Former Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas has a nice, little campaign going for state attorney general -- and he might even win.
Thomas talks a lot about illegal immigration. One thing his campaign hasn't addressed, though, is why Thomas charged Superior Court Judge Gary Donahoe with bribery last year. (There were two other, equally weak charges against Donahoe -- obstructing an investigation and hindering justice -- but for now we'll focus on the most egregious allegation).
Thomas never explained his thinking behind the bribery charge at a news conference in December, much less offered evidence that a bribe occurred. No evidence existed that Donahoe (at right) had received anything like a bribe, but Arizona's bribery law was "very broad," Thomas said at the time.
The situation is comparable to accusing a person of murder -- but failing to reveal the identity of the victim or even acknowledge that someone has died.
Today, Thomas' position is exactly the same as it was on December 9, when he announced that he'd hit Donahoe with criminal charges.
We spent some unproductive time on the phone today with Thomas' campaign spokesman, Barnett Lotstein (a former aide to Thomas), who told us that Thomas explained why he charged Donahoe with bribery in the probable cause statement attached to the criminal filing.
"There's no purpose to explaining again what he's already explained," Lotstein argues.
But the idea that Thomas has already explained the Donahoe charges is ludicrous. He most certainly has not. If you don't believe us, read the probable cause statement to which Lotstein is referring -- you'll see there's not a word about bribery. The only reference to bribery is in the list of counts, which states that Donahoe "solicited, accepted or agreed to accept a benefit" with the understanding that his actions "might be influenced."
As Paul Rubin and Sarah Fenske revealed in New Times last week, that probable cause statement is almost word-for-word the same complaint letter that David Hendershott, Sheriff Joe Arpaio's chief deputy, sent to the Arizona Commission on Judicial Conduct the week before the Donahoe charges were filed.
If the criminal complaint against Donahoe was suspicious, the timing of its announcement was even more so: It came just hours before Thomas' lawyers were to attend a hearing before Donahoe about hiring special prosecutors who would target members of the County Board of Supervisors-- a politically charged issue that Thomas and the Supervisors had squabbled bitterly over. After the announcement, Donahoe canceled the hearing.
The charging of Donahoe appears to be baseless -- a political chess move that ultimately backfired against Thomas. (The charge against Donahoe was dropped, as was a poorly conceived civil RICO lawsuit against Donahoe, other judges, lawyers and county leaders).
We'd bet that if Thomas really had any goods on Donahoe, he'd drop them to the media. As it is, Lotstein tells us that one reason Thomas doesn't want to elaborate on the Donahoe charges is that "we don't try cases in the media."
Is that a knee-slapper or what? Thomas (at right) held a press conference to announce the charge, for Pete's sake!
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Lotstein maintains that Thomas would have presented evidence of the charges at a preliminary court hearing, but the hearing was never held after a Pinal judge issued a stay in the case. That's a convenient excuse, but we're not aware of any law, rule or ethical policy that would now prohibit Thomas from talking about the specific evidence -- if any -- behind the bribery charge.
In fact, we'd argue that Thomas has an ethical obligation to explain the charge, rather than leave an unsubstantiated allegation against a respected judge lingering in the minds of Arizonans.
And you'd think that Thomas, the attorney general candidate, has an obligation to potential voters to explain whether we'll see more of these shenanigans if he's elected.