Bill Montgomery, Maricopa County Attorney, is showing his preference for Andrew Thomas-style ethics by pushing for a lenient punishment for Peter Spaw, one of his high-ranking deputy attorneys.
Spaw admitted yesterday in an agreement with the state Supreme Court that he committed "conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice," filing a case that had no merit, incompetent lawyering and neglecting his duties as a supervisor.
Montgomery, through his spokesman Jerry Cobb, refused comment to the Phoenix New Times on Friday about the admission of responsibility by Spaw, the head of Montgomery's Asset Recovery Bureau. Montgomery preferred instead to give a short statement to Michelle Ye Hee Lee of the Arizona Republic, saying he thought Spaw's desire to avoid suspension of his law license in the proposal was "appropriate."
Really, there's nothing "appropriate" about the proposal, which would put Spaw's law license on probation for two years.
If approved, it would mean essentially no discipline for Spaw for the unethical acts that last year brought severe legal punishment down on his subordinate, Rachel Alexander.
It would seem that Montgomery either doesn't believe Alexander deserved her punishment, or that supervisors should get off easier than their subordinates when they commit the same violations.
Logically, William O'Neil, the state Supreme Court's Disciplinary Judge, should reject Spaw's proposal -- and Montgomery's desire -- to let Spaw get off easy.
As part of Spaw's newly filed admission and proposal to get two years' probation of his law license and pay a fine of $17.059.55, Spaw confesses that he was derelict in his duties to supervise Alexander, the acolyte of former County Attorney Andrew Thomas.
Last April, a three-member disciplinary panel of the state's High Court, which included O'Neil, ordered Alexander's law license suspended for six months and a day, a punishment from which it's difficult to ever recover. Alexander has since moved to Washington state, where we caught her begging for change from readers of her conservative blog in order to pay her veterinary bills.
Thomas, the reckless prosecutor who teamed up with Sheriff Joe Arpaio to abuse the rights of county officials, judges and lawyers, was disbarred. Lisa Aubuchon, his go-to partner in the scheme -- which involved violating statute of limitations rules, perjury and filing criminal and civil cases with no probable cause -- was also disbarred. Aubuchon's appealing the decision.
Back in late 2009, Arpaio and Thomas held a news conference that we attended in which they announced a racketeering lawsuit against all five members of the Board of Supervisors, several county judges, county officials and some local lawyers. As we flipped through it, we were nearly overwhelmed by the stench of politics, bad logic, vague conspiratorial allegations and an absolute lack of any clear evidence of potential wrongdoing.
When we and other members of the news media asked Thomas to explain several aspects of the lawsuit, Thomas lied, saying it was self-explanatory.
Aubuchon was handling the case originally for Thomas. He had her hand it off to Alexander in a half-assed attempt to hide his office's glaring conflict of interest; Thomas was also pursuing, with Aubuchon's help, criminal cases against some of the same subjects in the civil racketeering case.
Alexander, who apparently spent much of her time at the county attorney's office writing pro-Thomas blog posts, pursued the bogus case with vigor and tailored an amended complaint -- with Spaw's help and supervision.
Spaw admits now that he helped with the case despite knowing it was garbage.
As far as we know, Spaw's still the chief of the County Attorney's Office's Asset Recovery Bureau under Montgomery.
Montgomery owes the public an explanation as to why he believes Spaw should get off with a lighter punishment than Alexander.
We're wary of the fact that Montgomery, an ally of Sheriff Arpaio, has a political motive to keep his mouth shut on the matter.
True, the proposed agreement by Spaw has been made with the the Arizona State Bar, through its independent bar counsel, John Gleason of Colorado, who prosecuted, so to speak, the Thomas, Aubuchon and Alexander cases. That means Gleason and the State Bar wouldn't mind seeing Spaw get off easier than Alexander, either.
Admitting guilt means a lot to the State Bar, obviously, and to the legal system in general.
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The agreement means a lot less work for Gleason, who won't have to spend weeks in legal proceedings going after Spaw.
But the proposed agreement doesn't state why Alexander should be punished more harshly than Spaw.
Maybe O'Neil, if he decides just to slap Spaw's wrist, will explain it.
Click here to read the statement of admissions by Spaw and proposed punishment.