Charge against ex-Arizona lawmaker caps downward spiral

AP News
|
Posted: May 20, 2016 3:36 AM
Charge against ex-Arizona lawmaker caps downward spiral

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — Nearly a decade before he would be charged with murder in Alaska, Mark Desimone was a well-liked state lawmaker in Arizona for a brief time, a moderate one-term Democrat in a minority caucus filled with left-leaning members, according to lawmakers who worked with him.

But then the Phoenix bar owner was arrested on the last day of the 2008 legislative session on a spousal abuse charge and resigned shortly thereafter. The case was dropped after he agreed to counseling.

His life never got quite back on track before he moved back to Alaska a month ago.

Now, Desimone is charged with first-degree murder in the shooting death of a man in a hunting party near Juneau, Alaska, after a day of drinking. He's being held on $500,000 bail, charged with shooting 34-year-old Duilio Antonio "Tony" Rosales twice in the back of the head on Sunday. Authorities have not disclosed a motive.

Desimone, who had lived in Juneau in the 1980s, found work as a day laborer there. He was essentially homeless this time around, couch-surfing at the home of the owner of a local jewelry store, The Jewel Box, where Desimone worked as a salesman in the summer of 1989.

Rosales worked at the store as a jeweler and designer.

It's rock bottom for the former state representative, who worried Facebook friends with messages noting he was looking for work, even odd jobs, followed by cryptic apologies to "everyone for anything" he may have done in office.

"What a tragedy," said Dave Delos, president of the Arizona Licensed Beverage Association, where Desimone once served as a board member. "I knew Mark at a different time and a different place in his life. And this was very surprising."

Before his downfall began, Desimone came across as well spoken, clean-cut and driven — or that's how Delos remembers him until he "dropped off the grid," Delos said.

Arizona Republican Sen. Adam Driggs remembers that Desimone's 2006 election was a stunner because he was the first Democrat elected in his Phoenix district in decades. His entry into politics came after he led opposition to a ballot measure that would ban smoking in businesses. As a bar owner, he felt that would hurt his business.

A couple years after Desimone resigned from office, Driggs talked to him. Desimone expressed an interest in returning to politics, he said.

"I kind of talked to him about how that was an uphill battle, because of the spousal abuse arrest," Driggs said. "Whether it's true or not, I told him I don't see how you make a political comeback."

Maricopa County Supervisor Steve Gallardo, a Democrat who served with Desimone in the Arizona House, said he was an asset to the minority delegation because of his take on how government affects business.

"He was able to bring a different perspective to the Democratic caucus," Gallardo said. "Unfortunately I think his life outside the state Capitol is what ended his political career - it really did.

"He definitely could have had a very prominent career in politics," Gallardo said. "It's unfortunate — it's a sad story."

Desimone and his wife, who have two children, would divorce soon after. His bar, the Hidden House Cocktail Lounge, also fell by the wayside, the subject of tax delinquency violations. It has since closed, and the Phoenix strip mall location is now a Mexican restaurant.

The file in Desimone's 2008 divorce case shows he struggled for years with alcohol abuse. His ex-wife complained repeatedly to a court that Desimone had been drinking heavily during his parenting time.

Desimone performed handyman tasks at the Jewel Box, and only met the victim once or twice, according to Rosales' family friend, Morgan Cruz.

Several messages left at the store by The Associated Press have not been returned. Desimone's lawyer, assistant Public Defender Timothy Ayer, said Thursday it's still very early in the case and he had no comment at this time.

Rosales' survivors include his wife, Maria, and a young daughter in Juneau and another daughter in his native Nicaragua.

Maria Rosales is devastated by her husband's murder.

"She's a wreck. She collapsed when she picked out a casket," Cruz said.

___

Billeaud and Christie reported from Phoenix. Associated Press writer Mark Thiessen in Anchorage and AP researcher Rhonda Shafner in New York contributed to this report.

___

Follow Rachel D'Oro at https://twitter.com/rdoro