Disbarred, disgraced and unrepentant, former Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas compared himself to such men of conscience as Mahatma Gandhi and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., as he addressed reporters this morning in downtown Phoenix, one day after being stripped of his license to practice law by a three-man disciplinary panel of the Arizona Supreme Court.
"Other men, far greater than I, have gone to jail in defense of principles they believed in and so they would not kowtow to a corrupt ruler," Thomas said at one point. "People like Gandhi, people like Dr. King, people like Solzhenitsyn, people like Thomas More, people who stood for something....and I'm going to stand firm."
"Gandhi?" wondered one onlooker in amazement.
Yep, I could hardly believe my ears, too, as Thomas blamed his current situation on others -- a corrupt judiciary, powerful politicians, insiders who knew "how to work the system," Presiding Disciplinary Judge William O'Neil, his fellow lawyers, you name it. Anyone but himself.
"Arizona, after what happened yesterday, has become Mexico," he declared dramatically, referring to the purported corruption he supposedly opposed.
"Honest prosecutors have been unjustly smeared and punished," he added, oblivious to the obvious irony. "The rule of law is no more in this county."
I practically expected him to break into song, a la Evita. You know, "Don't cry for me, Arizona."
Thomas described the bar discipline imposed on him as the result of a "witch hunt," and he promised that he would soon unveil an anti-corruption initiative he wants to put on the ballot. He declined to say whether he would appeal the disciplinary panel's decision, and he announced that he would be writing a book about his experience.
"I did my job," he claimed. "A lot of powerful people didn't like that, and they got even."
He defended the ridiculous RICO suit his office filed against various politicos and judges, one he ultimately had to withdraw.
And he continued to contend that criminally charging Superior Court Judge Gary Donahoe was the right thing to do, even though the disciplinary panel found that Donahoe was charged for the purpose of getting him to cancel a hearing before for his court.
Asked if he anticipated being prosecuted for conspiring to deny Donahoe his rights under the U.S. Constitution, or for the perjury the disciplinary panel said he was guilty of, Thomas maintained that there was probable cause to charge Donahoe, and that there was no conspiracy involved.
"So a meeting of law enforcement professionals to decide whether to charge someone of a crime is conspiracy?" he answered rhetorically. "Then there are 40,000 conspiracies a year in this county because there are 40,000 felonies."
The big difference, of course, is that Donahoe had not committed a crime, much less a felony.
On the perjury allegation, he seemed to throw his ex-hatchetwoman Lisa Aubuchon, who was also present, under the proverbial bus.
"I didn't even know the parts of the case, it was handled by Miss Aubuchon," Thomas insisted. "The idea that I knew the intricacies of the case...is just false."
Demonstrators pro and con often interrupted Thomas as he spoke. The handful pro-Thomas supporters were, generally, the same, ragged, toothless haters who are always either appearing in support of Sheriff Joe Arpaio, or protesting illegal immigration.
Some of those on the "con" side were from Citizens for a Better Arizona, the group largely responsible for recalling ex-state Senate President Russell Pearce last year.
Notably absent was Thomas' former fellow Sith Lord, Sheriff Arpaio, whose executive offices are in the Wells Fargo Building, a stone's throw away from where the press conference took place.
When asked why Arpaio wasn't present to defend him, Thomas said he had not invited Arpaio, but that he appreciated Arpaio's tame statement of support issued the previous day.
(Interestingly, Arpaio's top flack Jack MacIntyre was seated nearby, but he claimed his presence was mere coincidence.)
Aubuchon was next at bat. The erstwhile hit woman wasn't quite as obnoxious as her ex-boss. She didn't compare herself to Joan of Arc, for instance.
Rather, she kvetched about her name being mispronounced, and she contended that Judge O'Neil should have recused himself from sitting on the panel, claiming he had a conflict.
Aubuchon also stated that she planned to appeal. She didn't take any questions.
As I walked away from the media event, I recalled a passage from the disciplinary panel's eloquent order laying down the law on Thomas, Aubuchon and the suspended-but-not-disbarred former deputy county attorney Rachel Alexander.
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It fits Thomas, in particular, to a tee:
"Behind the flimsy fabric of their rationalizations raged apparent unfettered passions that were fueled by a darkness of purpose, blessed by a self-righteous self-centeredness and draped in a disguise of hypocritical indignation. They used a deadly combination of trusting in their ability to sell the vividness of their own imaginations combined with a resolute refusal to look a fact in the face."
Mahatma Gandhi, indeed.