Maricopa County Craziness

Andrew Thomas, Lisa Aubuchon Must be Disbarred to Help Restore Public Trust, State Bar Counsel Urges

Former Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas and his former underling Lisa Aubuchon must be disbarred in order to restore public trust in the legal system, the State Bar's investigating lawyer has found.

The opinion comes in two documents filed today with the state Supreme Court: A closing argument and "finding of fact and conclusions of law." It's not much a surprise that Arizona State Bar Independent Counsel John Gleason would recommend disbarment, since he did so long before the lengthy disciplinary hearings that ended early last month.

What's new here is the forceful and succinct characterization of the evidence that Thomas and Aubuchon were dirty players. Read the documents below.

Gleason also suggested to the State Bar's disciplinary hearing panel that the law license of former deputy county attorney Rachel Alexander be suspended for three months for her more minor, but still-serious role in a now-discredited attack on county officials.

After weeks of testimony, Gleason found nothing to change his original opinion of the former prosecutors' actions. If Thomas and Aubuchon had been accused only of filing bogus charges against a sitting judge, that alone would have merited disbarment, the bar counsel found.

But they did far more than that.

From the closing argument:

Thomas and Aubuchon became obsessed with pursuing particular individuals involved in these disputes through criminal investigations and then a civil RICO action. Their obsession with Supervisor Donald Stapley, attorney Thomas Irvine and Judge Gary Donahoe caused multiple conflicts of interest, dishonesty in documents they filed in court, and the filing of criminal charges without any evidence that a crime had been committed.

Thomas and Aubuchon committed multiple serious violations of their obligations as lawyers, and they can no longer be permitted the privilege of practicing law.

...(their) actions have brought disrepute to the Bar and especially other prosecutors.

(Thomas) acted not on evidence, but on vague and unsubstantiated rumors about Stapley.

One unsubstantiated rumor was that Stapley told Presiding Superior Court Judge Mundell that she would not get the Court Tower if she did not hire attorney Tom Irvine. This rumor marked the beginning of Thomas's obsession with Tom Irvine.

Thomas and Aubuchon never talked to the source of this rumor, Jack LaSota, and did not perform any investigation of this alleged bribe. Nevertheless, in January 2007, soon after the lawsuit against the Board was settled, Thomas's Special Assistant County Attorney Mark Goldman began to investigate whether there was a connection between Stapley and Irvine.

Gleason found that Aubuchon "clearly" misled detectives with the sheriff's office during the investigation into Stapley. She knew that Goldman, a local lawyer, had investigated Stapley in early 2007 at the request of Andrew Thomas, and she'd done her own investigating in early 2008.

"The timing of when investigations begin is critical for statute of limitations purposes," Gleason wrote. "She was not forthright about that timing."

Thomas essentially "lost all objectivity" of his role as the lawyer for the county and its Board of Supervisors.

"Remarkably, Thomas never admitted or recognized that he became an adversary of the Board," Gleason wrote. "During the hearing, Thomas was still unwilling to examine his own conduct and instead criticized the conduct of others."

What's even more remarkable, as far as we're concerned, is that some people want to keep gulping down Thomas' Kool-Aid.

Lawyers for Thomas, Aubuchon and Alexander are scheduled to file a response to the bar counsel's closing argument and findings by mid-January. The State Bar will get the last word in, with another response due by the end of January.

A decision by the State Bar's hearing panel on punishment for the three former prosecutors is expected this spring.

IBC_Closing Argument Final12!19!11

IBC_Proposed Findings 12-16-11

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Ray Stern has worked as a newspaper reporter in Arizona for more than two decades. He's won numerous awards for his reporting, including the Arizona Press Club's Don Bolles Award for Investigative Journalism.