THOMAS AGONISTES

So why did Bill Montgomery, who graduated magna cum laude from Arizona State University's law school, decide to feign ignorance about the DOJ's evidence against Joe?

The answer: Montgomery prevailed in the 2010 Republican primary for county attorney against then-acting County Attorney Rick Romley partly because Arpaio sunk more than $500,000 on widely aired TV ads slamming Romley.

So Montgomery owes Arpaio, and he had no choice but to pay — which he did by publicly backing the sheriff in his war with the DOJ.

The DOJ's Austin recently wrote to Montgomery regarding his "put up or shut up" stance. Austin was eager to know "the precise role of the County Attorney's Office with respect to the federal investigation of the MCSO."

Austin need not have asked, since it's apparent that Montgomery plans to play a similar role to that played by his predecessor, Andrew Thomas. Because he owes Arpaio for backing him against Romley, he plans to serve as legal and political valet to the combative sheriff.

As this column headed to press, the disciplinary panel of the Arizona Supreme Court announced its ruling in state Bar proceedings against Thomas, his former attack-dog ex-deputy, Lisa Aubuchon, and smaller-fry former deputy Rachel Alexander.

Thomas and Aubuchon received professional death sentences: Each was disbarred for five years, after which they must meet stringent requirements to be re-certified as attorneys in Arizona. Alexander got off light, pulling a six-month-and-one-day suspension of her bar license.

The disciplinary panel found that Aubuchon and Thomas had done a lot of bad stuff, some of it probably illegal, such as prosecuting political enemies without evidence and abuse of power. (See full coverage in our Valley Fever blog.)

Why did Thomas and Aubuchon betray their oaths of office? They were doing the bidding of Arpaio, who at the time was on a rampage against the Board of Supervisors, superior court judges, and anyone else who opposed him.

I'm not saying Monty's recent backing of Arpaio approaches any one of Thomas and Aubuchon's legal atrocities. Actually, he's pretty much ended the war against the supervisors, and he generally has seemed interested in doing his job as a top prosecutor of real criminal cases.

But listening to him defend Arpaio from the same County Attorney's Office lectern that Thomas once railed from made me wonder if the new boss is frighteningly similar to the old boss.

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