During his controversial tenure as Maricopa County attorney, Andrew Thomas may have styled himself as a "tough" prosecutor — but insiders knew that the real iron in Thomas' proverbial fist came from Lisa Aubuchon.

The notoriously aggressive Aubuchon took on high-profile political cases with a vengeance.

She served as lead prosecutor on virtually every one of Thomas' so-called corruption cases, filing indictments against county supervisors Don Stapley and Mary Rose Wilcox, pursuing a probe into the county's court tower construction project, and serving as a key player behind the felony charges filed late last year against the county's presiding criminal court judge.

No case was beneath her. Even though both ACLU Legal Director Dan Pochoda and Chandler Police Sergeant Tom Lovejoy were charged with misdemeanors, Aubuchon took both cases (for trespassing and animal cruelty, respectively) to trial. Same with a case against the owners of a popular Mexican eatery charged with "dirty dining" in another of the office's publicity-driven prosecutions.

The final score?

Not one of Aubuchon's high-profile cases resulted in a conviction.

Now, in what must be a delicious irony for her many detractors, it's Lisa Aubuchon who is under criminal investigation.

When Thomas resigned last month to run for Arizona attorney general, one of the first acts of his successor, Rick Romley, was to put Aubuchon on paid leave, pending the completion of an internal investigation.

And New Times has learned that Aubuchon's future may be even more precarious. She recently wrote to county administrators, asking for their help in retaining a lawyer for a grand jury matter, according to a confidential source.

In the course of determining whether the county should be paying for a lawyer, Aubuchon was questioned about the matter. (Policy holds that employees who are called as grand jury witnesses get a lawyer paid by the county, but potential "targets" or "subjects" do not.) At that point, they determined Aubuchon is potentially a subject of the federal grand jury investigating Sheriff Joe Arpaio and former County Attorney Thomas for abuse of power and other alleged wrongdoing.

Asked for public records related to the matter, county officials refused to release anything, or even confirm their existence, saying their release could "jeopardize an ongoing investigation or future prosecution." Both a county spokeswoman and a spokesman for the Maricopa County Attorney's Office declined comment.

Legal observers say it's highly unusual for prosecutors to face criminal charges for their official conduct. But the county attorney's actions in the last year have been highly unusual, too.

Thomas and Aubuchon filed a racketeering case against county officials and private attorneys alleging a broad criminal conspiracy, only to drop it without proving a thing. They secured such a sloppy grand jury indictment against Supervisor Wilcox that, in one instance, Wilcox faced felony charges for voting to award a grant to a local nonprofit — when public records showed she wasn't even present for the vote in question.

They turned over a series of politically charged criminal cases to an "independent" prosecutor from another county, only to grab them back when that prosecutor didn't do what the Sheriff's Office wanted.

Finally, they brought criminal charges against the county's then-presiding criminal court judge, Gary Donahoe, without convening a grand jury or conducting anything that even paid lip service to a thorough, impartial investigation.

That case, too, fizzled and died.

Paul Charlton is a former U.S. Attorney for Arizona now in private practice at Gallagher & Kennedy. (He represented Supervisor Stapley in Thomas' attempt to prosecute him for filling out his financial-disclosure statements incorrectly.)

Charlton says he is unfamiliar with specifics of the ongoing federal investigation, but he notes that certain decisions by Thomas and Aubuchon could leave them vulnerable.

"Prosecutors are usually fairly well insulated from allegations of criminal conduct because they can usually stand behind a grand jury or behind the court," Charlton says. "They can say, 'Someone else authorized my decision.'"

Maybe not this time.

Sources in and out of the County Attorney's Office say Thomas and Aubuchon didn't bother with protocol in the Donahoe "case," which should have included extended witness interviews and legal analysis by more-seasoned office prosecutors.

Instead, they acted in cahoots with top officials at the Sheriff's Office to pursue a case devoid of actual evidence.

"It opens them up a fair amount to the potential for prosecution," says Charlton.


One key to criminal charges against Aubuchon or Thomas may rest in Title 18 of the United States Criminal Code, Sections 241-242.

That law makes it a crime for anyone — including a public official — "under color of any law, statute, ordinance, regulation, or custom, [to] willfully subject any person in any State . . . to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured or protected by the Constitution or laws of the United States."

If two or more people "conspire" in such an effort, they can face up to 10 years in prison on each count.

Legal experts say it is plausible that the feds also could make a case against Sheriff Arpaio under Title 18, thanks to his well-documented pattern of targeting critics and political opponents.

Gary Lowenthal, an emeritus professor at the Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law at Arizona State University, says Title 18 may apply in a federal prosecution against Thomas, Arpaio, and others.

"It would be an unusual approach, but the statute is broad and could make sense on several levels," Lowenthal tells New Times.

Charlton agrees.

"That's one I've always thought would apply here," he says of Title 18. "If you can time after time show that this is an individual abusing their authority, then you have a case."

Charlton notes that Thomas' willingness to pursue uncorroborated criminal charges against Judge Donahoe may prove pivotal.

For one thing, Donahoe was charged with bribery even though the County Attorney's Office admitted he'd never taken anything of value from anyone or in exchange for anything.

In December 2008, after Arpaio and Thomas clashed with county administrators during budget negotiations, the County Attorney's Office issued a sweeping subpoena, demanding all records related to the court tower construction project.

The supervisors fought back, and Judge Donahoe decided in their favor, ruling that Thomas could not "investigate" a project for which his office earlier had provided legal advice.

Donahoe used the phrase "the appearance of evil" in describing Thomas' conflict — a legal term of art that nonetheless sent the Thomasites through the roof.

On behalf of the County Attorney's Office, Aubuchon twice appealed that decision to the state Court of Appeals. She lost both times. She then appealed to the Arizona Supreme Court, only to be rejected there, as well.

Forced to go another route, Thomas chose a special "independent" prosecutor — Yavapai County Attorney Sheila Polk — to handle corruption cases involving Maricopa County officials.

But Polk clashed with Arpaio and his chief deputy, David Hendershott. Hoping to mollify the powerful pair, Thomas asked Polk to return the cases to his office, and he then tried to force the Board of Supervisors to appoint a pair of Washington, D.C.-based attorneys to serve as prosecutors. When the supervisors balked, Judge Donahoe set a December hearing to discuss it.

But that hearing never happened: On the morning of December 7, a sheriff's deputy acting on Lisa Aubuchon's authority filed a criminal complaint, charging Judge Donahoe with bribery and other alleged crimes.

At a bizarre press conference that afternoon, Thomas was asked what the judge — known as a conservative, squeaky-clean type — had done to merit the shocking charges. In response, Thomas said what Donahoe hadn't done — that no money had exchanged hands, as in a typical bribery case.

So a reporter asked again: What exactly did Donahoe do?

The county attorney explained that Arizona's bribery statutes are "quite broad," stumbling as he tried to make his case without saying anything specific.

"If I'm not explaining this well," Thomas told the media, "I hope you'll help me."

Strangely, the gist seemed to be that Judge Donahoe had ruled against the county attorney and sheriff on various high-profile matters.

For example, Thomas/Aubuchon suggested that the judge's rulings in the court tower case had been based on personal support for the tower's construction. (Never mind that the County Attorney's Office had no real evidence of Donahoe's position on the project; the mere fact that Donahoe might someday get a shiny new office was apparently enough for them to run to Arizona's bribery statutes.)

Later, when experienced lawyers read the "probable cause" statement against Donahoe, they expressed amazement at the weakness of its legal argument and lack of facts. "It reads like a letter to the editor," attorney Shawn Aiken noted at a rally of local attorneys in December.

Actually, it read like a complaint letter — because that's exactly what it was.

One week before Thomas' office filed the criminal complaint, a nearly identical document was filed with the Arizona Commission on Judicial Conduct, which oversees the state's judiciary.

It, too, accused Judge Donahoe of "misconduct" — which boiled down to an alleged bias "against the Sheriff and Sheriff's Office and working in concert with chief Judge [Barbara] Mundell to publicly attack the Sheriff's Office for its role in pending investigation(s) in Maricopa County."

The letter was signed by Joe Arpaio's chief deputy, Hendershott.

Aubuchon's criminal complaint copied Hendershott's verbiage so closely that the only changes were the correction of a few typos — plus one extra paragraph referring to the December 7 hearing.


In a normal prosecutor's office, Lisa Aubuchon never would have enjoyed the power that she had under Thomas.

In most offices, a group of veteran prosecutors would meet to consider the evidence in high-profile cases, then vote on whether the case was strong enough to proceed. The buck would stop with the elected officials, but other voices would be heard.

Not so in the County Attorney's Office under Thomas.

Thomas kept himself sealed off from the office's day-to-day affairs — figuratively and literally. (He actually had a wall erected to keep out all but a chosen few.) During his last six months as county attorney, Thomas averaged fewer than three hours a day in office, county records show.

And that isolation may in part explain his alliance with Aubuchon. A nine-year veteran of the office at the time of Thomas' election, Aubuchon was "tough" on crime in a way that Harvard Law School grad Thomas aspired to be.

Grand juries are infamously willing to indict a ham sandwich if a prosecutor asks them to. But Aubuchon wouldn't stop there. Forget any reasonable likelihood of a conviction: Aubuchon also would go after the chips, the drinks, and even the condiments.

Before Thomas became county attorney in January, Aubuchon's supervisors worried that her attitude was leading to overreach.

"Lisa's zealousness has oftentimes been a vehicle for professional success, but it has also led her to make some decisions that have been a cause for concern," her supervisor wrote in 2003. "She has occasionally exercised questionable judgment in the handling of a case, or in the objective analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of a case or an investigation."

Aubuchon recently had been counseled, her supervisor wrote, because she filed a case despite "excessive involvement with the ongoing issues of the alleged victim."

Defense attorneys still tell stories about Aubuchon's refusing even to briefly consider evidence that might clear a suspect. She often charged first and asked questions later, hungry for victory — whether deserved or not.

"I've always had the feeling that Lisa Aubuchon never fully understood what it means to be a prosecutor," Paul Charlton says. "If it's the prosecutor's role to protect the innocent and pursue the guilty, Lisa only understood half that equation for all of her career."

That didn't bother Thomas. During his tenure, Aubuchon earned nothing but praise from her superiors, her personnel file shows.

But today, her career, at the very least, may be in jeopardy. She's parked on leave — with Maricopa County refusing to cover the cost of her defense attorney.

It's been a rapid reversal of fortune for the prickly prosecutor who once had her boss' ear. Just one year ago, Aubuchon's supervisor, Sally Wells, praised her handling of "high profile and difficult" cases, including the court tower investigation.

"The Maricopa County Attorney's Office owes Lisa a debt of gratitude for her sacrifice above and beyond her regular duties," Wells wrote.

Times, clearly, have changed.

Show Pages
 
My Voice Nation Help
20 comments
Joe
Joe

Yes! there is hope. All people who have been wrongly accused and prosecuted by these pigs should contact the investigators and add their cases. 10 years in prison per count! We can put them in prison for the next 30,000 years! Let's do it!

totalitarian thomas
totalitarian thomas

Was this the bitch that prosecuted Matt Bandy?? If so, Lisa, I hopes someone uploads some underage pics onto your computer and then calls the cops!! ha ha

truthseeker
truthseeker

******NEWS FLASH******

Whites to be racially profiled, stopped, detained, questioned, forced to show proof of no wrongdoing.

Due to the disastrous and devastating effects of white people, who have willingly and unremorsefully ruined our economy, coast, jobs, name and reputation abroad, other countries, and on and on...(BP, AIG, CitiGroup, Goldman Sachs, Bush, Cheney, Haliburton, and on and on...) whites will now be targeted and required to show proof that they are not a part of any of these groups. Since it is white people, and not undocumented Latino workers, that are the ones who are truly destroying this country, they will be completely happy in adhering to the checks and searches, especially if they have nothing to hide.

Effective immediately.

areyes
areyes

Corruption and Racism must stop in Arizona. It's about time someone is finally doing their jobs catching these idiots of power.

Richard Lee
Richard Lee

I thought you would like to know that the local republican party is organizing and facilitating emails to the Mayor of Los Angeles.It is not a grassroots effort. Attached is the unlolicited email I received inviting me to email a canned response to you.

Richard Lee ----- Forwarded Message ----From: Randy Pullen To: XXXXXXXXXSent: Tue, May 25, 2010 7:22:13 PMSubject: Send an email to the L.A. Mayor ASAP.

SEND AN EMAIL TO THE L.A. MAYORFollow Commissioner Gary Pierce's Example

Arizona Corporation Commissioner Gary Pierce is under fire from the left for his poignant letter to Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa suggesting if the city of Los Angeles wishes to harm the Arizona economy over SB 1070, than perhaps the Arizona power companies, that supply LA with approximately 25% of their power, should refrain from selling their power to LA. If you haven’t already read Commissioner Pierce’s letter, the text is below:

Dear Mayor Villaraigosa,

I was dismayed to learn that the Los Angeles City Council voted to boycott Arizona and Arizona-based companies — a vote you strongly supported — to show opposition to SB 1070 (Support our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhoods Act).

You explained your support of the boycott as follows: “While we recognize that as neighbors, we share resources and ties with the State of Arizona that may be difficult to sever, our goal is not to hurt the local economy of Los Angeles, but to impact the economy of Arizona. Our intent is to use our dollars — or the withholding of our dollars — to send a message.” (emphasis added)

I received your message; please receive mine. As a state-wide elected member of the Arizona Corporation Commission overseeing Arizona’s electric and water utilities, I too am keenly aware of the “resources and ties” we share with the City of Los Angeles. In fact, approximately twenty-five percent of the electricity consumed in Los Angeles is generated by power plants in Arizona.

If an economic boycott is truly what you desire, I will be happy to encourage Arizona utilities to renegotiate your power agreements so Los Angeles no longer receives any power from Arizona-based generation. I am confident that Arizona’s utilities would be happy to take those electrons off your hands. If, however, you find that the City Council lacks the strength of its convictions to turn off the lights in Los Angeles and boycott Arizona power, please reconsider the wisdom of attempting to harm Arizona’s economy.

People of goodwill can disagree over the merits of SB 1070. A state-wide economic boycott of Arizona is not a message sent in goodwill.

Sincerely,

Commissioner Gary Pierce

As usual, the liberal left have resorted to name calling and below-the-belt punches. The campaign of Janice Hahn, a left leaning LA city council member who co-authored the city’s Arizona boycott resolution and who is a candidate for the Democrat nomination for Lt. Governor in California labeled Commissioner Pierce as the “Forrest Gump” of Arizona politics and accused Commissioner Pierce of being a racist.

Friends, this can not and will not stand. Commissioner Pierce is being ridiculed by the left because he stood up for Arizona. Once again, we see that when liberals fail to have the facts on their side, they resort to petty name calling and smear tactics.

Today, I’m calling on you to come to the aid of one of our own. More than ever, Commissioner Pierce needs our help and our support. We need to send a strong message to the Los Angeles City Council that we will not be intimated by threats of economic retaliation and we will not give in to name calling, lies, distortions and over the top rhetoric.

Click HERE to send a message back toMayor Villaraigosa and the Los Angeles City Council.

Copy and Paste this into the body of the email:

I am writing to express my outrage at your decision to support a boycott of the State of Arizona because of the recently passed immigration law. This boycott is both an insensitive and dangerous proposal, resulting in an economic blockade that will affect many innocent families. I believe that you have failed to realize that both Arizona supporters and critics of the new immigration law, including small business organizations, oppose the boycott. Due to the federal government’s unwillingness and failure to secure the borders, Arizonians have experienced a substantial financial burden for years, which the economic blockade you support will only feed. It also appears that many elected officials in your state are terribly out of touch with the majority of America on this issue because multiple assessments have consistently shown that the vast majority of Americans support Arizona’s enforcement of illegal immigration laws. Moreover, even countless prominent Democrats have approved of the law’s principal guidelines and oppose the boycott. This boycott also clearly violates the Commerce Clause in the U.S. Constitution, which prohibits economic blockades by one state or city against another. In case you had not realized it, a government’s main responsibility to its citizens is to provide safety and security. The federal government has habitually failed in its duty and moral responsibility to its citizens regarding border security. Therefore, Governor Brewer has taken a productive and significant step to promote safety for all Arizonians by allocating discretionary federal stimulus funds for county, local and tribal enforcement. I highly suggest you rethink your threats and illegal actions toward the economy of Arizona and place your focus solely on the City of Los Angeles.

In case you missed it, here is Commissioner Pierce talking to Neil Cavuto on Fox News:

Help us defend Commissioner Pierce from attacks from the left, send an e-mail to Mayor Villaraigosa and the Los Angeles City Council today!

Onward to victory,

PS – Forward this e-mail to five of your friends, family members, or neighbors and make sure the city of Los Angeles hears their voices too!

Interact with the AZ GOP on our Networks

Paid for by the Arizona Republican PartyNot authorized by any candidate or candidate committee

A stunning revelation!
A stunning revelation!

To understand Aubuchon's role at the MCAO, everyone should read the Arizona Bar complaint written by the Arizona Attorneys for Criminal Justice against Andrew Thomas. Visit their website. It's time to disbar both of them IMMEDIATELY.

grigio
grigio

Now Aubuchon knows what its like to be a County Employee on paid administrative leave and having to hire your own lawyer. Take my word for it Lisa, it will cost You at least $125K+ to defend yourself. Thats before you even go to trial. You need to roll on everyone and save your retirement money.

Thomas /Aubuchoun DISBARRED
Thomas /Aubuchoun DISBARRED

The Arizona State Bar should act quickly to determine whether these two committed criminal actions and "conspired". Thomas if he had any intelligence would pull out of the race for Attorney General...but alas we know Thomas is fueled by ego and no common sense. Aubuchoun was a much colder fish.She thrived on intimidation and spent money like a drunken sailor.Of course she wants someone to foot the bill for her mistakes. If the State Bar will expedite these matters they could save the tax payers the money it will take to prosecute these clowns. Do us all a favor and put out the Andy Thomas spotlight once and for all. State Bar do it for Ed Novak end Andrew Thomas's career... you know you want to!

Disbar the Bitch
Disbar the Bitch

Lisa Aubuchoun drunk on her own power and believing she was infinetly more intelligent than every judge in Maricopa County County was ruthless in prosecution. She involved ex-spouses even when they were not a party to the matter. She would recharge moments after cases were dismissed by a judge or the grand jury. She wasted millions of dollars in the Andrew Thomas head count of justice. Both Aubuchoun and Thomas need to lose their ability to practice law. Aubuchoun believed everyone was GUILTY. She was mean spirited and heartless. I believe she will come to realize very soon that the game she played with so many of us hardworking, tax paying citizens was a huge mistake. One that will cost her a career and has already ruined her reputation. Lisa deserves only the harshest outcome possible.

AZ Bar needs to clean house
AZ Bar needs to clean house

NWEng, Better yet, she should call Robert Arenzt and his "team" at Phillips & Associates. I'm sure they'd work well together.

What Goes Around, Comes Around
What Goes Around, Comes Around

Paul and Sarah, Great article! The picture gets clearer with each passing day.

"If two or more people "conspire" in such an effort, they can face up to 10 years in prison on each count." We've seen a pattern of abuse of power that is so blatant it's shocking. Hope they get locked up for life. Can't begin to imagine how many innocent lives they've destroyed. They've given Arizona and the justice system a terrible name.

Adrian Cruz
Adrian Cruz

I hope the independent counsel brought in by the State Bar to investigate the Ethical complaints against Thomas & Aubuchon reads this story. Rogelio is right - her lack of candor to the tribunal in the RICO complaint was reckless at best, criminal at worst.

Former Republican, I can only hope the independent counsel is also looking at that troll Barnett Lottstein as well for his out-of-court derogatory statements about his own client in violation of the Ethical Rule against pre-trial publicity.

"Just following orders" doesn't cut it with the State Bar.

Rogelio
Rogelio

I worked with Lisa years ago when I was a Legal Assistant at DES, Division of Child Support Enforcement, and she was a young Assistant Attorney General. At that time, Arizona's child support program was ranked about 55th in the nation, beating out only Guam in national rankings. Every action Child Support did had to go through the Court, which was a lengthy process. Any time an idea was proposed on how to expedite the process and improve service, the Attorneys General would immediately weigh in, in unison: "we can't participate in that sort of filing." They would advise that under Rule 11, they had their "bar number[s] to consider."

Here's the relevant stuff from Rule 11: "The signature of an attorney or party constitutes a certificate by the signer that the signer has read the pleading, motion, or other paper; that to the best of the signer's knowledge, information, and belief formed after reasonable inquiry it is well grounded in fact and is warranted by existing law or a good faith argument for the extension, modification, or reversal of existing law; and that it is not interposed for any improper purpose, such as to harass or to cause unnecessary delay or needless increase in the cost of litigation."

The Court could impose sanctions for improper filings, and the thought of sanctions set the AGs to whirling like a dervish.

I recall Lisa as being a decent attorney. It's too bad that she didn't assimilate more thoroughly that bar number mantra, with which any good idea was always countered, and question what Candy was asking her to do. Sounds like she's looking at Nuremburg Principle IV, now, instead of Rule 11.

FormerRepublican
FormerRepublican

What a dirtbag. I think the public records are full of Lisa Aubuchon misdoings - and this reader believes she'll be disbarred and charged criminally for her involvement in the disasterous and embarassing highly publicized witch hunts of judge, electeds and just plain old folks. She's a joke. Now SHE wants the county to pay for her to be represented by legal counsel? How about she just hires Barnett Lotstein? After all, she and he played well together while they were employed by Andrew Thomas. Guess she wouldn't want to entrust HER future to such an idiot. Both of them deserve EVERYTHING that is coming their way.

stewgrif
stewgrif

HMMMMM......Aubuchon wants the COUNTY to pay for a lawyer now???? We are talking about the SAME person who put innocent, hard-working county employees under "criminal investigation", just so that she could make sure the COUNTY wouldn't pay for their legal representation? Sounds like karma to me. What a joke!

NWEng
NWEng

Hey Lisa, here's my advice to you:Lerner and Rowe is the way to go,call 977-1900.

Good luck, and may you one day catch the ambulance you'll inevitably be chasing in private practice. Assuming you'll still have a license, of course.

innocent
innocent

I have also been affected by this pig. Well, she has been left behind by Thomas and Arpio. It will be interesting to see how far down she goes. Prison is a pleasant thought.

PleasantDemise
PleasantDemise

Try being an out of work construction worker defending yourself from spurious charges by these two.

 
Phoenix Concert Tickets
Loading...