Andrew Thomas Defends RICO Lawsuit -- Still Thinks Dubious Claim Has Merit

For those of us who don't stand accused of being criminals, or literally face felony charges simply for doing our jobs (see: Donahoe, Gary), it's been something of a hoot to read the filings by Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas in his conspiracy-fueled attack on other county officials.

Of course these aren't laughing matters. Hundreds of thousands of dollars are being spent on lawyers; county business isn't getting done; reputations are being destroyed by whisper campaigns and unproven assertions in court filings.

But the logic displayed by Thomas and his minions as they attempt to execute their attack is, in fact, laughable. One lawyer noted at a rally last month that the "probable cause" statement Thomas' office filed in the case against Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Gary Donahoe reads like a letter to the editor -- and that seems about right. These filings are so full of bombast and so short on legal theory, we're still not sure what Thomas' endlessly cited "criminal enterprise" was supposedly up to: There's never been so much as an allegation that anyone has profited one penny from their alleged criminal acts.

That said, Thomas' latest filing in his racketeering case against numerous county officials -- the stupid RICO claim that alleges county supervisors, judges, and their lawyers are part of a criminal conspiracy -- is hilarious. Why? Even though every lawyer in town who's read this thing has been horrified by its absence of fact, Thomas is still convinced it's a gem.

Consider the statements from Thomas' deputy county attorney, Rachel Alexander, as she attempts to fight off motions to dismiss the case.

Here are some of the self-aggrandizing gems offered by Alexander in her response, filed Thursday:

* Thomas' RICO suit is no "conspiracy theory," Alexander writes. "In fact, plaintiffs submit that rarely have so many factual allegations in a civil RICO complaint hung together so strongly in the absence of any real opportunity for discovery." Hung together so strongly. Huh.

* Upon information and belief, Alexander writes, her office has filed "what may well be the most factually detailed federal civil RICO claim every filed in Arizona." She doesn't give that an exclamation point, but it kind of deserves one, eh? It may well be the most factually detailed federal civil RICO claim ever filed in Arizona!

* Alexander points out that the original lawsuit offers 75 paragraphs supposedly outlining the conspiracy (never mind that the 75 paragraphs include such gems as the county's lawyer quietly laughing as Thomas' prosecutor got her ass handed to her in court). "If this Complaint does not satisfy [federal RICO requirements], plaintiffs question whether any civil RICO claimants can meet this standard [emphasis added]." Because, you know, this suit just hangs together soooo strongly ...

* Alexander claims, without evidence, that the lawyers and judges named in the suit violated judicial ethics. Therefore, she argues, reason would hold that they might be capable of anything. "Quite simply, if defendants would brazenly violate the rules of judicial ethics in such a manner, would they not also have been willing to improperly protect themselves and their associates from criminal investigations and prosecutions?" Um, maybe?? If Bobby stole candy from the Circle K, would he not also have been willing to commit murder to obtain it? Again, maybe? But we still don't charge him with murder. Or do we?

* Despite all her bombast, Alexander argues that the lawsuit should be allowed to continue even if appearances are correct and it pretty much sucks. She quotes a legal precedent that holds "a well-pleaded complaint may proceed even if it strikes a savvy judge that actual proof of those facts is improbable, and 'that a recovery is very remote and unlikely.'" We'd say this is finally a precedent that applies -- other than that whole "well-pleaded" part! 

Finally, Alexander argues, if the judge thinks this suit doesn't qualify under RICO law, well, that's a fault of the law, not Thomas & Alexander. That means the law should be changed!

"[S]hould the court conclude existing law does not allow this Complaint to be sustained, plaintiffs respectfully request an appropriate ruling regarding same so they can petition Congress to change federal law," Alexander writes, "and thereby ensure that local law-enforcement agencies suffering local corruption may obtain appropriate relief from the federal courts."

You read it here first, guys. Thomas isn't giving up even if he loses this case outright (which, of course, we are more than happy to predict). He's gonna go lobby Congress!

Dear God in Heaven.

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Sarah Fenske
Contact: Sarah Fenske