Calling Sen. John Huppenthal’s actions “brash and impetuous,” Pro Tem Judge Daniel Washburn nonetheless ruled in the state senator’s favor, saying the removal of a political sign near a polling place and the resulting scuffle with Ruth Levin, a 78-year old Democrat activist, was neither theft nor tampering.
The judge found Huppenthal (R-Dist.20) not guilty of the theft charge because the state was unable to prove who owned or placed the sign. Huppenthal has maintained he had permission of the property owner to remove the sign.
Huppenthal, 55, a 16-year legislative veteran previously served as a Chandler City Councilman.
Washburn said there was no theft because the apartment complex where the sign was posted had the authority to remove the sign and gave Huppenthal permission to do so. And there was no theft when Huppenthal took it from Levin’s hands in the 2008 incident because she couldn’t claim ownership of it either.
The East Valley Tribune reports the statute for tampering with a political sign says a person can remove a political sign if the owner of the property on which it is placed gives permission. The statute also says a person can’t remove a sign “of any candidate for public office.” Washburn said the language is clear and does not include signs of political action committees.