Unequal Justice

County Attorney Andrew Thomas lives up to his rep by throwing the book at a young Latino motorist while letting cops off easy

Officer Poole wanted their son to serve the full sentence. Under no circumstances did he want Louie to get out on time served.

"This was so cruel, so bad," remembered Luciano Sr. "Our hopes had been raised sky high, and now this."

Now his wife's despair mirrored his.

The County Attorney's Office wants Louie Arriaga (above) to serve another two and a half years in prison for what started as an alleged traffic violation.
Peter Scanlon
The County Attorney's Office wants Louie Arriaga (above) to serve another two and a half years in prison for what started as an alleged traffic violation.
Andy Thomas (above) shows no mercy.
Andy Thomas (above) shows no mercy.

"I don't wish this on anybody," said Lydia. "My heart went to the floor."


Officer Warren Poole confronted Louie Arriaga for rolling through a stop sign on February 6, 2002. The traffic ticket did not hold up in court when the police officer admitted that he could not actually see the stop sign from where his patrol car was parked. But for nearly four years now, the courts have attempted to sort out what happened after the cop spoke to Arriaga.

In several statements to fellow police officers, Officer Poole said he chased Arriaga on foot and tackled him from behind. But Poole told the investigating detective that he reached out and grabbed Arriaga because he didn't think the suspect would cooperate. There is no record, there are no statements, there is no testimony that Arriaga was verbally abusive. The officer simply didn't like the way Arriaga looked, he didn't like the vibe.

Poole did not ask for a license, registration, proof of insurance, or inform Arriaga of the offense.

"I was afraid he was going to run," testified Officer Poole in court. "But at no time did Mr. Arriaga run from me."

Wrestled to the ground and struggling, Arriaga found himself in a chokehold with the much larger Poole on top of him. Fearing for his life, Arriaga reached out, grabbed a plank and swung it backward over his head and struck the police officer.

In his first trial, Arriaga was found guilty of resisting arrest, but the jury hung on the more serious charge of aggravated assault, with the majority voting to find him innocent.

The prosecutor offered to let him out of a second trial if he would admit guilt and accept probation. No more jail time was demanded.

But Arriaga refused to plead guilty for something he felt he had not done.

Convicted at his second trial, Arriaga was sentenced to 10 years in prison, but Judge Crane McClennen noted in an unsuccessful appeal to the Clemency Board: "The sentence the law requires this Court to impose is clearly excessive . . . [Arriaga] acted on the spur of the moment fearing for his own well being. It was just a struggle that got out of hand. If this Court had the discretion, this Court would have considered placing the defendant on probation."

At the conclusion of the trial this past August, yet another judge attempted to intervene in a rather extraordinary way.

Judge Klein took the remarkable step of meeting with the County Attorney's Office after telling the lawyers on both sides of the case that justice appeared to call for the release of Arriaga with time served.


The Arriaga family fought their case like cornered animals. Before the most recent trial, they once again refused a settlement based upon time served. The retired parents have mortgaged the home they owned free and clear, they have sold off retirement holdings, they have spent everything they have -- substantially over six figures -- and their son spent two years in prison. They filed a reckless civil suit for damages.

But the authorities are no less pigheaded.

The Reverend Tillman thought he had an agreement with the Chief of Police, Jack Harris.

"He told me Poole is okay with time served," repeated Reverend Tillman.

But according to the head of the NAACP, the police department's attorney, Gerald Richards, stoutly opposed any settlement.

"Richards called me back," recalled Tillman. "He said there'd been a miscommunication. The chief then called and said the same thing. Gerald has made this personal. He said that Arriaga's father disrespected him at one of the legal proceedings."

Neither Richards nor Harris returned calls for comment.

What the Reverend Tillman did not know was that his conversations with police officials were all a charade. When he phoned the Arriaga family on November 1, with a message of reconciliation, the deal for more of their son's blood had already been cut. The prosecutor's office made its decision weeks earlier.

On October 7, Judge Klein met with the County Attorney, Officer Poole, a police supervisor, and Poole's civil attorney. While he remained hopeful, Judge Klein found the meeting ominous.

"I think there are forces at play here that go beyond a victim merely deciding whether to agree to offer the defendant a plea after the trial," wrote Judge Klein to Arriaga's attorney.

On October 13, Leonard Ruiz, head of the criminal division, responded in writing to the judge's efforts at compromise. Following his return to jail, Arriaga had now logged two and a half years behind bars. The prosecutor was not satisfied.

He asked for a guilty plea that included four and a half years, adding two years to what Arriaga had already served. Additionally, Arriaga would be compelled to pay Officer Poole $1,000, renounce all claims of self-defense, drop all claims or suits, apologize in writing and orally to Officer Poole for Arriaga's conduct at the time he was stopped "and for his conduct towards Officer Poole since the said incident."

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2 comments
HERB ANAYA
HERB ANAYA

That County Attorney Thomas,and his gang are a bunch of theves that uses the law to abuse and intimidate. They are currently attempting to steal a piece of Commercial Real Estate that has been in my family for over 25 years,occupied by our family as a Real Estate Office for over 20yrs. We rent it out,the tennants get in trouble with the law,now they want to steal it away from my widowed mother,her one few sources of income to line thier fat greedy pockets. Rudy Anaya Realty was an icon in S Phx for over 30 yrs,this is how they repay the law abiding citizens.

kcarson
kcarson

This is America? Thomas and his gang are no different from the Talibans. Shame on those who voted this thug into office.

 
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