Power Play

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

As the Sheriff's Office was studiously under-investigating the Ryan death threat case, Dennis Wilenchik was investigating New Times with an eye on filing criminal charges against the paper.

Among other demands, Wilenchik, wearing his special prosecutor's hat, ordered that the paper turn over to him detailed information on every person who had looked at the paper's Web site since 2004, including viewers' IP (Internet protocol) addresses and other personal data.

Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Peyton Thomas has targeted judges from the start of his administration.
Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Peyton Thomas has targeted judges from the start of his administration.

Wilenchik later would claim that he had subpoenaed the paper's records to discern whether readers' IP addresses matched those of people known to have threatened Arpaio since publication of the sheriff's home address on New Times' Web site in July 2004 as part of the paper's investigation of his real estate transactions.

Publication of the sheriff's address on the Internet allegedly violated a state law aimed at protecting law enforcement officials. (There's no sanction in the arcane statute for broadcasting such information or printing it in newspapers or magazines, but it cannot be published on the Web.)

New Times exposed Wilenchik's bizarre machinations in a story by New Times owners Michael Lacey and Jim Larkin on October 18 ("Breathtaking Abuse of the Constitution"), after which he or a member of his law firm approved the late-night arrests by sheriff's deputies of the paper's executives on misdemeanor charges of violation of grand jury secrecy.

The embarrassing published revelations followed by the arrests forced County Attorney Thomas not only to drop the charges against Lacey and Larkin and end the investigation of New Times, but to fire Wilenchik as special prosecutor.

Consider this: There were never allegations that anybody thought about harming Arpaio based on the address information on New Times' Web site. But two potentially identifiable people did make what could be construed as death threats against a sitting judge — yet county law enforcement never sought their IP addresses.

All this came after the Sheriff's Office had just spent about a half-million dollars investigating what appears to have been a phony plot to kill the sheriff.

"Quite a contrast, huh?" says Judge Ryan.

Andrew Thomas has always had bigger targets than a weekly newspaper that wasn't kind to him from the start.

Soon after he assumed office in 2005, Thomas began to engage in increasingly caustic public skirmishes with the Maricopa County Superior Court.

In February 2006, he filed a federal lawsuit against the court, alleging that its race-based drunken-driving probation programs are discriminatory and unconstitutional. In question were three court rehabilitation programs for convicted drunken-driving offenders on probation — a general DUI court and others for Spanish speakers and Native Americans.

The county court established the federally funded programs in 2002, before Thomas assumed office. Thomas claimed that they are racist and hark back to the long-discarded "separate, but equal" model that once was the law of the land.

Thomas hired Washington, D.C., attorney Michael Carvin at taxpayers' expense to represent the county in its lawsuit against the Superior Court. Carvin was one of the lead lawyers for George W. Bush in the 2000 election controversy in Florida, but he couldn't pull off this one. A federal judge dismissed the County Attorney's lawsuit earlier this year on technical grounds.

The county attorney complained loudly in 2006 about alleged delays by judges and defense attorneys in death penalty cases, another passionate issue with local voters. It turns out that many of the delays were caused by Thomas' prosecutors, many of whom have become overwhelmed with work in light of office policies against offering tenable plea bargains in most cases.

Thomas also has shown no hesitation in going after individual judges.

His top aides continue to file complaints with the Arizona Commission on Judicial Conduct against county Judge Warren Granville, a career prosecutor turned jurist.

In 2006, Granville questioned the propriety of prosecutors' focusing exclusively on a young and indigent black defendant in a Paradise Valley armed-robbery case, when an affluent white youth also had been involved.

Lotstein, Thomas' spokesman, termed Granville's statements "judicial activism at its worst. We would go further and question Granville's fitness as a judge."

The Judicial Conduct panel ruled in two separate complaints last year that statements made by Granville in court documents and in an interview with New Times did not merit censure or other punishment.

But Granville, whose mild manner on the bench belies a staunch law-and-order bent, is not a judge intimidated by attacks against him.

Earlier this year, he railed against the County Attorney's Office in a court document after sentencing skinhead Patrick Bearup to death for his role in the February 2002 murder of a Phoenix man. Bearup was one of four defendants who had taken their victim to the desert north of Phoenix. There, they beat him with a baseball bat, and Bearup cut off one of his fingers to steal his ring before another defendant shot the man twice in the head.

After Bearup's sentencing, Judge Granville noted that prosecutors originally had sought the death penalty against each of the four defendants. Prosecutors then offered a plea bargain of second-degree murder to the man who (under the prosecution's theory) had batted the victim to death, or close to it. The prosecutors also plea-bargained with another defendant, a woman said to have procured the murder.

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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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