuesday he was being prevented from “getting at the truth” as he asked Mrs. Johnston personal questions, including why she had been married six times. She said she was not married when she met Ralph Milstead.
“Was he married?” Craft asked.
“He told me he wasn’t,” she said with a smile as the prosecution objected.
The judge began sustaining a blizzard of prosecution objections, and Craft finally sputtered: “Maybe I just don’t understand the rules.”
“That may be a good statement,” said Gordon.
Mrs. Johnston was permitted to denounce Milstead as a liar.
“He’s a liar. He’s corrupt. He’s an egomaniac and he’s power-hungry,” Mrs. Johnston declared as she was asked by Mecham’s lawyer to evaluate Milstead’s truthfulness. “I’m sorry, but that’s the truth,” she added softly.
Milstead has said that Mark Johnston quit the force under strange circumstances, disappearing for about a week while on duty. He said that Mrs. Johnston recently had sought her husband’s reinstatement with the DPS but that he had failed a psychological test.
House prosecutor William French accused Craft of creating a smokescreen with claims of witness-tampering to disguise that “apparently there is no defense.”
Among Craft’s allegations was the arrest of defense witness Terri Fields on Friday, the day after she testified, on an outstanding warrant charging that she failed to attend court-ordered Alcoholics Anonymous meetings following a driving-while-intoxicated conviction. She was released on $1,000 bond. The DPS has denied the arrest was an attempt to intimidate impeachment trial witnesses.
French, in response to Craft’s claim that DPS officers were intimidating witnesses, submitted an explosive affidavit from a defense witness.
Antonio Corio claimed that Craft spewed profanity at him, made bizarre claims about Milstead’s sex life and threatened to “tear up” the witness if he didn’t give the right answers.
Craft later called those allegations “scurrilous in the extreme. … It’s a lie.”
Milstead is in Israel for an anti-terrorism seminar, but DPS spokesman Sgt. Allan Schmidt called the alleged statements by Craft “disgusting.” Asked for further comment, he said, “You can’t print it.”
The Senate did not immediately rule on a mistrial motion by Craft based on the tampering allegations, and continued the proceedings.
The Senate also made no decision Tuesday on a proposal to extend the length of the trial day by two hours to speed up the proceedings. Craft said it would be a hardship for defense attorneys and the judge indicated he felt the current schedule already is longer and more arduous than a normal trial schedule.
Senate Republican Majority Leader Robert Usdane said the matter would be reconsidered later in the week.
It would take a two-thirds vote of the Senate to convict Mecham. The senators could vote again and bar the governor from holding state office again. Mecham also faces an April 21 criminal trial on the charge that he concealed the $350,000 loan, and a recall election is scheduled May 17.