Andrew Thomas, Maricopa County's top prosecutor, burnishes his . . . Wikipedia page?

Somewhere out there in cyberspace is a guy who thinks Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas is great — and he's sharing his love with Wikipedia readers.

You know Wikipedia, that online encyclopedia where just about anyone can weigh in as an "expert" on anything? Well, our mystery writer is an expert on Andrew Thomas, and nothing else.

So, this person edited Thomas' Wikipedia bio to call him a "noted author" and a "leading authority on the criminal justice system." He also plugged Thomas' DrugFreeAz Web site, calling it "one of the most popular drug-prevention Web sites in the country."

Danny Hellman

But as for Andrew Thomas' work on an initiative seeking to ban affirmative action in Arizona, you won't read anything about that on Wikipedia. Our Andrew Thomas fan deleted that reference. He also removed an allegation that Thomas has never actually tried a felony case in his life — something frequently whispered but never officially confirmed. Thomas' Super Fan removed that bit of speculation twice.

Now, I can't tell you the identity of Thomas' unofficial hagiographer, not with absolute certainty. Thomas' spokesman didn't respond to requests for comment, and Wikipedia keeps its contributors' information private.

But I can tell you this:

• The writer in question has a Wikipedia user name of "Apt37." Andrew Thomas' middle initial is "P" — and he was 37 years old when he was elected county attorney.

• Apt37 has never touched a Wikipedia page other than the one profiling Thomas.

• In his Wikipedia edits, Apt37 once referred to the Maricopa County Attorney's Office as "my office."

There are only two possibilities.

Either Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas is obsessively rewriting his own Wikipedia page, or he's got one very tedious stalker.

Any bets on which it could be?


For the elderly, or the proudly Luddite, here's a little more background: Wikipedia is an online encyclopedia, with a twist. Rather than hire academics to write the content, Wikipedia allows just about anyone to pen an entry, or edit someone else's, at any time. The result is a constantly updating work-in-progress.

It's become wildly popular. Google just about anything, and Wikipedia is one of the first hits that comes up.

There's good reason for that. Wikipedia can be wonderful for getting up-to-the-minute information on breaking news, not to mention interesting links about practically anything.

But like anything on the Internet, the site can fall prey to the obsessive . . . and the downright vicious.

John Siegenthaler, a former editor at USA Today, was shocked to learn that his Wikipedia bio claimed he'd been a suspect in the murder of not just one, but two Kennedys. When Siegenthaler complained, Wikipedia determined that the allegation was completely fabricated. Some guy in Tennessee had altered Siegenthaler's biography as a prank — and the fake information stayed online four months before a friend of Siegenthaler's stumbled onto it.

The weird thing about Apt37's strenuous efforts is that nothing similar has happened to Thomas' page.

Really, I would hardly blame anyone for hopping online to correct some gross inaccuracies. But the Thomas page hasn't attracted libelous goons; from the beginning, it's been fairly straightforward. Instead of clearing up misinformation, Apt37 seems more obsessed with keeping the page 100 percent positive.

Don't take my word for it. Thanks to Wikipedia's policy of full disclosure, each and every change is tracked online. The initial page written about Thomas (the very bottom entry at http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Andrew_Thomas_%28prosecutor%29&action=history) was penned February 8, 2007, and contains nothing nasty. In fact, the entry appears to have been modeled closely on Thomas' official biography on the county attorney's Web site.

It wasn't good enough for our mystery friend Apt37. Seven months later, Apt37 started editing the thing, with a series of edits designed to make the page conform exactly to Thomas' official bio.

As a young lawyer, Thomas didn't just work for a "law firm," as the page initially stated. Apt37 insisted that he worked for a "large" law firm. Apt37 also added links to a bunch of dull information about various Web sites started by Thomas' office and took out the bio's single line about the controversy surrounding Thomas' anti-immigration efforts. The eager Apt37 even uploaded an official photo of Thomas.

This being the Internet, the information didn't stay static. Apt37 soon had a battle on his hands, and from September 17 to December 11, he edited the page no less than five times — and attracted a dozen exchanges with two or three citizen editors.

You can track his edits on the "history" page:

• Apt37 removed what he called "inaccurate smearing attacks" — namely, the fact that Thomas used to work for Wilenchik & Bartness, and that after he was elected, the firm received numerous county contracts. The information was true, but Apt37 removed it, twice.

• Apt37 obsessed over information about Thomas' prosecution of Matthew Bandy, a high school student charged with child porn possession. The case drew outrage from civil libertarians and a lengthy exploration on ABC's 20/20 ("Doubting Thomas," January 25, 2007). Apt37 first removed all mention of the case and then, when it reappeared on the site, tweaked the description to include plenty of caveats. "I edited the latest additions to the Bandy section," Apt37 wrote, "which my office disputes."

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20 comments
Marcus Reid
Marcus Reid

I think you're "Apt37" and you fixed the wiki page, so you would have something to write about. See how easy it is to throw around BS, huh?

tax payer
tax payer

missing from above for those searching for information:

http://www.phoenixnewtimes.com...

Welcome to Thomasville!

Some surprising demotions, and a Republican babe at the new County Attorney's Office

How do we afford a deputy county attorney to send press releases as a full time job, with photos of herself attached to the articles? Self-promotion at tax payers expense! Disgusting!

Tax payer
Tax payer

from above: "I regret ever using Thomas's initials, perhaps that wasn't the wisest decision, but I never thought someone would write an article accusing him of modifying his own entry! For crying out loud, the guy has a Harvard law degree and runs an office of 1000 employees, do you really think he's dumb enough and has the time to modify his own wikipedia entry?"

The answer is YES! Look at all his internet sites -- Rachel Alexander busy sending them off to Germany and elsewhere. The taxpayer can't afford the waste of time, money and resources on the internet games the MC attorney's office plays.

apt37
apt37

I am a huge fan of Thomas (no relation), a self-professed computer geek, and the person who modified Thomas's wikipedia entry using "apt37" as the username. 37 is my favorite number, that's why I picked it. I regret ever using Thomas's initials, perhaps that wasn't the wisest decision, but I never thought someone would write an article accusing him of modifying his own entry! For crying out loud, the guy has a Harvard law degree and runs an office of 1000 employees, do you really think he's dumb enough and has the time to modify his own wikipedia entry? Now his campaign opponents are accusing him of modifying his own entry, which isn't surprising considering they're always lying anyways (aclutimwillsayanythingtogetele...).

You should retract your article. It's false and libelous. It's clear that because you can't find anything legitimately wrong with Thomas, you resort to false articles about him. Get a grip. He didn't modify his own entry, and I'll get this resolved with wikipedia one way or another to get it corrected. I really don't want to bring myself into this to be harassed but if I have to I will.

Denette Reid (Brent's mom)
Denette Reid (Brent's mom)

please visit www.tlc24seven.webs.com to see how Andrew Thomas is treating first-time offenders who are teenagers in the adult judicial system, without taking anything into consideration except how far he can use the law to support his upcoming election.

Concerned Taxpayer
Concerned Taxpayer

Great investigative work. If website manipulation is being done on Thomas vanity page, then one can only imagine how he or his cronies are manipulating other websites. Hope you investigate to where else they are going!

Mesa Reader
Mesa Reader

Just a correction to my previous comment which was stated ambiguously. It has not been lobbyist Joanie Flatt's influence peddling that has been at taxpayer expense, but rather her desired outcome of the influence peddling (her clients' expense) that has resulted in great taxpayer expense.

Mesa Reader
Mesa Reader

Kudos to New Times for exposing just the most recent conflict of interest matter by lobbyist and Arizona Republic darling Joanie Flatt. Joanie Flatt's self-serving influence peddling in Mesa at taxpayer expense has been going on for a long, long time, and she obviously has no qualms about selling her wares via the print newspaper and blogs sponsored by that same newspaper as she does. Push, push, push, write, write, write for her self-serving "causes." Unfortunately, with the Republic (specifically the "Mesa Republic") and with her printed columns headed and identifying her as a "Community Columnist," readers are misled into believing that she is a professional journalist which she is not. Joanie Flatt is not accountable to the Code of Ethics laid out by the Society of Professional Journalists. Many legitimate columnists are also journalists, and the newspaper that encourages the stuff that Joanie Flatt pumps out aids in destroying its own credibility. Too bad.

Concerned Taxpayer
Concerned Taxpayer

CONFLICT OF INTEREST SHOULD BE A FELONY! SINCE THIS STATE CRIMINALIZES EVERYTHING ELSE THEY SHOULD THROW THIS ON THE HEAP. PRETTY SOON NO ONE WILL BE LEFT ABLE TO FOOT THE BILL SINCE THEY WILL ALL BE IN PRISON IN ARIZONA. NO SCHOOLS JUST PRISONS, JAILS, PROBATION TO TRACK AND HUNT EVERYONE DOWN FOR THE REST OF THEIR LIVES. AND THIS IS AMERICA?

ScottsdaleWatcher
ScottsdaleWatcher

Mesa Watcher thank you for the information that the public needs to be made aware of. You are doing a public service and we are sick of those businesses making millions in this state while the taxpayers suffer and have to foot the bill. The Photo Radar on the highways must be stopped! This is a disgrace. We're building prisons and and closing schools. How can we close Aztec School and have money for everything else especially the profiteers who make their money off the misery of others. Keep on watching, Mesa Watcher. We all need to keep a list of these names and haul them out during the election and rallies downtown.

MesaWatcher
MesaWatcher

Concerning the last third of this article on Mesa Public Relations flack, Joanie Flatt. She has a history of failing to disclose her clients, even as she shills online for them at the Mesa Republic. The Mesa Republic's editors whine that they can't possible police all the blogs, but Flatt's status is above any random anonymous blogger. Other bloggers are capable of providing a brief paragraph outlining their background and affiliations, so should Joanie. She has misled the public about her ties to any number of groups or campaigns; all the while writing as a "community columnist". Mesa Arts Center, Riverview, Property Taxes, American Traffic Solutions.

It's understood that she needn't disclose her *entire* client list, but please, when the topic at hand *IS* the client, full disclosure is in order!

helentroy4
helentroy4

After reading this last night, I went over to wiki to see for myself. It looks like therer must be someone assigned by Thomas, full time, to continue making sure that the wiki reference remains Thomas's own vanity piece.

Coz
Coz

Thomas is a piece of dung, just like his daddy Arpaio.

stewart M.
stewart M.

Correction on above: they are NOT listed in "collectibles" where books might be $70,000. So when Thomas says he wrote four books does that make him a specialist in criminal justice? -- I think NOT. Especially if the book has so little value that it sells for slightly more than one dollar.

Stewart M.
Stewart M.

Looking for Andrew Thomas books, Theoline? You might try Amazon.com. The sell for a dollar and change in their "used" books. They are listed in "collectibles" where you thought you might have to pay $70,000.

Stewart M.
Stewart M.

Theoline, to answer your question, the "crime prevention" brochure is being handed out in the seminar packet County Attorney Andrew Thomas is holding in the area churches. Look in the small classified ads in your neighborhood newspaper and pg. 2 of the AZ Republic. Someone needs to find out the cost of the expensive pocket folder all the "hand-outs" are put in. It is navy blue, heavy stock, with metallic gold embossed logo, with County Attorney Andrew Thomas' name in very large letters. This is a pocket folder you would receive at a University graduation from medical or law school, certainly not in a taxpayers budget.

Andrew Thomas name was also printed in color on the notepads. A continental breakfast and lunch were served. All this is a waste of taxpayer dollars, in a county and state that is deeply in debt.

This "seminar" by the MCAO Conference given by County Attorney Andrew Thomas, appeared to be nothing more than deceptive election campaign tactics using the churches, as a way to collect names and addresses. If the motive were an honest one, then the ads would say "open to the public" and not ask for names and addresses. The public needs to be made aware of this deception. Your article goes a long way to confirm what we seem to be seeing all around us.

The classified ad and the notice asked people to call in and register. If gathering names and addresses was not a motive,the ad simply would say, "open to the public".

The public needs a brochure on how to protect itself from overzealous law enforcement and prosecution. 40,000 felonies on one year in Maricopa County should send a red flag to the public that they need something to protect themselves from the out of control broken criminal justice system. Where's that pamphlet? Where are our civil rights listed?

Matilda
Matilda

Outstanding article and research! I like how you tied it all together. All the loose ends going in different directions aren't fooling those who remain vigilant of the devious activities going on around us by those who only are interested in themselves at taxpayers expense and those who are losing their lives with this abuse of power.

It's hard to outdo #2 Theoline's comments, which ring out clearly.

Sarah, keep on digging, you have struck a gold mine that few others would have the courage to write about. Keep up the great work.

Coz
Coz

Obviously his hack Buttstein has been taking lessions from the hack Lisa Allen on how to lie for his boss and post bogas bullshit.

Theoline
Theoline

Damn . .you're good ! Really enjoyed your article, so gives insight into the personality, the unreality in the psyche. . .The guy defines vanity. .The darker,more dangerous side of this individual's mindset, the values,the morals void of decency,compassion, rights of others is clearly evident in the ABC's 20/20 transcripts re: Bandy prosecution. His responses are of the nature of dogma, rhetoric,explaining how the judicial system works by doing deals and pleas that there is no real statute for so they find something that sounds like,or looks like, or is smaller than a breadbox. Crackhead! Gee, I'd like to get that latest booklet mentioned in his bio that cost 2 million, I just can't afford it right now. .Could you tell me where I could possibly get a used copy for under say 75,000?

Gregory Kohs
Gregory Kohs

Great article. Interesting how the Wikipedia "creed" is to have fair, neutral, objective articles about people like Andrew Thomas. Here's a fun experiment, though -- try writing an article about Carolyn Doran in Wikipedia. She was written about multiple times by the Washington Post, and an extensive story about her has appeared in the Tampa Tribune, the Associated Press, and in the UK in The Register. Watch what happens when you try to create a fair, neutral, objective article about her!

 
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