One of the more telling moments during fired deputy county attorney Lisa Aubuchon's remarkable testimony at yesterday's disciplinary hearing was her twisted take on office investigators Mark Stribling and Tim Cooning.
It came during Aubuchon's Twilight Zone-like account of what led up to the infamous direct criminal complaint that then-Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas endorsed in December 2009 against Gary Donahoe.
Donahoe then was the presiding county criminal court judge and a key player in the highly publicized war between Thomas/Aubuchon and the judiciary/executive branches. (By "key player," we mean a jurist who was issuing legal rulings sometimes adverse to the Thomas cabal in the County Attorney's escalating "corruption" investigations.)
Using as a template a judicial complaint that recently had been filed by then-MCSO chief deputy David Hendershott, Thomas/Aubuchon prepared to drop some half-baked (being kind here) criminal charges against Donahoe for alleged bribery, obstruction of justice, and hindering prosecution.
Aubuchon testified under oath yesterday that the timing of the December 9, 2009, criminal complaint against Judge Donahoe was coincidental to the judge's scheduled hearing later that day to consider conflict-of-interest motions on the County Attorney's "corruption" cases against county supervisors Don Stapley and Mary Rose Wilcox. (That hearing, alas, was canceled.)
Aubuchon's testimony, to put it mildly, did not pass the smell test, but so be it.
Here's where the MCAO investigators come in:
Both men, Stribling and Cooning, are career cops who retired after long and distinguished careers with the Phoenix Police Department before signing on with the Maricopa County Attorney's Office.
They already have testified at the ongoing State Bar disciplinary hearings against Thomas, Aubuchon and former Thomas special assistant Rachel Alexander that Aubuchon asked them (Stribling, then Cooning) to deliver the "probable cause" statement against Judge Donahoe to a lower-court judge for a signature.
Both declined, telling the hearing panel that, one, neither had worked at all on the "bribery" case and felt extremely uncomfortable presenting a legal document to a judge about which they knew nothing.
Aubuchon suggested in her testimony that the MCAO investigators were reticent to get involved with the case because it involved a sitting judge and all the inevitable controversy that would ensue.
Aubuchon agreed that she was pissed at the rejection by these mere investigators.
She quickly found a pliant sheriff's detective, also with no prior knowledge of the Donahoe non-investigation, to get the "probable cause" statement signed, have a judge issue a summons ordering Donahoe to appear in court, and move the process along.
Here's the deal:
We have known both Stribling and Cooning for many moons.
Stribling was one of the key PPD investigators in the AzScam case, a true corruption scandal down at the Arizona Legislature that broke in the early 1990s.
If anyone at the County Attorney's Office knows how to do a political corruption case better than Stribling, we don't know who it is. That he wasn't asked by Thomas/Aubuchon to "investigate" Donahoe speaks volumes.
We know that if Stribling had investigated Judge Donahoe and found any criminal wrongdoing, he personally would have had no problem personally slapping handcuffs on the old guy in broad daylight.
That Stribling and Cooning shined off their bosses on this matter tells you all you need to know about the Donahoe "bribery" case and the dangerous elected official (Thomas) and his lead minion (Aubuchon) who did Sheriff Joe Arpaio's bidding and went for it.
Here comes Andy. All yours, Ray Stern.