Maricopa County Craziness

Mark Dixon Disses Disciplinary Judge William O'Neil, Who He Says was a "Close" Friend, in Affidavit Filed by Lisa Aubuchon

Mark Dixon of Casa Grande is ticked off at Arizona Supreme Court Disciplinary Judge William O'Neil, that much is clear.

O'Neil, former presiding judge for the Pinal County Superior Court, had the contractor come out to his property to do maintenance and they had a "very close friendship," according to an affidavit by Dixon. O'Neil visited Dixon's son in the hospital after a motorcycle accident and even performed a marriage for Dixon and his former wife in 2006.

The friendship is apparently history.

In the affidavit, which was filed with the state Supreme Court this month, Dixon accuses O'Neil of "clearly bias and anomosity" in the case of former Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas and Lisa Aubuchon.

Aubuchon used Dixon's affidavit to prop up her arguments that an April disbarment order against her should be stayed until her appeal is exhausted. Today, the state Supreme Court shot down Aubuchon's effort, ruling that her license will be canceled on July 2. But the affidavit and the accusations in it live on, thanks to at least two conservative blogs that touted the Dixon's criticisms.

An anonymous writer's take on the affidavit was published over the weekend in the Sonoran Alliance blog and Tea Party Tribune.

You can read Mark Dixon's affidavit here.

In it, Dixon writes that his opinion of O'Neil changed after the judge stuck his nose into the messy business of who got custody of a dog after Dixon's divorce.

Dixon implies that O'Neil did his ex-wife a favor in return for helping him obtain a $300,000 loan from the credit union where she works. He also accuses the judge of unethical behavior for helping him with some legal work.

This wasn't just fodder for a potential country song. The gist of Dixon's complaint, and the reason Aubuchon loved it enough to include in her own filings, dealt with O'Neil's supposed bias in the Thomas and Aubuchon case.

In the spring of 2009, Dixon says, he and "Bill" were putting up a fence on the judge's property when O'Neil began talking about how the Maricopa County Attorney's Office was "going after" now-retired Judge Gary Donahoe.

Donahoe, as you probably know, was charged with bribery and other felonies by Thomas -- despite the lack of any evidence of a crime. The charges were later dropped, Thomas and Aubuchon were disbarred, and Donahoe is now suing Maricopa County for damage to his reputation.

O'Neil "made it clear that Judge Donahoe was a friend of his and that the County Attorney's office had no right to challenge or judge" Donahoe," Dixon says in the affidavit. "...He had a predetermined path and agenda (and) he went into this position with the premeditated purpose of convicting and disbarring the individuals involved."

"That's just wrong," Dixon tells us today. "He should have, at the very least, recused himself."

There are a couple of problems with Dixon's accounts, though.

The biggest, as we see it, is one of timing.

Thomas wasn't "going after" Judge Donahoe in the spring of 2009, as Dixon claims.

The charges against Donahoe didn't come until December of 2009. We mentioned this to Dixon, but he wouldn't budge. The investigation that preceded the charges against Donahoe was going on long before, he says.

But that's not correct, either. There was no investigation. That was one of the messed-up things about the whole affair. Testimony during the disciplinary hearings revealed that Thomas and Sheriff Joe Arpaio cooked up the charges a few days before they were announced.

Still, Dixon says he's quite sure of the spring 2009 conversation.

The other problem with Dixon's affidavit is the credibility of Dixon himself. For many reasons, we try not to get in the middle of divorce stories, and this situation only confirms our feeling about that.

We talked to Carol Johnson, Dixon's ex-wife. She swears the dog was hers, that she never helped O'Neil obtain a loan and that, generally, Dixon -- who was convicted in 1996 of embezzling and ordered to pay $161,000 in restitution -- is a habitual liar.

Of course, none of that directly refutes what Dixon has to say about his old "friend," O'Neil.

The judge clearly would have had some feelings about Thomas and Aubuchon before the disciplinary hearing. After all, he's the one who stayed the prosecution against Donahoe a week after the charges were leveled.

But in the end, O'Neil was joined in his opinion about Thomas and Aubuchon by two other panelists, and that was after weeks of testimony that proved that the two former prosecutors had acted unethically.

Bias seems to have had nothing to do with that outcome.

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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.
Contact: Ray Stern