The Dead Lawyer Made Him Do It

Finally in jail, courthouse scam king Bob Owens plucks his defense from the grave

One of Thinnes' sons, Ben, tells New Times, "As for the suggestion that Mr. Owens may attempt to place some of the blame for his actions on my father, all I can say is that this is a sad statement. . . . My father was an honorable man and a respected member of this community, and it is disappointing to hear that someone like Mr. Owens would drag my father's name into his own problems."

Ben Thinnes, who is an attorney for a large Phoenix firm, adds that "we take comfort knowing of Mr. Owens' arrest and commend the authorities for taking the action they have. All of us, the entire Thinnes family, are still struggling with the unfortunate passing of my father last year and we would simply like to move on with our lives."

Unfortunately for Tom Thinnes' survivors, however, their loved one's enduring legacy for many will be his difficult final years, when he became so entangled with Bob Owens.

Bob Owens at the 4th Avenue Jail courtroom with attorney Jennifer Healey, shortly after his surrender last week.
Peter Scanlon
Bob Owens at the 4th Avenue Jail courtroom with attorney Jennifer Healey, shortly after his surrender last week.
Mike Edwards (left), a special agent with the Attorney General's Office, shakes hands with Owens' attorney Steve Dichter at last week's initial appearance.
Peter Scanlon
Mike Edwards (left), a special agent with the Attorney General's Office, shakes hands with Owens' attorney Steve Dichter at last week's initial appearance.

Longtime family friend Derek Van Arman touches on that when he says, "Tom Thinnes will always be one of my heroes because he was so damned decent. That's what made him vulnerable. His weakness is that he believed in rehabilitation -- and forgiveness -- so he gave everyone a second chance. By the time he realized what was happening [with Owens], he was trapped in a 'creature feature' with human garbage."

An author and onetime government security analyst who lives in Scottsdale, Van Arman says Owens' criminal defense is inevitable. "Watch as he tries to change his skin to become the victim," he says, "proof he's clever as any other witness reptile. When the last chapter's written, it will be clear that Owens only had one gift -- the gift of the sociopath."

Steve Dichter's got a client to represent, and a difficult one at that.

In concluding his July 11 tome to prosecutors, Dichter implored them to "take another look at all this. Your 'best' witnesses [Thinnes and Vaughn] are dead and, frankly, they had absolutely no credibility in any event. Your next set of witnesses are a bunch of drug dealers if, frankly, you even have them.

"The forensic work by [Agent] Edwards, to date, has been completely inadequate, but that is only because Thinnes had Edwards so hot-boxed about Owens that he decided to proceed without getting his proof aligned."

Sounds like Mike Edwards is the Barney Fife of Arizona law enforcement, and that Tom Thinnes was the prototype for Al Pacino's evil character in The Devil's Advocate.

So what does that make Bob Owens?

Now thatwill be up to a jury to decide.

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