Maricopa County Craziness

Lisa Aubuchon Wanted "Hundreds" of Teens Interviewed During Dale Fushek Case, Probe Transcript Reveals

  Of the all the cockamamie things we've heard Lisa Aubuchon did while at the Maricopa County Attorney's Office, this has to be the weirdest.

And yet, it seems so -- Lisa.

Five years ago, the story goes, while building the case against the disgraced, defrocked priest, Dale Fushek, Aubuchon wanted to use grand jury subpoena powers to bring in "thousands" of teenagers as a way to collect more evidence.

Mark Stribling, the investigations commander at the office who has 30 years' experience as a Phoenix cop and special investigator, revealed Aubuchon's strange suggestion in April during the office's internal probe that led to the deputy county attorney's firing last month.

Aubuchon is under investigation by the State Bar and U.S. Justice Department for possible abuse of power: She was the would-be dragon-slayer for former County Attorney Andrew Thomas, taking on his politically charged cases -- and getting scorched in failure.

The transcripts from the internal investigation about Aubuchon provide a fascinating and comprehensive look at the behind-the-scenes dealings by key players in the county saga. More to come later on what's in that treasure chest. 

But for the moment, back to the Fushek case:

Stribling, during his interview with lawyer Kate Baker, who was hired by Interim County Attorney Rick Romley to help with the internal investigation, said that Aubuchon outlined her wishes for the case in a 2005 memo.

"And the first section is the part about -- where she states that if these teenagers weren't cooperative, that we should consider subpoenaing them to the grand jury," Stribling said, describing how the office was trying to find out how many minors Fushek had potentially abused. "She was suggesting that, if we couldn't get people to just come and tell us, that we could possibly subpoena them to the grand jury. And, as I pointed out, that would have been hundreds of people."

Earlier in the conversation, as mentioned, Stribling had said it was "thousands." We hear it was about 1,500, but don't have a copy of Aubuchon's memo to verify the number.

The very notion of trying to interview that many people, just to ask them if they knew anything, seems to have sprung from an unhinged mind. That simply isn't the way it's done in this country -- or possibly any country.

Stribling said he made it clear to Aubuchon that such a move would be an "abuse of the grand jury and it would be a fishing expedition."

In retrospect, it looks like there was a motive to suggest such a ridiculous, time-consuming project: The case against Fushek was sensational, but not so easy to prove in court.

After five years of prosecution, Fushek pleaded guilty only to one misdemeanor count of assault. He got probation.

Stribling notes the Fushek case as one of major example of disagreements he had with Aubuchon.

Another was in 2008, during work on the first criminal case against County Supervisor Don Stapley.

We'll be detailing more from the transcripts of Baker's internal investigation in a future blog post, so stay tuned.

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Ray Stern has worked as a newspaper reporter in Arizona for more than two decades. He's won numerous awards for his reporting, including the Arizona Press Club's Don Bolles Award for Investigative Journalism.