CHICKENS COME HOME
Embattled ex-Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas' recent, crybaby press conference on the steps of the Arizona Supreme Court offered a truly maudlin display for a public that twice elected this man to a position of authority.
As part of it, Thomas dragged his wife, Ann Estrada Thomas, out of whatever closet he'd been keeping her in so she could play the sheep-eyed spouse by his side.
Can't help but wonder what she was doing as her husband and his fellow Sith Lord, Sheriff Joe Arpaio, instituted a pogrom against undocumented Latinos in this state, long before Senate Bill 1070 was pimped by state Senate President-elect Russell Pearce.
Thomas, the former far-right hopeful for the state Attorney General's Office, seemed on the verge of crocodile tears as he denounced the State Bar of Arizona and the just-released report by independent counsel John Gleason, which accuses Thomas and his henchwomen, ex-deputy county attorneys Lisa Aubuchon and Rachel Alexander, of 32 ethical violations.
Gleason's report advises that, if proved true, the allegations "warrant disbarment" for Thomas and Aubuchon. They warrant far more than that. But, for the moment, back to Thomas' self-pity-fest.
"For the last three years, the State Bar of Arizona has been on a political witch hunt against me," sniffed Thomas, falsely.
Granted, Thomas knows a thing or two about witch hunts, having been the author of many during his reign of ineptitude as County Attorney, a stint that plunged the county into a protracted, expensive, and wholly unnecessary civil war, with Thomas and Arpaio on one side and the county Board of Supervisors and the rest of humanity (nativists don't count) on the other.
But Gleason, an outsider who normally works for the Colorado Supreme Court on similar inquiries, was appointed by Arizona Supreme Court Chief Justice Rebecca White Berch to investigate the bar allegations against Thomas and his minions.
Gleason has no score to settle with Thomas and the others — despite Aubuchon's lawyers dumbly having Gleason tailed by a P.I. during his investigation, a blatant attempt at intimidation.
During a press conference earlier in the day, Gleason stated that he's never even met Thomas. Indeed, Thomas, Aubuchon, and Alexander all declined to be interviewed for Gleason's report.
Their reticence earned Thomas and Aubuchon an additional whack from former Arizona Supreme Court Chief Justice Charles Jones, who took Gleason's report and issued probable-cause orders directing Gleason to write up a formal complaint, one that, after all the legal wrangling involved, is expected to result in hearings sometime in July.
Jones hit Aubuchon and Thomas with a 33rd alleged violation: refusing to cooperate with Gleason's inquiry, as they are required to do by the bar's rules.
The judge also correctly categorized the Camelback Mountain-size pile of evidence against Thomas and Aubuchon as portraying "a reckless, four-year campaign of corruption and power abuse."
The jurist bemoaned the enormous and "mostly wasteful" cost to the taxpayers in untold millions and pegged the motivation for the alleged impropriety by all three lawyers as "retaliatory" and "intended to do personal harm to the reputations of judges, county supervisors, and other public officials."
Thomas and his henchwomen were "intent on intimidation, focused on political gain," noted Jones, and their actions revealed themselves as "fully disconnected from professional and prosecutorial standards long associated with the administration of justice, particularly criminal justice."
Gracias for the validation, judge. This is the sort of stuff this newspaper's been screaming about, practically since Thomas took office.
Over the years, my colleagues Ray Stern, Paul Rubin, and Sarah Fenske — now managing editor of New Times' St. Louis sister paper, Riverfront Times — have microscopically scrutinized every inch of Thomas' malevolent machinations, as well as those of his underlings.
And lest some forget the retaliation New Times has endured, you'll recall that in 2007, Village Voice Media Executive Editor Michael Lacey and CEO Jim Larkin paid the price of false arrest and imprisonment at the hands of Sheriff's Office goon squads, acting on behalf of a bogus County Attorney's Office investigation led by Thomas' handpicked special prosecutor, Dennis Wilenchik.
Public outcry forced Thomas to drop the matter less than 24 hours later. For a primer, read Lacey and Larkin's double-bylined cover story, "Breathtaking Abuse of the Constitution," (October 18, 2007), and my coverage of the aftermath, "Who's Sorry Now?" (October 25, 2007).
Of course, Gleason's 76-page report doesn't deal with that brouhaha. Instead, it focuses on Thomas' attacks on the Board of Supervisors — specifically on the voluminous and now-dismissed charges against supervisors Mary Rose Wilcox and Don Stapley — and on the judiciary, most tellingly Superior Court Judge Gary Donahoe.
Donahoe had ruled against the County Attorney's Office in several matters, and Thomas and Aubuchon wanted Donahoe to recuse himself in a pending hearing. So, as Gleason details at length, Thomas, Aubuchon, and Arpaio cooked up a bogus indictment of Donahoe, accusing him of bribery, among other things.
There was no investigation, no probable cause. The alleged "bribery" involved Donahoe's benefiting somehow from moving into the new county court tower under construction. This fantasy is belied by the fact that Donahoe was set to retire before the court tower's completion.
The court tower was the subject of an insane conspiracy theory promulgated by Thomas and Arpaio, which in turn became the subject of Thomas' absurd RICO suit against a list of their judicial and county enemies.
That RICO suit was so laughable that Thomas and Arpaio ended up dropping it altogether and handing it over to the U.S. Department of Justice for review, though the feds wanted no part of it.
In an October letter from Arizona U.S. Attorney Dennis Burke to then-County Attorney Rick Romley, Burke stated that there was a "total lack of evidence" that any federal crimes had been committed and that "in several instances, the evidence was so lacking as to make the theory of liability nearly incomprehensible."
Gleason similarly found that the racketeering lawsuit was frivolous, meritless, and mired in conflicts of interest. Moreover, it was hatched purely to "burden and/or embarrass the defendants."
Worse, according to Gleason, it was "legally deficient" and lawyer/wingnut blogger Rachel Alexander's attempts to prolong the case were based on "incompetent reasoning."
It was in pursuit of Judge Donahoe's scalp that the Thomas cabal veered into possible lawbreaking. The independent counsel reveals that it was Arpaio's genius idea to file charges against Donahoe. In doing so, Thomas and Aubuchon were "engaging in criminal conduct," Gleason writes.
Gleason alleges the pair violated federal criminal statute 18 USC 241, which makes it a crime for two or more people to conspire to deprive someone of his civil rights. In this case, it was Donahoe's "constitutional right to engage in his profession and do his job as a judge."
Thomas and Aubuchon "engaged in perjury" when they filed a criminal complaint signed under oath by MCSO detective Gabriel Almanza, Gleason says.
This, because, "Thomas and Aubuchon knew that Detective [Almanza] would be swearing to facts and allegations against Judge Donahoe that were false."
Almanza was ordered by an MCSO sergeant working with Aubuchon to sign, even though Alamanza "had no knowledge as to the truth or the falsity of the complaint."
Doing justice to the entirety of Gleason's report is not possible in the space allotted here, but you can read the full report for yourself online in my Feathered Bastard blog post, "Andrew Thomas' Campaign of Corruption" (December 6).
Other highlights include Thomas and Aubuchon's filing at least 44 criminal complaints against Supervisor Stapley — 44 out of that infamous 118 — that they knew the statute of limitations had run out on.
Add to this allegations of dishonesty, abuse of process, misleading grand juries, and when you get done, you realize that losing his license to practice law in Arizona is the least of Thomas' worries.
Because if the U.S. Attorney's Office, the FBI, and the federal grand jury looking into Thomas and Arpaio all act accordingly, Thomas could be swapping his swank law digs at Phoenix's Paradise Village Office Park for a cinder-block cell in the federal pen.
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