Breathtaking Abuse of the Constitution

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Rather than proceeding through normal legal channels, Wilenchik's ad hominem attack marked the beginning of a three-day public assault on the courts by Thomas, highlighted by the grandstanding demand that all 93 judges in Maricopa County be replaced by out-of-county judges.

The presiding judge of the county Superior Court, Barbara Mundell, denied the motion, noting that "no facts to establish bias or prejudice of any, and certainly not all of the 93 judges" was put into evidence.

Still pending, as we went to press, was the effort to remove Judge Ryan individually.

Lost in Wilenchik and Thomas' tactics were the people involved in the cases. As Judge Mundell noted, all the victims, witnesses, and defendants would have suffered unnecessary hardships and delays under Wilenchik's preposterous motion.

Of course, the idea to strike Judge Ryan and his 92 colleagues in Superior Court was pursued with little regard for legal victory but maximum regard for publicity value. And the execution of this media ploy was both heavy-handed and vicious, playing fast and loose with anti-immigrant prejudices.

The same kind of heavy-handed unscrupulousness by Wilenchik was reported by New Times reporter Paul Rubin in the lawyer's recent defamation defense of Sheriff Joe Arpaio ("Below the Belt," September 20).

In the 2004 election, Arpaio's office leaked the accusation that the sheriff's opponent, Dan Saban, now Buckeye's police chief, had raped his adoptive mom 30 years earlier.

In fact, the accusation was leaked to a television reporter before the Sheriff's Office actually investigated the charge. The rape report aired before it was subsequently discredited.

Despite the sleazy behavior of Sheriff Arpaio's henchmen, Saban had little in the way of actual damages and sued only to clear his name. He made a point of not asking for financial compensation.

Rubin's story noted that Wilenchik went well beyond merely defending the sheriff.

"Newsworthy are the extralegal machinations Wilenchik employed outside the courtroom to try to ruin Saban's life," wrote Rubin. "In recent months, Wilenchik sent virulent anti-Saban letters to several authorities, including Governor Janet Napolitano, Attorney General Terry Goddard, the Buckeye Town Council, the Mesa Police Department (Saban's longtime former employer) and the Arizona Peace Officer Standards and Training Board, the state police-certification agency known as POST.

"The missives are filled with malevolent innuendo and, in many instances, outright misinformation and disinformation."

The story goes on to detail the content of Wilenchik's letters, which have nothing to do with the defense of Sheriff Arpaio in the courtroom and everything to do with destroying Police Chief Saban.

Citing public documents, Rubin also detailed Wilenchik's employment by the county, as well as his recent hiring to pursue the investigation of New Times' putting Sheriff Arpaio's home address on the Internet. The article never mentioned the existence of the grand jury. While it recounted the nearly three-year-old controversy over Arpaio's address, it did not state the address.

Though Saban lost his quixotic suit, he told Rubin, "I still think it was very important to shine the light on this sheriff and what he and his people are capable of doing."

Twenty-four hours after this article appeared, special prosecutor Wilenchik obtained a grand jury subpoena for Paul Rubin, too.

The subpoena demanded "All document, records and files" associated with the writing and editing of this story, as well as conversations and meetings related to the publishing of it.

It is impossible to view Rubin's grand jury subpoena as anything other than what it was: an act of vengeance by Wilenchik.

Elected in 1992, Joe Arpaio, "America's toughest sheriff," drew the attention of our writers and then-columnist Tom Fitzpatrick right from the start.

Over a cup of coffee, the newly elected Sheriff asked how he might "get next to" Fitzpatrick, who had resurrected Arpaio's old nickname from when he served with the Drug Enforcement Agency: "Nickel Bag Joe," a reference to Arpaio's fondness for penny-ante busts.

In fact, neither Sheriff Arpaio — nor anyone else — could get next to Fitzpatrick.

Sheriff Arpaio had no better luck with any of our other writers.

While voters lapped up the sheriff's harsh approach to inmates in his jails — from forcing them to wear pink underwear, to feeding them oxidized, green bologna, to working them in chain gangs, to housing inmates in tents — New Times writers pointed out that the cruelty and violence in Arpaio's lockups prompted Amnesty International's first investigation in America.

And people continued to die under Arpaio's care. Crippled people, blind people, people out of their minds. Local attorney Michael Manning has collected nearly $20 million in damages from the county over inmates killed in Arpaio's custody.

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Michael Lacey
Contact: Michael Lacey
Jim Larkin
Contact: Jim Larkin