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Arizona Attorney General Horne's lawyers grill FBI agent

PHOENIX -- An FBI agent who led a criminal investigation into possible campaign-finance violations by Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne acknowledged Tuesday that he collected no direct evidence that Horne conspired with an aide to sidestep state campaign finance laws.

But FBI agent Brian Grehoski has already testified in a civil case that a series of interviews, emails and phone records led him to believe Horne and aide Kathleen Winn sidestepped campaign laws barring outside groups from coordinating election efforts with those of candidates.

Grehoski was grilled for hours Tuesday morning by Winn attorney Larry Debus, who also asked an administrative law judge to throw out the agent's testimony because he refused to discussed a parallel criminal case he pursued against Horne. Grehoski said Tuesday that case technically remains open, although the U.S. Attorney declined to file charges.

Horne and Winn denied the civil allegation of illegal campaign coordination brought by the Yavapai County Attorney in October. Both are expected to testify in the hearing underway before a judge from the Arizona Office of Administrative Hearings.

Winn's lawyer, Larry Debus, made it clear Tuesday that he was preparing for an appeal if Horne and Winn are found to have violated the law. He also provided Judge Tammy Eigenheer with previous appeals-court decisions to back his request for the agent's testimony to be barred.

"I understand this is all complicated by the other investigation that was going on, the dual nature," Eigenheer said before deciding to allow Grehoski to continue testifying.

Tuesday's testimony made clear what Deputy Yavapai County Attorney Benjamin Kreutzberg said in his opening statement Monday: the case against the pair is purely circumstantial.

Winn was a volunteer for Horne for most of 2010, before forming an independent group weeks before the election, collecting more than $500,000 from donors and launching an attack ad against Horne's Democratic opponent in the November general election.

She is accused of speaking with Horne about that effort and passing on his advice about a television ad to her campaign consultant.

That "coordination" is illegal in Arizona, and Kreutzberg said Monday that interviews and telephone, email and other records gathered during the FBI investigation will prove it.

Yavapai County Attorney Sheila Polk determined in October that Horne violated the law and must repay $400,000 to donors and pay three times that amount in fines.

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