Power Play

County law enforcement's attack on the judiciary didn't work, but the war's far from over

Maricopa County law enforcement violated the constitutional rights of this newspaper and its readers in October, going so far as to subpoena the identities of anyone who'd looked at New Times online in the past four years. When the paper's leaders revealed the apparent grand jury probe on our cover, they were arrested.

It wasn't much of a leap for Sheriff Joe Arpaio and County Attorney Andrew Thomas to go after a publication that's uncovered abuses in their offices for years. They'd already proven themselves adept at trampling the rights of prisoners, political enemies, and Mexican migrants.

Arpaio sought criminal prosecution of New Times for publishing his address in 2004 as part of our investigation of his commercial real estate transactions, and Thomas responded by appointing a special prosecutor who subpoenaed not only the records and e-mails of the paper's writers and editors, but information on the Internet-viewing habits of our readers.

Judge Warren Granville is the subject of repeated official complaints by the county attorney.
Judge Warren Granville is the subject of repeated official complaints by the county attorney.

Public outrage, sparked by the arrests of the paper's top executives, forced the county attorney to drop charges of violating grand jury secrecy against Village Voice Media executive editor Michael Lacey and CEO Jim Larkin. It also forced him to drop the Arpaio-inspired probe of the paper for supposedly violating an arcane law that makes it illegal to publish law officers' addresses in cyberspace but allows such publication in newspapers and magazines.

It's no wonder that Thomas' special prosecutor, Dennis Wilenchik, didn't hesitate to jail newspapermen and attempt to invade the privacy of countless thousands of Web viewers; Thomas and Wilenchik already had launched a full-scale assault on the county's judiciary.

We live in an era when judges are under attack nationally (there have even been threats of assassination), but Thomas put his anti-migrant spin on the movement. He demanded that all 95 Superior Court judges be removed from ruling on his attempt to keep the criminal court's associate presiding judge from handling his office's cases. The problem was, as he saw it, that Judge Timothy Ryan was ruling against Thomas' prosecutors on too many illegal alien cases.

His ploy didn't work this time, but there's no reason to think that Thomas will give up his fight against the judiciary.

In this week's installment of our continuing series "Target Practice," we go behind the scenes to examine county law enforcement's unprecedented attack on the Superior Court. The county attorney, aided by his ally Arpaio, is capitalizing on a national trend against the judiciary to push a migrant-bashing political agenda that Thomas hopes will one day put him in the governor's office.

Two things that Rochelle Ryan read on the morning of October 4 scared her half to death.

She was checking out a story on the Internet at her home in Chandler a day after a zealous private attorney handpicked by Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas tried to make a public trophy of her husband, Timothy.

The setting for the verbal assault had been the fifth floor of the East Court building in downtown Phoenix.

Tim Ryan isn't a criminal defendant or a litigant. He is the associate presiding criminal judge of the Maricopa County Superior Court, the second-in-command on the criminal bench.

The headline on the Arizona Republic Web site read: "Judge Says He Won't Quit Court Cases."

Rochelle Ryan already knew that the county attorney's hired gun, Dennis Wilenchik, had accused her husband of being "a danger to public safety" because he allegedly protected undocumented immigrants charged with serious crimes. She also knew that Thomas was trying to get Tim Ryan booted off the criminal bench, an unprecedented move in this jurisdiction.

What really got to her was something attached to the end of the online story. At 4:50 that morning, someone had posted an anonymous response: "The judge, like all judges, is an arrogant pig. I say string the guy up from a streetlight in downtown Phoenix until his flesh rots off."

A few hours later, someone wrote, "Does anyone remember [assassinated Republic reporter] Don Boles [sic]? The reported [sic] who was blown up in his car. Not sure why, but you gotta admit it was darn effective. He's not writing [sic] anymore . . . Do you catch where I'm going with this? What's good for the reported [sic] is certainly good enough for [the judge]?"

Tim Ryan was getting the couple's children ready for school when his wife told him about the threats.

He quickly e-mailed presiding Superior Court Judge Barbara Mundell, "I see it as a crackpot comment, but my wife has a point that I should be worried about crackpots who act on these types of threats."

Ryan said he was going to contact the Chandler Police Department to see whether it would send officers to patrol their neighborhood "so my wife can sleep at night."

Judge Mundell and others at the courthouse immediately contacted their in-house security detail, which, in turn, called the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office.

Sheriff's deputies provide security inside county courtrooms (they often are assigned to a specific judge, and get to know him or her personally), and also are responsible for transporting jail inmates to the courthouse for hearings.

None of this could be considered an overreaction in light of what has been a growing number of politically based death threats against judges around the nation.

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Thomas Trottier
Thomas Trottier

Elizabeth Cottor is a Snake as you can tell by her evil scowl and Shark like facial features. My son was prosecuted by her and she would not so much as even let him speak. If only he could explain at 17 what he had done when he was 16. But since he was prosecuted as an adult, and at that age the court system seems very intimidating, but a fair trial would have saved him 2 years of his life. For an auto accident where a unlicensed drug-taking uninsured driver was actually at fault. Her ethics are indeed tainted by her association with Andrew Thomas and his bottom feeder ethics. I am glad that she will never see her dream of becoming a Judge come true, I prayed faithfully for God to stop her. Prayer works!

JA Moran
JA Moran

maricopa county, and the state of Arizona need political and justice officials that will seek to be "reasonable and fair" that is true justice. Don't use one's position to try and squash your political opponents. The Maricopa County Attorney and Sheriff use any opportunity to get their face infront of a camera and make their point. They should stick to doing their jobs, be "reasonable and be fair", not going after people who disagree with them. We are supposed to be a democracy and in a democratic society people should be free to voice their disagreements. Also you should be free to publish the truth as the facts support, not as some political officials want. Do I need to remind people what happened to the guy who played "Joe Arizona" in political ads and what another person named Joe did to him because he made this other "Joe" look bad ??


Leonard Clark
Leonard Clark

Please, if you feel that these two fascist thugs should be stopped legally, constitutionally and non-violently help us with the recall. We have filed official recall papers and even after the deadline is over for this recallif we are not successful the first time we are going to hound these two criminal and unconstitutional thugs with another legal and constitutional recall.

Please, help us and help Arizona, we are not associated with any politician or political group we are only associated with the U.S. Constitution.Leonard Clark623-206-2039 email: leonardclark385@hotmail.com arizonarecall.comChair of the Arizonans for the U.S. Constitution and recall of Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio and Andrew Thomas

TreasurerWilliam Crum602-300-8851

Annalisa Alvrus
Annalisa Alvrus

So, judges are NOT political? Judges NEVER make the wrong decisions? Judges NEVER make rulings based on political or personal biases? Judges ALWAYS make rulings pursuant to the law? Should we not expect all three branches of government to constantly check the other branches? Isn't that what our government is supposed to be doing? I usually really, really like Paul Rubin's articles, but I don't care for the pro-judiciary slant in this article. The judges are placed on the bench by the governor, and even though we "vote" to "retain" them, we get very little information about whether they really rule according to the law. And the judicial oversight commission mentioned in the article almost NEVER disciplines a superior court judge. Are all 95+ of them really such perfect employees of the citizenry? Seems awfully hard to believe.

Tony Dogs
Tony Dogs

They really need to disbar this clown. He's a disgrace.

Jim Cozzolino
Jim Cozzolino

Arpaio and Thomas, Reincarnated Hitler's.Scary.....


That's what many lawyers / judges do to deceive the public. Wolves in sheeps' clothing.


AA, Well said! Definitely agree with you. Look at the Bios of these judges on the Court roster -- wonder what the qualifications are to even be a judge, many of the resumes are slim to none.

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