A Superior Court judge has ruled against several criminal defendants who wanted him to disqualify the Maricopa County Attorney's Office from prosecuting their cases.Judge Wallace Hoggatt is the Cochise County jurist assigned to the sweeping case by a "special master" who is overseeing the myriad court cases stemming from the ongoing war between Sheriff Joe Arpaio, his yes-man County Attorney Andrew Peyton Thomas (seen in the photo yapping about conspiracies EVERYWHERE!), and Maricopa County's judiciary and executive branches.
Attorneys representing more than 50 defendants, including about a dozen death penalty-eligible defendants, filed motions late last year seeking to disqualify Thomas and company from continuing to prosecute their cases because of alleged "conflicts of interest" and "appearances of impropriety."
But Hoggatt wrote in a 13-page legal memorandum dated yesterday, February 22, that the "present defendants and their attorneys are not involved in any way that this Court can see, with the Court Tower project, the federal racketeering action, the criminal complaint against the Presiding Criminal Judge, or any of the other actions alleged in the motions to disqualify."
Because of that and other legal considerations, the judge denied the defense motion, though not before providing some fascinating insights.
"The present motions were not made to harrass the prosecution," Hoggatt wrote. "They were filed to address a bizarre and unprecedented state of affairs in Maricopa County. If Mr. Thomas is the kind of person his detractors make him out to be, he has no one to blame but himself for the flood of disqualification notices. Even if he ultimately proves not to be the kind of person described in the motions, one thing would nonetheless remain true: the present defendants and their attorneys did not create the present circumstances."
But as of now, those defendants and their attorneys are stuck with them.
The judge noted that the defense motions "have presented an image of the Maricopa County Attorney as an out-of-control political prosecutor who engages in grotesque abuses of power -- filing baseless accusations, defying the courts, and brutally retaliating against judges, supervisors, lawyers and others who get in the way of his and the sheriff's investigation of the Court Tower project."
Hoggatt said that depiction "may or may not accurately correspond with reality," but since county prosecutors have not disputed it, he is "left with not altenative but to accept the [defense] image of Mr. Thomas."
Despite rejecting a bulk of the disqualification motions, Judge Hoggatt said nothing in his memorandum about the still-pending March 1 and 2 hearings concerning about a dozen defendants, most of them eligible for the death penalty.
In an earlier ruling, Hoggatt said he would consider testimony at those hearings from five assistants to Maricopa County Superior Court judges who were questioned at their homes late last year by sheriff's detectives allegedly investigating the Court Tower project.
Those judicial assistants reportedly were grilled by the detectives about their and their judges' knowledge of goings-on concerning the controversial (controversial only because of the protracted and very public "investigation" by the Arpaio/Thomas camp into alleged wrongdoing by just about everyone they can think of except them).