Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas and Sheriff Joe Arpaio vowed on Tuesday to get to the bottom of what they call a serious corruption problem among county leaders and judges.
Their afternoon news conference followed the announcement earlier today that County Supervisors Don Stapley and Mary Rose Wilcox have been indicted under dozens of criminal counts by grand juries. But the Q&A naturally delved into the accusations swirling around county judges, the other three County Supervisors, the planned court tower building, and Thomas and Arpaio themselves.
Here are the highlights:
*County leaders are corrupt, according to Thomas and Arpaio. See our post about the racketeering lawsuit filed by the sheriff and county attorney last week. Thomas ramped up the rhetoric after reading his news releases about the new indictments.
*The indictments this week and racketeering lawsuit last week were "absolutely not" timed to pre-empt a hearing by Superior Court Judge Gary Donahoe on a
lawsuit notice filed by the county that aims to limit Thomas' ability to convene a grand jury in investigations of county employees. (The notice may only involve grand jury investigations that involve pricey special prosecutors -- we're not sure if it will retroactively affect the new Stapley and Wilcox cases).
*"We're going to need an out-of-county judge," Thomas said. That makes sense if he's right about the "corruption." If he's wrong, then he's judge-shopping.
*Thomas finds it "interesting" that Colin Campbell, the retired presiding judge of the Superior Court, is reported to be Wilcox's attorney in her new criminal case. Arpaio and Thomas now want deputies to question Campbell, apparently to find out if he's part of the alleged conspiracy. (We called Campbell earlier today but haven't heard back).
*Arpaio still claims his financial disclosure forms are accurate -- a claim our research shows isn't true.
*Thomas listed some of the items Stapley allegedly bought with money he raised while campaigning as an officer for the National Association of Counties (NACo). We covered these in our feature story last month on Stapley, as well as many other aspects of the investigation.
*Thomas says his office referred a complaint from the county elections department about the shady Sheriff's Command Association to the state Attorney General's office, which already had an investigation running. The SCA case, as our readers well know, involves a secret slush fund for top sheriff's commanders and fat cats that was illegally donated to the Republican Party
*Thomas and Arpaio denied any credibility problems on their end regarding the county investigations. When asked about the possible motives of County Supervisors Fulton Brock, Andrew Kunasek and Max Wilson for engaging in a criminal conspiracy, as Thomas alleges, Thomas turned the tables and suggested New Times dig further into that subject. Both Thomas and Arpaio bristled at questions that implied they may be tainted. Arpaio, who seemed a bit off-kilter today, fondly recalled the days when prosecutors were seen as heroes and not questioned about their motives.
*Though a judge ruled that the county never properly passed rules requiring public officials to fill out financial disclosure forms, Wilcox's indictment accuses her of failing to accurately fill out her financial disclosure forms. Thomas says the decision in the Stapley case by Judge Kenneth Fields, (who Thomas think is a biased) was not a precedent-setter for other cases. In other words, Thomas is hoping for a different decision on the necessity of completing these forms.
*Arpaio says the lawyer for jailed detention officer Adam Stoddard is working on an appeal of Judge Donahoe's contempt order, and that the appeal would be filed soon.
The deep conflicts and interconnected webs in county politics makes it tough to take Arpaio and Thomas seriously, despite the serious-sounding allegations against Stapley and Wilcox.
These new grand jury indictments were filed in the same Superior Court -- the same one whose chief judges are allegedly corrupt. Thomas apparently expects the public to believe that whatever decision the court makes in these new cases will be the correct one -- unless he doesn't like the decision. In that case, he'll obviously consider the decision to be part of the conspiracy.
Same with a hearing tomorrow in Judge Gary Donahoe's court regarding the County Attorney's ability to convene a grand jury to indict county employees. Thomas says even having the hearing is a conflict, and possibly illegal.
It seems like Thomas and Arpaio wanted to get out the news of these latest charges before that hearing, so that if Donahoe rules against them, the public will have some sense of the supposed wrongdoing by Wilcox and Stapley. In other words, the law officers are hoping the public starts seeing the court system as seriously flawed. The problem is that if Arpaio and Thomas are wrong, their actions would rightly be seen heavy-handed and unethical.
Justice cannot possibly emerged unstained from this dustpile.
UPDATE: Two other bullet-points from the news conference:
*Thomas said Sheila Polk, Yavapai County Attorney, gave the second Stapley case back to Maricopa (the case Arpaio tried to make after Stapley's September 21 arrest).
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This is inaccurate. Polk told us specifically that it was Thomas' decision to take back the Stapley and court-tower cases.
*Thomas and Arpaio pulled a "Who me?" routine when asked about the bad information used in the published smear of Judge Donahoe we wrote about yesterday. Neither would 'fess up to who requested the review of Donahoe's past decisions.
Click here for the news release distributed at the news conference.