Live

Watch CBSN Live

Jailhouse Plot To Kill Arizona Gov?

Security around Arizona Gov. Jane Hull has been tightened after authorities uncovered what they say was a plot to kill her and the man labeled the nation's toughest sheriff.

The Maricopa County Sheriff's Office said a 78-year-old retired Navy veteran, a jail chaplain and a career criminal allegedly planned to kidnap Hull and stuff her into a trunk until she agreed to sign a pardon that would release one of the men from jail. She was later to be killed.

The plan also involved paying a sniper $100,000 to murder Sheriff Joe Arpaio with a scope rifle in retaliation for harsh jail conditions, authorities said.

The plot was foiled when police were tipped off by a jail inmate last month. The three men were arrested Tuesday after an undercover sheriff's deputy posing as a hit man met two of the suspects separately and recorded their conversations.

"This was not some hypothetical discussion. They were moving along. They were well on their way" to carrying the plot out, sheriff's investigator Jack MacIntyre said.

Donald Lee Cochran, a naval veteran in jail for failing to register as a sex offender, was booked on two counts of conspiracy to commit murder. Also charged was Danny Leo Warner, 43, who's already spent half his life behind bars.

Authorities said Robert G. Bradford, a 65-year-old Mormon clergyman who met Cochran while serving as a volunteer chaplain at Phoenix's Madison Street Jail, was arrested at his Mesa apartment and charged with facilitation to commit murder.

Bradford, who has no known criminal record, was released Wednesday after posting $12,300 bail, according to MacIntyre.

Cochran and Warner were being held without bond. Neither suspect would agree to an interview Wednesday and calls to Bradford's home went unanswered.

Cochran solicited someone to kill Arpaio because he was upset over "his living environment in jail - food, conditions, restrictions, the amount of time out of his cell," MacIntyre said.

"The original idea was to get Warner to knock off the sheriff and then to get Hull to issue a pardon for Cochran," McIntyre said. "They had some bizarre belief that if they got a signed governor's pardon, they would be in the clear. But then they saw the light of day later and figured they would have to kill her too."

According to court papers, Cochran gave Bradford power of attorney to take $2,354 from his bank account and transfer it into Warner's account so Warner could bail himself out of jail, authorities said. Warner had been jailed on charges of trying to run over police officers.

Warner got out in March and later told the undercover officer "he had access to a rifle and scope and had relatives in Oregon where the hit man could hide out," MacIntyre said.

However, investigators are unsure if Cochran had the $100,000 to pay a hit man.

Arpaio, 69, has been sheriff in Arizona's most populous county since 1992 and made national headlines for placing inmates in tents to reduce crowding, dressing them in pink underwear to reduce theft of jail property and re-establishing chain gangs in old-fashioned striped uniforms.

"I'm a high profile guy and I get threats all the time," said Arpaio, noting that five people already have been convicted of trying to harm him and five other cases await trial. "But when somebody threatens to kill you with a high-powered rifle, you have to take it seriously."

Hull spokeswoman Francie Noyes said the governor "has total confidence" in the state Department of Public Safety which provides gubernatorial protection.

View CBS News In