We wrote earlier this year about the media-friendly bust by the Arpaio/Thomas duet of Waterworld Safari, the venerable theme park out in Glendale that is now called (under new ownership) Wet `n' Wild.
County Attorney Thomas told the press after the 2008 bust that "a new chapter in the enforcement of immigration law in Arizona has begun," referring to the then-new employer-sanctions law designed (with Arizona's toughened identity-theft statutes) to bust employers who knowingly hire undocumented workers, a.k.a. illegal aliens.
But after the cameras went away, Thomas' prosecutors focused their attentions, not on Waterworld's owners, but on the theme park's food-service and catering manager, Lessie Serrano.
Serrano had hired and supervised some of the low-level employees busted in the made-for-TV raid on June 10, 2008. (No doubt, there were illegals working at Worldworld. So stop the damned presses!)
Serrano was charged with aggravated identity theft (the equivalent under Arizona law of committing manslaughter) and of hindering prosecution.
Time slipped away, and Serrano's attorneys (Jordan Green and Lee Stein) tried in vain to persuade Superior Court Judge Paul McCurdie to dismiss the case on various legal grounds.
County Attorney Thomas crowed in a press release after one such failed attempt, "On July 16, 2009, Judge Paul McMurdie denied these motions seeking dismissal and remand to the grand jury.
"This office will continue to prosecute individuals who violate our laws by hiring illegal immigrants. We will also follow through on other employer-sanctions investigations and pursue suspension of business licenses when appropriate."
Then, on December 17, Thomas announced that Waterworld's parent, Golfland Entertainment Inc., was the first Arizona company to have its business license suspended for 10 days as the employer-sanctions law prescribes for first-time offenders.
The media dutifully reported the turn of events, with the Arizona Republic noting that the whole thing was Pyrrhic in that Waterworld already is out of business.
But what of Lessie Serrano, the only Waterworld manager personally charged in the case? The media seemed to have forgotten her, one year after her photo was plastered all the place after her grand-jury indictment.
Without fanfare, Serrano got an early Christmas present on December 23.
A Superior Court filing dated that day shows that one of Thomas' prosecutors asked the judge to drop all charges against Serrano -- and in such a way that they cannot be refiled.
The prosecutor did so, according to the pleading, "in the interests of justice."
We'll write something up in a bit more detail for print on this after the New Year.
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.