Richard Wintory, the chief criminal deputy for Pinal County Attorney Lando Voyles, is being investigated by the State Bar for possible ethical misconduct related to a murder case.
Rick DeBruhl, spokesman for the Arizona State Bar, tells New Times this morning that the investigation concerns the allegations of possible impropriety raised in court back in January by Pima County Superior Court Judge Paul Tang.
The judge had stated publicly he planned to ask the Bar to probe Wintory's actions in the case of convicted killer Darren Irving Goldin.
Tang made his statements moments after sentencing Goldin to 11 years in prison.
Wintory had once pursued the death penalty in the murder-for-hire case, and Tang's statements implied that Wintory's actions had led to the much-lighter sentence for Goldin.
Kim Smith of the Arizona Daily Star covered the evolving story in February and March; on Saturday, Brian Wright of the Casa Grande Dispatch broke the news about the current investigation (see links below).
Smith's reporting details how Wintory handled Goldin's case while a Pima County deputy county attorney, then took it with him when he went to work for the Arizona Attorney General's Office.
The notion that Wintory may have done something inappropriate stems from the hiring of a woman who was charged with finding mitigating evidence that could prevent Goldin from being executed.
The woman, Mary Fornino, ended up calling Wintory's office to complain of allegedly bad ethics on behalf of Goldin's defense team, which prompted the defense team to ask a judge to remove Wintory and the AG's Office from the case, Smith's story relates. According to Smith's February 1 story:
In announcing his intention to have Wintory investigated, Tang referred to that dispute and said he is troubled that the victim's family may never know if the prosecution of the case was "compromised" by Wintory, allowing Goldin to escape the death penalty.
Smith also detailed a discrepancy between an affidavit that Wintory signed and other evidence that seems to show Wintory misrepresented how many times he and Fornino talked.
The veteran prosecutor hasn't yet returned a phone message we left for him today -- we'll let you know if he does. He told the Daily Star he "welcomes" any Bar review and denied wrongdoing.
His boss, Lando Voyles, made headlines when he took office as Pinal County Attorney in January for firing 16 people, including nine attorneys.
A touch of irony arises when comparing the Wintory matter to Voyles' statements about the firings: He said they were due to "the deep rooted culture within this office of releasing violent offenders" and also the allegedly poor supervision of another employee who was suspected of embezzlement.
Last week, we reported how the firings have led to a notice of claim being filed against Voyles office, apparently for defamation.
DeBruhl, the Bar spokesman, says the Bar's investigation could last anywhere from a few days to a few months.
Generally, DeBruhl explains, the investigation first determines if enough evidence exists to make a presentation before a committee of lawyers and citizens. If the investigation and/or committee find in favor of the lawyer, no problem. If not, though, then the committee will refer its finding to the Arizona Supreme Court's Disciplinary Panel, led by Disciplinary Judge William O'Neil. The panel then decides if the lawyer did or didn't break the rules, and if so, what punished is deserved.
Below: Arizona Daily Star and Casa Grande Dispatch articles on Wintory and Judge Tang:
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State Bar declines to probe complaint [Note: The complaint in this headline doesn't refer to Wintory.]
Pinal official faces State Bar probe [Paywall]