A Hotshot Phoenix Attorney Finds Love Behind Bars

Phoenix attorney Carmen Fischer has a thing for bad boys. Really bad boys.

You may vaguely recall her name making headlines in 1999 when it was revealed that the veteran defense lawyer had engaged in an affair with one of her clients, Michael Sanders, as Sanders was tried for a double homicide in Maricopa County Superior Court.

Sanders claimed to be a bounty hunter, but in 1997, he and his body-armor-wearing accomplices were pulling a home-invasion robbery when two of the occupants, a man and a woman in their 20s, ended up riddled with bullets from Sanders' gun.

Angel Garcia's back, tattooed with signs of his New Mexican Mafia affiliation
Angel Garcia's back, tattooed with signs of his New Mexican Mafia affiliation
Attorney Carmen Fischer
Attorney Carmen Fischer

For the double homicide, Sanders was convicted and caught two life terms in prison. But it was Sanders' prowess as a seducer, rather than his cold-blooded killin', that earned him national headlines.

See, Sanders and Fischer, his court-appointed attorney, were caught in flagrante delicto during visitation by guards at the MCSO's Madison Street Jail. Or as flagrante as you can get while behind bars.

Detention officers spied the pair hugging and kissing. News accounts told of Fischer wearing short skirts for the benefit of her client, and they salaciously quote jail reports of the lady lawyer having her "skirt hiked up and her legs spread" as Sanders was "leaning toward her with his right hand reaching between her legs."

There was even some videotape of one incident that made the rounds on local TV. Fischer was booted from the case as a public defender but was allowed to represent Sanders as a private attorney.

The public was outraged. Commentators heaped scorn on Fischer and the State Bar of Arizona, which at the time did not have a specific rule against clients and counselors doing the deed — though conflict-of-interest rules supposedly covered such improprieties.

The Bar brought a complaint against Fischer, but Fischer beat the rap, with the hearing officer ruling that she had been tried by "jailhouse rumors" and that the Bar had been unable to substantiate its claims against her.

The record of the complaint was expunged, and Fischer's Bar slate remains clean — for the moment.

In 2003, a specific ethical rule was added to the Bar's canon, and makin' whoopie in any form became verboten for lawyers and their clients.

But Fischer's yen for dudes in the pen did not subside. In fact, you could say she doubled down on felony love this year by marrying Angel Lopez Garcia, an alleged leader of the New Mexican Mafia, the much-feared, prison-based Latino gang infamous for running drugs, violence, and for following a code of "blood in, blood out."

That is, once you're in the NMM, it's "'til death do you part." Either that, or you join the federal witness-protection program and pray a lot.

Garcia is tatted from head to toe with organized-crime insignia, like a Hispanic version of Robert DeNiro's character in Cape Fear. Garcia truly is a dangerous individual, known on the street and in the pen by his nickname "Chipas."

His priors include a conviction for a drive-by shooting. And he apparently was the driver of a car pursued by Glendale cops in a 2006 chase that ultimately resulted in Officer Jeremy Esh getting shot through the neck.

Esh survived. Garcia wasn't the shooter, but when he was arrested in 2007 by U.S. Marshals at a QuikTrip on the west side, he ran. For good reason. A prohibited possessor, Garcia had a 9 millimeter semiautomatic tucked in his waistband.

For the gun, Garcia pleaded guilty and caught time in federal prison. However, he's still facing an indictment brought by the County Attorney's Office against him and several accomplices for operating a criminal street gang, money laundering, and running meth and marijuana.

Recently, Garcia was shipped back to Sand Land by the feds to serve a nine-year stint for a prison assault.

Fischer signed on to represent Garcia as an associate counsel in the county matter. This, while representing one of Garcia's co-defendants, Martin Leon.

According to the State Bar, Leon has an ethical complaint lodged against Fischer. Bar spokesman Rick DeBruhl declined to give details, but sources suggest that it has to do with Fischer's conflict in representing both men while romantically involved with one.

How the course of true love ran between Garcia and Fischer is not fully known. Fischer did not respond to repeated phone and e-mail requests for comment.

The address listed on her state Bar account is a UPS drop box. I visited two addresses associated with her law practice in Phoenix. At one, I was told she had not worked out of that office for a year. At the other address, a law office in the Luhrs Tower, former suite-mates said she'd moved out long ago.

However, Garcia and Fischer's marriage license indicates that the unlikely couple were wed July 25 while Garcia was doing time for his weapons conviction in the federal facility known as "Big Sandy," in Inez, Kentucky.

The bride was a blushing 56 at the time; the groom 32.

Fischer listed herself as the veteran of two previous marriages and rightly notes her occupation as "lawyer." Garcia has been divorced once. Next to his occupation is typed "investor."

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