Dangerous Mind

In his cruel and unusual 1994 book Crime and the Sacking of America: The Roots of Chaos, Maricopa County Attorney hopeful Andrew Peyton Thomas wrote this:

"By publicly incarcerating drug dealers and other criminals, displaying them before their neighbors in large, open-air holding pens with their names and crimes prominently displayed, a modified stockade program could provide specific deterrence at marginal cost and general deterrence for the community."

What the Harvard Law School-educated attorney was talking about, basically, is a latter-day version of putting criminals in stocks on the public square.

Thomas continued, "Such a program would also tarnish the glamour and 'coolness' too often associated with a life of crime. This may seem harsh given our modern sensibilities, but perhaps the skeptical reader has not yet stared down the barrel of a gun as have residents of the inner cities, where many of these facilities would be located."

The book is for sale on Amazon.com for $1.67 (no typo).

No wonder that onetime Maricopa County Sheriff's Office posse member Thomas recently said of his relationship with Sheriff "Hang 'em High or Let 'em Hang Themselves" Arpaio: "I have a good relationship with Joe."

But it's too easy to label 37-year-old "Andy" Thomas (he's dropped the effete-sounding Peyton for the common-folk nickname) as the Sheriff Joe of wanna-be Maricopa County Attorneys.

One difference between him and the ancient one is: It's hard to know if Arpaio is doing all that cartoonish stuff mostly for show, whether he's oafishly trying to feed the hovering media beast in law-and-order-obsessed Arizona. That is, whether old Joe actually believes in his cold heart of hearts what he's espousing.

With Thomas there's no doubting.

He clearly believes what he says and writes -- and writes and writes! And because he's been published so often, Thomas' positions on everything from day-care centers (bad!) to the homeless (really bad!) to abortion rights (the worst!) to corporal punishment in schools (good!) to the death penalty (super!) are a matter of public record.

His core base of supporters consists of folks to whom the words illegal immigrants, welfare, right-to-choose, homosexuals, defense attorneys, activist judges, non-Christians and -- hold on tight now -- LIBERALS -- evoke conniption fits.

"Being 'smart,' and being a published writer does not make you qualified to be the Maricopa County Attorney," says opponent Mike Bailey, a homicide prosecutor turned political candidate. "And being so very sure of your points of view, no matter how far from reality they may be, does not make you an intellectually honest person. I do not think that Andrew Thomas should be in any position of power, period."

Though Thomas is naive about how things work inside the criminal-justice system -- he's never prosecuted a felony case before a jury, despite what he claimed in a televised debate a few weeks ago -- he clearly understands the importance of political catch phrases and innuendo.

For example, he set the tone for the current campaign by sticking up signs around the Valley with the slogan "STOP ILLEGAL IMMIGRATION!" atop his name. Exactly how the Maricopa County Attorney is supposed to accomplish that remains lost in rhetoric.

But the catch phrase may attract many voters sick of hearing about the hordes of illegals slithering in from nearby Mexico, taking jobs from Americans, filling schools and hospital emergency rooms, and committing crimes. You know, the usual anti-immigration propaganda that ignores the fact that many Americans don't want most of the low-paying jobs that immigrants eagerly fill.

Not everyone's biting.

Democratic candidate Don Harris drew spontaneous applause at a recent candidates' forum at the Los Abogados Hispanic Bar Association when he said of the missing Thomas, "I don't think he had the cojónes to show up here today."

But the political part of Thomas' estimable brain (and his campaign consultants) may have compelled him to try to appear more "reasonable" on some fronts than he did in a losing race for state Attorney General against Terry Goddard in 2002.

Thomas campaigned in that one with the pandering slogan "No Plea Bargains for Child Molesters."

For the record, every institution in the Western world save, perhaps, the Catholic Church and the North American Man/Boy Love Association abhors, hates and detests child molesters.

Also, trouble was, the Attorney General's Office doesn't handle child-molestation cases. Even if it did, anyone with a smidge of experience knows that prosecutors simply don't have the resources (or, sometimes, the facts) to go to trial on every molestation case.

Thomas now has been saying he would allow his prosecutors as County Attorney to plea bargain in child-molestation cases, but only if the evidence against the accused were dreadfully shaky.

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Paul Rubin
Contact: Paul Rubin