Peter Spaw, Deputy County Attorney, Under State Bar "Inquiry" for Role in Discredited Racketeering Case; Also Named in New Lawsuits
One major difference between the old and new lawsuits against Maricopa County by a retired judge and current County Supervisor is this name:
Spaw, a deputy prosecutor with the Maricopa County Attorney's Office since 2000, was a key figure in the 2009 federal racketeering complaint against county officials that got former County Attorney Andrew Thomas in so much trouble. The complaint, now thoroughly discredited and dropped, was launched by Sheriff Joe Arpaio and Thomas as part of their attack on political enemies, and targeted the entire Board of Supervisors, judges, lawyers and county officials in a conspiracy theory unsupported by evidence.
Spaw helped -- and allegedly supervised -- former Thomas employee Rachel Alexander, a pro-Thomas blogger and relatively inexperienced prosecutor who was handed the complex case by Thomas after it was filed by Thomas' other go-to gal, Lisa Aubuchon.
While Thomas, Aubuchon and Alexander stood before the Arizona State Bar's disciplinary judge in hearings that concluded earlier this month, Spaw attended only as a witness.
But with the hearings now over, Spaw now finds himself named as a defendant in two of the amended complaints against the county, Arpaio and others.
Besides that problem, John Gleason, the independent counsel from Colorado who led the State Bar's case against the three former prosecutors, considers Spaw the "subject of a pre-screening inquiry," says a Bar spokesman.
The spokesman, Rick DeBruhl, says he couldn't comment on how long Gleason has been checking into Spaw's actions, but that the inquiry remained open.
"They've thrown his name out there as someone they want to look at," says Debruhl, adding that the inquiry could lead to a full-blown Bar investigation.
Spaw's involvement was mentioned on Day One of the Thomas hearings, when Alexander's lawyer, Scott Zwillinger, questioned why Alexander was there instead of her "supervisor," Spaw.
In his testimony, (click here, then scroll to about 3 hours, 10 minutes of the October 17 video), Spaw downplayed the idea that he acted as Alexander's supervisor. However, he goes on to describe actions that were arguably supervisory, such as meeting with Thomas directly to discuss the case and how Alexander should proceed.
Retired Superior Court Judge Gary Donahoe and Deputy County Manager Sandi Wilson call out Spaw for his role in the racketeering complaint in amended complaints filed this week.
The amended complaints refer to a memo Spaw had received that contained legal advice by Arpaio's lawyers about the racketeering case. The lawyers' advice: Not only does the case stink, but it may result in sanctions against the accusers for filing "unfounded, vexatiously motivated litigation." Spaw also reportedly told Thomas the complaint should have been written on toilet paper.
From Donahoe's amended complaint:
...Thomas was told by his Chief Deputy, Phil MacDonnell, that "[t]he idea of a civil RICO case based on current evidence is unfounded."Mr. MacDonnell also wrote, "Peter Spaw, our RICO expert, thinks [the RICO Lawsuit] makes no sense."
Spaw knew, from his own review of the materials in the RICO Lawsuit and from research provided to him from outside counsel, that the RICO Lawsuit lacked a factual or legal basis.
Upon information and belief, Spaw further knew, or reasonably should have known, that Thomas, Aubuchon, and Sheriff Arpaio were pursuing the RICO Lawsuit for the ulterior purpose of retaliating against Judge Donahoe for his judicial rulings and for exercising his constitutional rights.
Despite this knowledge,Spaw appeared as counsel in, and supervised, the prosecution of the RICO Lawsuit.
Thomas and Aubuchon face disbarment with the State Bar's discipline panel announces its decision on a punishment sometime this coming spring. Alexander faces suspension of her law license.
Who could blame Spaw for feeling a bit on edge?
We left a message for Spaw and his boss, current County Attorney Bill Montgomery, and we'll let you know if we hear back.
Get the Weekly Newsletter
Our weekly feature stories, movie reviews, calendar picks and more - minus the newsprint and sent directly to your inbox.