Back from Maricopa County Sheriff's Office headquarters in downtown Phoenix, where we spent a few hours looking through public files involving the infamous, spectacularly overblown (yet never prosecuted) "bribery" case against Superior Court Judge Gary Donahoe.
The "case" was a dog, and a rabid one at that.
The files confirm our earlier analysis (link here to our former colleague Sarah Fenske's terrific yarn earlier this year about the Court Tower mess).
That piece suggested with all kinds of documentation that the Donahoe affair was a
politically motivated attempt to, at the least, ruin the reputation of a respected judge who, God forbid, had ruled against Sheriff Joe and then-County Attorney Andy Thomas (yeah, that's him in the photo) in several instances on what seem to have been solid legal grounds.
Readers of our paper may remember the highly publicized goings-on that shook Maricopa County to its core.
One document in the 1,500-pages or so of paperwork that we checked out was a mind-bender:
It is a draft of a grand jury indictment in which the Joe Arpaio/Andy Thomas gang contemplated bringing major-felony conspiracy charges against just about everyone in authority in Maricopa County government -- but them and their buds.
The list included the five-member Maricopa County Board of Supervisors, then-presiding judge Barbara Mundell, Judge Donahoe, retired Judge Kenneth Fields (who was working pro tem), County Manager David Smith, and two other county officials.
The official charge would have been "participating in a criminal syndicate," as in working together in a common scheme to line their pocketbooks at the expense of taxpayers.
The charge is a Class Two felony, the equivalent under Arizona law of committing serious violent crimes.
The undated, never-filed document also called for grand jurors to indict members of the alleged county cabal on other felonies, including hindering prosecution and obstructing an investigation.
In the end, however, Andy Thomas chose to file a "direct complaint" solely against Donahoe last December 9, avoiding the grand-jury process and going directly to a Justice of the Peace with a "probable cause" statement rife with speculation, half-truths, and leaps of logic that led to an inescapable conclusion:
That is, Sheriff Arpaio and his chief deputy, Dave Hendershott, and Andy Thomas and his chief prosecutor in the case, Lisa Aubuchon (now under investigation herself), were willing to do whatever it took to try to bring Judge Donahoe and others down, facts be damned.
The skimpy police reports prepared by sheriff's detectives read in part like opinion pieces in a daily newspaper, not the cool analysis of professional cops.
Those detectives express outrage against Judge Donahoe and the Maricopa County Superior Court administration for the alleged "corruption" they suggest was permeating every aspect of the construction of the new Court Tower.
"The cost to the county taxpayers comes at a time of extraordinary economic hardship," sheriff's detective D. Tennyson wrote in a report apparently designed to show that Judge Donahoe somehow was guilty of bribery.
The MCSO files we looked at contain reams of public court documents, including Judge Donahoe's steadfast February 2009 refusal to recuse himself from issuing further legal rulings in cases involving the Arpaio/Thomas crew and the county's executive and judicial branches.
"This judge has no direct or indirect interest in the Court Tower, nor does any factor exist that would require this judge to disqualify himself," Donahoe wrote.
Reminds us of what we asked Andy Thomas after he announced the charges against the judge.
"What's the bribe?" we asked him. "Did he get paid for something on the side? Was he promised a bigger bathroom or higher ceilings?"
Thomas didn't have a clue how to answer that one.
This is what we wrote after that bizarre press conference on the morning of December 9, 2009.
For the record, we've never shied away from a good corruption yarn -- it's our bread and butter.
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But the only corruption emanating from the Donahoe affair seems to have been from the accusers, not the accusees.
Waste of time. Waste of money. Waste of trees.