Maricopa County Craziness

Andy Thomas Case: Some Heroes Did Emerge in This Creepy, Cautionary Tale

Today's written ruling by the three-person panel that calls for the disbarment of former Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas and his "special assistant" Lisa Aubuchon should be mandatory reading, and not just for lawyers.

It is profound in fact and happens to be beautifully written.

One example of what we're talking about comes at the very end:

"This multi-year-wreck-of-a-ride, operated by Andrew Thomas and staffed by Aubuchon and Alexander, outrageously exploited power, flagrantly fostered fear, and disgracefully misused the law.

"By the time Andrew Thomas resigned, with his hopes of attaining higher public office and greater public trust, his legacy lay in a smoldering heap, its smoke slowly curling skyward like a prayer for relief."

That's what we call goose-bumpy stuff.

Judge William O'Neil, the Reverend John Hall, and lawyer Mark Sifferman wrote and signed it.

As they note, a few bright lights shone through the otherwise onerous display of disregard by the many bad guys in this epic.

Here's how the panel puts it:

"Importantly, as this report details, multiple Maricopa County Sheriff Deputies, Maricopa County Attorney Investigators, and Deputy County Attorneys took principled stands against the demands of [Thomas and Aubuchon] and at risk to their own careers.

"Mahatma Gandhi reminds us, `A 'No' uttered from the deepest conviction is better than a 'Yes' merely uttered to please, or worse, to avoid trouble.'

"There are moments when our greatest act of faith is to remain ethical. There will be times where being ethical will not change our circumstances. Being ethical is not always a way out of a crisis.

"These individual officers acted at great risk to their careers and thus the well-being of their families. The magnitude of the ethical principles and integrity of these officers is herculean in proportion to [Thomas/Aubuchon]. They offered a breath of fresh air in the increasing gloom of these proceedings as the wretched truth came to light from exhibits and the testimony presented.

"Whether they agreed or supported the hoped-for results of [Thomas and Aubuchon, they] did not overrule the ethical vows they pledged when they became law-enforcement officers. We applaud them."

We know about two of the law enforcement officers to whom the panelists referred -- Mark Stribling and Tim Cooning, retired Phoenix cops who now are investigators at the Maricopa County Attorney's Office.

Listening to the testimony of these men during the Thomas/Aubuchon/Alexander disciplinary hearing and carefully reading the minutely detailed account in today's ruling, this truth emerged: Thankfully, not everyone in this sorry episode lost his or her moral compass and went along to get along: 

As MCAO's chief investigator at the times in question, Stribling intimately was involved in his boss' politically motivated "investigation" of county Board of Supervisors then-Chairman Don Stapley, among other signal events.

He knew first-hand how messed up things were with Lisa Aubuchon and how Andy Thomas was living a hermetically sealed existence in which he allowed only a few select people inside, including Deputy County Attorney Barnett Lotstein, Aubuchon, onetime "Republican Babe of the Week" Rachel Alexander, and Sally Wells, another deputy.

Stribling clearly took his job seriously and did it well enough to become the commander of the investigative unit.

But both Stribling and longtime colleague Cooning knew when to draw a line in the sand and that was when Aubuchon (and, by proxy, Thomas) demanded that they do blatantly illegal and immoral things during the desperate December 2009 effort to prosecute then-presiding county criminal Judge Gary Donahoe for "bribery" and other trumped-up charges.

To their deep credit, Stribling and Cooning wouldn't sign or process any of the paperwork related to the badly bogus "case" against their perceived enemy, who had the audacity to rule against Thomas in certain matters.

"Detective Cooning told [a sheriff's sergeant] he refused to swear to the [Donahoe] complaint," the disciplinary panel wrote. "[The sergeant] called Ms. Aubuchon and handed the phone to Detective Cooning. Ms. Aubuchon told Detective Cooning she `can't believe this' and `this is outrageous' and hung up on Detective Cooning."

Cooning and Stribling (and some others along the way) are to be admired.

The specifics (and there are many) are available in today's ruling.

We really encourage everyone to read it carefully -- and not just lawyers. 

Also read: Andrew Thomas: a (Not So) Fond Look Back at a Demagogue in the Making

KEEP PHOENIX NEW TIMES FREE... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Paul Rubin
Contact: Paul Rubin

Latest Stories