We thought that this time, maybe things would be different.
Last month, Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio and County Attorney Andrew Thomas filed a lawsuit against county officials and a few prominent judges, attempting to use RICO laws to show that these public officials are a "criminal enterprise." Not surprisingly, considering the suit was filed by Thomas' hatchet woman Lisa Aubuchon -- a lawyer whose incompetence is second only to her paranoia -- it never came close to alleging a real conspiracy, much less criminal behavior.
But a new lawyer is now on the case. (See our blog post about that lawyer, Rachel Alexander.) We hoped that maybe, this time, Thomas and Arpaio would be able to offer up some evidence to support their bizarre claims.
Alexander made her first filing in the case today, submitting a first amended complaint. The good news is that Alexander, who frequently blogs about conservative issues, is a much better writer than Aubuchon. The bad news? There's still absolutely no "there" here: just overheated rhetoric and a really loose "conspiracy."
To be fair, Alexander's "introduction" had us on the edge of our seats. In it, she actually alleges that these "corrupt" county officials made threats against both Andrew Thomas and his wife, Ann. We pictured thugs in a dark alley behind the Thomas home, wielding knives. Or at least an anonymous call telling Thomas to drop the case or his wife gets hurt.
But that suggestion turned out to be as phony as the county attorney's theory of the case: The only "threat" made against the Thomases, we read later in the brief, was a very wise suggestion from the county manager that if Thomas kept suing his fellow elected officials, legal fees would have to come out of his own wallet. "The threat included seeking 'reimbursement for internal staff time'," Alexander writes. OOOOOH! "Reimbursement for internal staff time"? That's right up there with "your money or your life" -- we bet Andrew and Ann were shaking in their boots!
Here's another one. County Manager David Smith sent a letter to Thomas and his office, "demanding disclosures relating to 'blogging on the Internet." As we've written, Smith has expressed concern that members of Thomas' office -- including, we suspect, Rachel Alexander herself -- were blogging nasty stuff about their own client, the board of supervisors.
But Alexander's filing equates this with being forced to the back of the bus: By asking about Thomas' staff's Internet activity, she writes, David Smith interfered with their Right to Blog. "Fulfillment of defendant Smith's request would have required violating the civil rights of MCAO prosecutors and employees under federal and state law," Alexander writes.
You read it here first, folks: The Constitution apparently enshrines the right of county employees to spend their days posting anonymous attacks at www.sonoranalliance.com. Woohoo!
In essence, the lawsuit alleges that any county official who at any point attempted to stop Thomas and Arpaio from doing anything -- whether it's prosecuting Don Stapley, "investigating" the $341 million court tower project, or repeatedly suing Thomas' own clients -- is part of a criminal enterprise. That includes judges who ruled against them, attorneys who opposed them in court (like Ed Novak and Tom Irvine) and county employees who attempted to stop the insanity.
Some other chestnuts from the amended complaint:
* Attorneys Irvine and Novak, who are both named in the lawsuit, once laughed at prosecutor Lisa Aubuchon. "Defendants Irvine and Novak stood in the courtroom alongside [lawyers for Supervisor Don Stapley] and laughed at the prosecutor as she was verbally assailed," Alexander writes. Nice.
* Once again, retired judge Kenneth Fields (who is part of the criminal conspiracy, according to the suit) is accused of filing a Bar complaint against Andrew Thomas. Let us say this one more time: Fields NEVER filed a complaint against Thomas. He did file one against Dennis Wilenchik, but last time we checked, Thomas and Wilenchik are not, in fact, the same person. Please, can we finally put this falsehood to bed?
* As a judge, Fields dismissed the misdemeanor counts against Stapley. And, in doing so, he "offered reasoning never before embraced by an Arizona court." Wow.
* After a Bar complaint was filed against Andrew Thomas for his prosecution of Stapley, a retired judge, Rebecca Albrecht, was brought in to investigate. Albrecht, of course, is the same person who decided Thomas did nothing wrong in bringing in his former boss to prosecute this newspaper. But that's not enough for Alexander. She suspects that the Bar's former president, Novak (who, again, is named in this silly lawsuit) filed the complaint. Conspiracy alert! And, furthermore, Albrecht "circulated a draft dismissal letter soliciting comment among Bar counsel and officers, including on information and belief Novak, thereby coordinating her efforts with Novak in violation of the Supreme Court guidelines." She circulated a draft letter? Surely, it's only a matter of time before Albrecht is officially deemed part of the criminal enterprise.
* Alexander attempts to explain that the judges/county officials' conspiracy affects interstate commerce, and thereby qualifies under RICO because -- get this -- the officials hired "the out-of-state National Center for State Courts as consultants and national firms as contractors on the Court Tower project." They also participate in the National Association of Counties and the county receives federal funding. Seriously: this is all they have.
One last note. We saw on the docket that someone named Nina J. Rivera had asked to be notified any time there's a new pleading in this case. Who is "Nina J. Rivera," you ask? We had the same question until we checked her listing at the State Bar. And, at that point, we learned that Nina J. Rivera works for the U.S. Attorney's Office -- the very same office that's convened a grand jury to look into Arpaio and Thomas' abuse of power.
We can only hope that Ms. Rivera had as much fun reading the county attorney's stupid conspiracy theories as we did. But she'd better not be laughing at either Lisa Aubuchon or Rachel Alexander. We hear that's enough to get you on the "criminal enterprise" list.
Keep Phoenix New Times Free... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Phoenix with no paywalls.