Viri Hernandez with the Center for Neighborhood Leadership talks about helping Lorenza Valdez, whose son was killed by police. Hernandez says the Rev. Jarrett Maupin collected $1,300 from Valdez with promises to help but never followed through.
High-profile activist says he charges for some advocacy, but not for civil-rights causes
The Rev. Jarrett Maupin placed his arms around a weeping Lorenza Valdez and started speaking to the bank of television cameras set up tightly along a wall of her trailer. It had been 11 days since Phoenix police shot and killed Valdez’s son Francisco, his body falling inches from where she now stood.
Maupin thanked reporters for coming to the news conference he had called. He said he was there because the Valdez family had reached out to him. “They want justice in this situation,” the civil-rights activist told reporters.
Days earlier, Maupin had wanted money.
Fee equaled about one month’s earnings
“The total cost is 1,300,” he wrote in a text message sent to Valdez’s phone on March 30 at 1:31 p.m, one week after her son was killed.
The next day, Maupin pressed her, saying he had already fronted the money by dipping into his own pocket. “Let me know when you might be able to get the funds,” he wrote.
To get the money, Valdez borrowed from friends and neighbors. For Valdez, who cleans houses during 10- to 12-hour workdays, the money represented approximately one month’s earnings.
Maupin said the money he received from Valdez was not for himself. He said that Valdez had demanded he hire a private investigator and a photographer and that the money was going to them.
“The things the Valdez woman paid for were things she wanted that were outside of the normal scope of advocacy,” Maupin said in an interview with The Arizona Republic.
Valdez said Maupin had been a regular visitor to her trailer until he got the money. Then, she said, he stopped coming around.
Maupin told her he was planning a protest outside Phoenix City Hall. But, in a series of texts, he canceled that protest three separate times, rescheduling it for varying reasons.
The third and final cancellation came about half an hour before the scheduled rally. Valdez said she received that notice while she stood with neighbors at her trailer park in west Phoenix. They were waiting for the buses Maupin had promised would take them downtown.
“He’s not a man of God,” Valdez said. “He’s an impostor.”
A mixed bag of motives
Maupin’s forte is cause celebre, and his “clients” generally are those entangled in tragic or questionable situations that become fodder for news stories. Their family members died in police shootings, or they themselves could have been victims of police misconduct or discrimination. Race is often a factor.
Maupin describes a divine calling to be the voice of those less fortunate.
Court records, text messages and interviews with those Maupin has represented cast a different light on his motives from behind the scenes. In at least three separate occasions, Maupin’s services have included fees for hundreds or thousands of dollars. Another woman described being squeezed for a contribution.
MORE: Maupin is a rights leader — and a paid political consultant
Maupin’s appearances follow a familiar trope, one that played out Mesa last week. Maupin held a news conference with a man who was struck repeatedly by Mesa police, an incident caught on video.
Police said the use of force was justified because the man was trying to ditch a bag of marijuana and would not show them his hands. Maupin, at the news conference, compared the incident to beatings given to runaway slaves and people in South Africa under apartheid.
Maupin promised hundreds would turn out for a protest the next night, and he expressed worry that he might not be able to control the crowd.
About two dozen people, including the alleged victim, participated in the short, peaceful march. Maupin did most of the talking.
“He wasn’t jaywalking so it must have been something else,” Maupin yelled to television cameras trailing him. “Must have been because he was black. Must have been because it was nighttime. Must have been because he was tall. Must have been because he had dreads.”
Maupin has been doing civil-rights work since at least high school. In his telling, he started protesting the rancid milk at his elementary school.
For the past decade, he has been one of the Phoenix area’s most high-profile civil-rights activists. Reporters go to him when such issues arise. A Maupin news conference would reliably draw a crowd of reporters, drawn by his strongly worded quotes and flair for the dramatic.
Maupin ran for a Phoenix City Council seat at 17. He lost. He then took a run at the mayor’s office. That contest would lead to a federal criminal conviction.
Maupin pleaded guilty in 2009 to spreading a lie about his political opponent, the sitting mayor, Phil Gordon.
Federal investigators looked into other aspects of Maupin’s life. As part of his plea deal, he agreed to pay restitution to two women. He owed one woman $21,000, the other $6,435.53. Both women paid him to help with legal cases, according to court documents.
Maupin said he felt pressured to take the plea deal, and he denied defrauding anyone. One of the women, he said, asked him to advocate for her son, who Maupin thought was guilty. He charged her for the work, he said, because it was not an issue of civil rights.
“There are a ton of public relations firms and none of them work for free,” he said. “And I do not work for free.”
In 2011, a probation officer filed a memorandum asking that Maupin’s probation be revoked. Among the reasons was that Maupin was “grooming” a victim. It was a woman whose son was shot and killed by Phoenix police, according to the probation officer’s memorandum filed with the court.
Maupin produced a sworn statement from the woman in which she denied what she had previously told the probation officer: that Maupin had asked her to set up a trust fund where she would deposit any money received from suing the city, and that she put Maupin in charge of that fund.
Maupin served about a month in federal prison while awaiting a probation-violation hearing. A judge sentenced him to the time he already had served.
Around the time of his conviction, Maupin became a consultant for hire. For a fee, he would train the advocacy skills he normally uses for civil-rights causes and apply them to the needs of a corporation.
Maupin would not detail his client list. But he managed to turn items on zoning hearing agendas into civil-rights issues. To him, it was a matter of economic justice that an electronic billboard be placed along a freeway in Glendale. Same with a warehouse grocery store slated for Surprise.
Maupin also has continued to be involved in a host of high-profile police cases. If the names aren’t familiar, the stories are. That woman who left her kids in a hot car while she went on a job interview; the woman who was punched by an officer in Flagstaff; the teen forced by officers to eat pot; one of the girls who spelled out the N-word in a senior-class photo.
Maupin said he was divinely inspired in 2014 while trying to think of a way to draw attention to the death of Michelle Cusseaux, a mentally ill woman shot by police. His answer was a protest march through downtown Phoenix with a casket that he said contained Cusseaux’s body.
In an interview this year, Maupin admitted the casket was empty. It was an attention-getting ruse. To get it to work, Maupin said he had to coach the pallbearers to walk slowly with the empty casket.
“You can’t wheel that thing that quick,” he said he told the men. “Preacher stride. Palm Sunday stride. Not too fast.”
2 roles: Unpaid activist and paid spokesman
Maupin can bring a steady hand to a chaotic situation, introducing people to skilled attorneys and serving as a media liaison. Some people emerge from the experience charmed by Maupin, saying he helped them survive the spin of the news cycle.
But others interviewed by The Arizona Republic said they once trusted the reverend but have come to regret it.
They describe big talk followed by broken promises. Some talk of not trusting him anymore.
But Maupin’s high profile continues to bring him what he describes as dozens of messages and calls each week seeking his help.
With each person, Maupin said he decides whether to perform the free work of an activist or the paid work of a spokesman.
The people he’s working with will know what type of client they are based on whether there is a bill, he said.
Though Maupin said all of the people he works with seek him out, Kathryn McKinney, who has worked as Maupin’s assistant for the past four years, said the pair reach out to people in high-profile cases.
McKinney said she and Maupin have discussed charging people for their media advocacy and behind-the-scenes work. McKinney said Maupin has resisted, but she wants to draw up contracts.
“It’s a sticky thing,” she said. Families are dealing with grief and needing to pay for funerals, “but I am going to try to approach it properly and professionally.”
Maupin insists he doesn’t make money from bringing attention to his civil-rights cases, not from the Valdez case or any other. The work is a calling from God, he said.
“I don’t charge for civil-rights stuff,” Maupin said, “but there’s nothing preventing someone from doing that.”
Shanesha Taylor: From friend to foe
The case of Scottsdale mother Shanesha Taylor was already sensational when Maupin walked into it. He would help spin it, first in Taylor’s favor, and then against.
In March 2014, Taylor left her then-2-year-old and 6-year-old children in an SUV while attending a job interview at a Farmers Insurance office in Scottsdale. Police discovered the younger child crying and both children sweating in what they described as triple-digit temperatures inside the vehicle.
Taylor explained her plight to police, how her child-care plans fell through at the last minute and she needed the job. But she was arrested regardless and accused of felony child abuse.
Her mugshot showed a face streaked with tears.
That photo helped the story go national. Some saw her as the face of poverty. She soon attracted the attention of local attorney Benjamin Taylor, and, by extension, Jarrett Maupin.
In a recent interview with The Republic, Shanesha Taylor said Benjamin Taylor reached out with an offer to help. The two share a last name but are not related.
When they met in person, she said Benjamin Taylor told her he had someone he’d like her to meet.
“ ‘He’ll bring light to your case, rally the community behind you,’ ” Shanesha Taylor recalled him telling her. “So in my mind, this is a person that’s worthy of your time.”
Shanesha Taylor said she was an eager audience for Maupin. She was at what she described as the low point in her life and he promised to raise her out of it. He said he could speak to the county attorney about her case, rally the media and help her find community-service projects.
For a while, she said, her luck seemed to be turning. She received flattering coverage in the New York Times, and strangers throughout the country donated more than $100,000 to her through an online fundraiser.
By July of that year, Taylor caught a legal break, too. Prosecutors agreed to dismiss the case if she funneled that windfall into trusts for her children.
Through this, Maupin and Benjamin Taylor were vocal advocates. Weeks after her arrest, they called a news conference on her behalf in front of the Arizona Capitol. And they stood by her side on the courtroom steps just moments after the deal was announced, looking on as the mother beamed and hugged her supporters.
At the time, Maupin was making an ill-fated run for Congress. Still on felony probation at the time, Maupin could run but would not be able to vote for himself.
Taylor said she received a call from McKinney, Maupin’s campaign manager, asking Taylor for a $3,900 donation to print campaign fliers. Taylor said during the call she could hear McKinney talking with Maupin.
Taylor said McKinney reminded her of the money Maupin helped raise for her.
“She just kept going back to, ‘He helped you out, so it’s only right for you to help him out,’ ’’ Taylor recalled.
After a week of continued pressure, Taylor said, she relented.
“I sent $500 and I’m done,” she said. “We are square at this point.”
Maupin said he believed Taylor did contribute to his campaign, though the donation is not noted in his campaign-finance report.
He said Taylor was asked to contribute the same way his campaign asked everyone else.
“That was a general request that went out to everyone we knew,” he said.
That October, Taylor missed two deadlines to set up the trust and again faced charges.
As public opinion turned against her, Maupin turned on Taylor.
He told local media outlets that Taylor had squandered her opportunities and spent the money on designer clothes and her “baby daddy’s” rap career. Maupin said the evidence for those claims was phone calls to his office “from all over town.”
Taylor found herself unable to compete with Maupin’s spin.
“I started receiving hate emails, hate messages. There were times where I literally didn’t want to open my email,” Taylor said. “I wouldn’t even go to the grocery store. It almost destroyed me.”
Taylor said Maupin’s claims were false. Her boyfriend at the time was never a rapper. There was no recording session, she said.
Maupin also tipped off media, including The Republic, that Taylor was pregnant again. Maupin remembered this but denied that he was being vengeful. The nuggets of information he disbursed, he said, were in the name of honesty.
“I don’t know if it would have been to her benefit, but it was to the benefit of truth,” he said.
Taylor, who pleaded guilty to one count of child abuse, has filed a request for a new trial with the state appeals court. She argued she received ineffective legal representation from her attorney, Benjamin Taylor, and unwanted intervention by Maupin.
Taylor argued in court papers that both Benjamin Taylor and Maupin were solely focused on the media attention the case would garner, rather than trying to help her beat the charges stemming from her arrest.
Taylor also said, in court papers, that part of the reason she did not fund the trusts was because of advice given to her by her attorney. He had suggested they could raise more funds by having her plead poverty, she said.
Benjamin Taylor said he would not comment on the case while the appeal was pending.
Shanesha Taylor now runs her own recruiting company. Creating her own firm, she said, was the only option she had after the bout with the law, the media and Maupin.
Taylor said she is still hoping for an apology from her one-time advocate.
“You don’t have to tell anybody else,” she said. “Tell me you are sorry for destroying my life.”
Michelle Cusseaux’s mom and others: Maupin was there for me
Others whose causes Maupin had championed shared a similar first impression, of someone who seemed eager to take up their cause, to publicize their stories and to work the levers of power to seek justice.
But impressions diverged from there.
One of his most high-profile supporters is Frances Garrett, the mother of the late Michelle Cusseaux. In August 2014, Cusseaux, 50, was fatally shot by Phoenix police officers while they were serving a mental-health pick-up call. Sgt. Percy Dupra fired at Cusseaux after police said she opened her door with a claw hammer raised above her head.
“The day after my daughter was murdered, Maupin showed up at my door,” Garrett said in an interview with The Republic. “He was there to assist me with the tragedy that had happened the day before, and he’s been there ever since for me.”
Garrett said Maupin introduced her to city and state officials and drew media attention to her case. That attention helped prompt an overhaul in how Phoenix police handle the city’s mentally ill population.
“He made it so that my daughter’s death was not just swept under the rug,” Garrett said of Maupin. “We did things together, and we’ve moved forward. We’ve made great strides.”
One attention-getting stunt involved the casket that was paraded around City Hall.
Maupin said Garrett wailed at the sight of the coffin, and that brought Cusseaux’s spirit to the inside of it, making it not a fib to say she was there.
Garrett said she knew her daughter’s body wasn’t in the casket. “It got what I wanted, which was the attention,” she said.
Edgar Castro, a 19-year-old pulled over by Phoenix police officers in September 2016 and forced to eat marijuana found in his car, also gave a brief but positive review.
The three officers involved in Castro’s case had resigned, but Maupin held a City Hall news conference calling for further steps, including policy reform, diversity training and compensation for Castro.
“Jarrett’s a positive person, man,” he said. “It was a good experience hanging out.”
Carl West, who was released from prison in 2013 after armed robbery charges against him were dropped, said no one else but Maupin would speak out on his behalf as he sought a fair settlement from the government. An FBI agent who was involved in the case against West and other men pleaded guilty to corruption charges, prompting West’s release.
Maupin held a news conference about the case, standing alongside West and his attorney, David Dow. “I’m very grateful for what he did for me,” West said.
West has filed a civil lawsuit against the U.S. government. His case is pending.
“If I do get a settlement,” West said, “and (Maupin’s) got a campaign or a fundraiser, I would show my appreciation. I’m very grateful for what he did for me.”
Briana Sandy, a transgender woman who said she was ordered out of a Tempe bar, also praised the attention Maupin brought to her case. Although the city found there was no discrimination, Sandy said that was no fault of Maupin’s.
“I think he did a great job,” she said.
Aeritha James said she met Maupin and told him of her troubles at her place of employment. She said after complaining about discrimination at the firm, she had become subject to harassment. The company, she said, hired investigators to watch her from the residence next door, and to occasionally break in and steal small items from her home.
Maupin arranged a news conference, although no news stories resulted from it, James said. He also connected her with an attorney to whom she said she has paid $30,000. Her federal suit is ongoing.
“(Maupin’s) been incredibly helpful for me,” she said.
Of those who agreed to speak, none said they were pressed for money as Valdez and Shanesha Taylor said they were.
Publicity — but what else?
Others with whom Maupin has worked said his thirst for media coverage appeared to take precedence over his professed interest in justice.
Jacqueline Payan was one of several students at Maricopa Skills Center who had complaints about the beauty-school program. Students held a news conference with Maupin, but the promised $90 million lawsuit he vowed to file never materialized.
Payan said the media coverage “kind of made it real. But that was the last time we heard anything.”
The bread and butter of Maupin’s media profile comes from calling attention to police shootings.
Mykel Chambers remembered how Maupin helped lead protests about the fatal Phoenix police shooting of unarmed Rumain Brisbon, with whom she had a child. The December 2014 protests became a part of the national Black Lives Matter movement.
But Chambers felt Maupin stunted that momentum when he participated in a simulated shooting exercise with the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office, led at the time by Joe Arpaio.
In the segment, before cameras from the Phoenix Fox TV affiliate, Maupin had a change of heart.
“I didn’t understand how important compliance was, but after going through this; yes my attitude has changed, this happens in 10-15 seconds,” he said on camera. “People need to comply for their own sake.”
To Chambers, Maupin’s comments were a betrayal.
“That right there, I was done with him. I contacted him and I literally went off,” she said. “I try to warn other families when there have been other police shootings.”
Chambers said she told Maupin he didn’t represent her or her daughter.
In late April, Maupin held a news conference outside Tempe City Hall with Sarah Coleman and Fred Franklin, the mother and stepfather of Dalvin Hollins, a 19-year-old who was killed by Tempe police lieutenant after Hollins robbed a Walgreen’s. That week, the county prosecutor’s office had declined to charge the officer.
Maupin said Tempe would see a “long, hot summer” of protests, beginning that Friday night. Maupin said protesters would shut down Mill Avenue, the downtown street of bars and restaurants. He said he would force officers to arrest the old and the very young, bringing the nation’s eyes to the case.
That protest did not happen. Franklin, reached by phone days later, said it was canceled as soon as the news conference was over because Maupin was unhappy with the media turnout.
Franklin, though, said he still had faith in Maupin.
“I’m proud to know him,” he said, “and happy that he’s working on our case.”
Lorenza Valdez: Victim or client?
Text messages show interaction between the Rev. Jarrett Maupin and the family of Francisco Valdez, a man shot and killed by Phoenix police.
Lorenza Valdez called police on a late Thursday afternoon in March, seeking help with her mentally ill son.
Police would shoot him inside the family’s trailer, saying he had threatened them.
By the next evening, Valdez was quoted in an azcentral.com story questioning why an officer shot her son.
That Sunday, Maupin met with the family. Valdez said she was struck by how smoothly he spoke. “He was talking very beautifully, about the case and this thing and that,” she said in Spanish. “There were so many things we talked about and, well, I believed him.”
Maupin said he arranged for the family to meet attorney Benjamin Taylor on the Monday after the shooting. But, according to text messages reviewed by The Republic, Maupin already had told the family their attorney would be David Dow, another attorney whom Maupin often recommends.
“I wanted to speak with Benjamin because of his ties to the city — but I want to do it discretely (sic),” Maupin wrote in a text to Valdez’s phone. “Don’t answer any questions.”
Taylor said he didn’t recall meeting with the Valdez family. He said even if he did, he would not confirm a meeting because it might violate the attorney-client privilege.
Maupin and Valdez have vastly different recollections of their meetings.
Maupin said he was accompanied by several staff members. Maupin said Valdez, who primarily speaks Spanish, demanded a photographer to take pictures of the body and a private investigator to look into the officer’s background.
Maupin said he tried to appease her wishes but did not tell her that the officer’s background would be public record and available for free.
Maupin also said he was not there for the part of the meeting when money was discussed, because he was canvassing the trailer park talking to neighbors.
“I was not the main facilitator of those discussions,” he said.
McKinney, whom Maupin describes as his “left-hand woman,” contradicted Maupin’s assertion that the money was for a photographer and a private investigator. She said, while interviewed at a June event, that the money charged to Valdez was for “public relations” services.
“We know that what we do costs money,” she said. “What we have set up is a public relations company. … Most of the time families want TV, or media or newspaper coverage.”
For weeks, Maupin and McKinney declined to provide the names of anyone else who was in the meeting with Valdez. On Monday, two people called a reporter saying they were at the meeting. One said she was an investigator; the other said she specialized in surveillance. Both offered scant details of the meeting. Both also said they were associates of McKinney and expected to be paid through her.
Valdez said that while she had relatives, neighbors and her children at the meeting, Maupin only brought a woman he described as his secretary. She said she understood Maupin was asking for money to retain an attorney, to get a second independent autopsy and to obtain copies of the police report.
In a text on March 30, Maupin asked for $1,300. “I can pay the 300 from my churches account. Which leaves a 1,000 balance to get everything today,” he wrote.
The next day, Maupin told her he had covered some of the expense himself. “They would not accept the money from my church — so I paid the remaining balance ….,” he wrote. “Let me know when you might be able to get the funds.”
Maupin has no church. Although he sometimes works as a visiting preacher and says he leads a weekly Bible study, he has no congregation of his own.
Maupin said he didn’t actually pay the money. He instead vouched for Valdez and would have paid if she hadn’t. Maupin also said he had phone calls with Valdez and that the string of texts don’t tell the full story.
Valdez, who makes between $150 and $250 a week cleaning houses, would spend the next few weeks finding the money. She said that she took out loans from friends to accumulate the $1,300.
Valdez said at some point Maupin asked her for $600 more. But she said she told him that as a single mother, she could not afford it. “I have my children to feed,” she said.
Two days after initially asking for the money, Maupin sent out a news release. It included a warning: Graphic material included in original form.
It also included a collection of photos of Francisco Valdez’s body. The photos showed him laid out on a table, apparently at a mortuary, unzipped from his body bag. The photos showed bullet holes, as well as his lifeless face and the cuts on his chest, presumably from the autopsy.
Maupin said the photos were taken at the direction of Lorenza Valdez. He referenced the case of Emmett Till, the 14-year-old lynched in Mississippi in 1955. Till’s mother insisted on an open casket at the funeral so the public could see the result of the brutal beating inflicted on her son.
Maupin said Valdez told him she also wanted people to see what had happened to her son. “She said exactly what Emmett Till’s mother said,” Maupin said, “Only in Spanish.”
But Jorge Valdez said the images came as a surprise to his mother. “She didn’t know photos would be taken,” Jorge said. “She thought (the money) was for a second autopsy.” She also didn’t know, Jorge said, that Maupin would share them with the media.
The news release and graphic photos attracted a crowd of media to the Valdez trailer.
Two days after that, Maupin updated Valdez on the case.
“I was with a group of people all day yesterday until 9pm drafting a department of justice request for federal investigation,” he wrote in a text sent to Valdez’s phone.
The Republic asked Maupin for a copy of that document, but Maupin said he did not draft such a request.
Valdez said she met with Maupin again the next week and gave him the cash he requested.
The next Monday, Valdez sent Maupin a text asking for an update. Valdez said the two had discussed a protest for that Friday evening. Maupin promised that he would arrange transportation to take friends and neighbors of Valdez to downtown Phoenix. Valdez said a group was gathering outside her trailer that evening when she received a text from Maupin.
The protest, read the text, would be pushed back to Wednesday. “We will be releasing MAJOR information,” Maupin wrote in the text.
On the eve of the rescheduled protest, Valdez sent a text to Maupin: “Is the protest March still going to be tomorrow?”
Maupin wrote a reply the next evening at 8:16 p.m., one hour after the protest was supposed to start. Again, Valdez said, people had gathered outside her trailer. “OK we have to do the protest on Monday,” Maupin wrote. “It’s time to take a big action with all involved.”
Maupin wrote Valdez the day before the rescheduled protest to verify it was on. “Tomorrow night at 7:00 pm for certain,” he wrote. “Please gather everyone. We will then caravan to city hall for an 8pm candlelight vigil. I’ll buy the candles and lighters.”
Valdez asked what time the bus would pick people up at the trailer park. Maupin replied with a time of 7:30 p.m. and an admonition the crowd not be late. “But PLEASE tell people 7 pm so they are on time,” he wrote.
The next day, May 1, at 6:22 p.m., while Valdez said another crowd gathered outside her trailer, her phone received a text from Maupin.
“Did my secretary call you?” he wrote. “We are having a delay with the rented buses. The bus will be ready for tomorrow evening.”
Maupin did not send news releases advising media outlets of any of these supposedly planned protests. Maupin said he wanted the actions to be a surprise, not giving the city a chance to stop them. “You do ambush protesting to drive intensity,” he said.
Maupin’s planned protest never happened. Valdez asked Maupin to hold off.
In the intervening days, word of the planned protest reached Viridiana Hernandez, an activist with the Center for Neighborhood Leadership. It came from a relative of Hernandez who was involved in a church group that was praying a series of rosaries at the Valdez home. Hernandez said her relative told her that an attorney working with Valdez was planning a major protest. Hernandez thought it odd that an attorney would do that but reached out to Valdez to offer whatever help she could.
Hernandez said Valdez sounded in distress when the two spoke. Hernandez said she hoped to meet in person to see if her organization could help. She advised Valdez to hold off on the rally until then.
When they met and Valdez laid the story out, Hernandez found it curious. Using Valdez’s phone and posing as a concerned neighbor, Hernandez spoke to Maupin and asked for receipts and copies of any documents he obtained.
Hernandez said she had to work to gain Valdez’s trust. She had to convince her there were organizations like hers that would have helped her for no charge.
“After Maupin, she was really wary,” Hernandez said. “She was like, ‘Why would he tell me that?’ ”
The next week, Hernandez and another activist, Francisca Porchas of Puente, took Valdez to a City Council meeting, where she stood behind a podium and addressed the council about her son’s shooting. Hernandez translated for her.
Mayor Greg Stanton expressed his sympathies to her. Councilman Michael Nowakowski pledged to request and review the police report on the incident.
Maupin texted to Jorge Valdez that the meeting was a mistake.
“I’m not sure who is leading the family but addressing the council during public comment is not the best way,” he wrote. “Right now, they aren’t listening. You have to protest and make your voice heard outside of a meeting that they control.”
Hernandez and Porchas began calling and texting Maupin, saying Valdez wanted her money back.
Maupin, in an interview, said when he heard that, he called the people he had paid asking for the money to be returned.
“I felt it was pressing,” Maupin said. “As soon as they said she borrowed that money, well, that’s not a good idea. I’ll get it back to you right away.”
The only person who refused, he said, was the photographer who already had taken and produced the pictures.
Valdez, accompanied by Porchas and Hernandez, met with Maupin at a Starbucks in Maryvale on the evening of Mother’s Day.
Maupin said the meeting was cordial and about three hours long. He said the activists asked him strategic and political advice about pursuing the Valdez shooting.
Hernandez had a different recollection. She said the meeting was about an hour and much of it was Maupin speaking. Valdez looked down or at the wall, Hernandez said, as Maupin spoke and his words were translated for her.
Valdez also remembered Maupin speaking through much of the meeting. “He kept saying the same things,” she said. “Every so often, he asked me if I wanted a coffee. I said no.”
Toward the end of the meeting, Maupin gave Valdez $1,000 in cash, which represented the amount she gave him minus the photographer’s fee.
MORE: After months of waiting, mother demands report on shooting
Hernandez said she was furious that Maupin would take advantage of a vulnerable woman who could barely understand English.
“(Valdez) was willing to do anything,” Hernandez said. “She was willing to take out loans, take time off work, collect money in the neighborhood, with a lot of hope that this person would be willing to help.
“She had a lot of misconception of who he was and how he would help.”
On Monday, Maupin wrote in an e-mail that he was possibly premature in calling attention to the shooting of Valdez. In the e-mail, in which he also insulted the activists from Puente and the Center for Neighborhood Leadership, Maupin said he might have to issue an apology to the police union.
Maupin: ‘I’m keeping the faith’
In an earlier interview, Maupin suggested he had no need for the $1,300 Valdez paid. He pointed out his Brooks Brothers-brand suit. He lifted his leg to show his Allen Edmonds-brand shoes. “The money she gave me wasn’t even the cost of these shoes,” he said.
Minutes later, in the same interview, he described himself as a hand-to-mouth street preacher. He said that if he were to die today, he would have to depend on wealthy friends to pay for his burial.
“I struggle like everyone else to make ends meet,” he said.
The shoes and suit, he said, were gifts.
Maupin often says he is involved in issues of public policy at influential levels.
He claimed credit for the state of Arizona taking the opioid addition problem seriously. He said he deserved credit for a proposed Phoenix program to give free transit passes to teenagers.
In a news conference at the Valdez home, he said he was a member of the Phoenix police chief’s African-American advisory council. A Phoenix police spokesman said this was not true.
At last week’s news conference, Maupin said he turned down an invitation to meet with Mesa’s police chief. A department spokesman said no such invitation was made.
In the weeks of interviews, phone calls and email exchanges in the course of reporting this story, Maupin expressed concern he would be the subject of a hit piece.
Maupin said that he was puzzled why his consulting business and civil-rights work would be the subject of such scrutiny.
“The truth is, there’s not much mystery to me,” he wrote in an email, “aside from the great American social mystery: why a person would give their all — literally and figuratively — to the cause of equality and civil rights.
“I don’t know the answer to that, I just know that God has written across my sable breast with fingers of fire these words: Keep the faith.
“So I’m keeping the faith.”
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