Arguing that there's no way their client can get fair treatment with the Maricopa County Attorney's Office prosecuting the case against her, attorneys representing Mary Rose Wilcox have filed a motion asking Judge John Leonardo to disqualify the office from further involvement in the case.
They also asked Leonardo to dismiss the indictment against Wilcox, citing a series of serious defects in the charges.
New Times has already detailed some of these problems, which include the fact that Wilcox faces one felony count for a vote where she wasn't even present. We also explained that Arizona's conflict of interest statute, which forms the basis for 12 of the counts against her, appears not to apply to the facts in this case -- an argument that Wilcox's attorneys, Colin Campbell and Kathleen O'Meara, explain in more detail in their filing.
Wilcox is the lone Democrat on the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors. She faces 36 felony counts, all of them stemming from her failure to disclose a series of loans from the non-profit Chicanos Por La Causa at the same time the agency received grants from the county.
But, as Campbell and O'Meara explain in their filing, Wilcox wasn't even required by law to disclose the loans in question. Seriously!
In the indictment against Wilcox, the County Attorney's Office claimed that the loans from CPLC were personal. But Wilcox's lawyers say that simply isn't true: CPLC makes business loans, not personal ones, and that's what all the loans in question were.
This matters because public officials like Wilcox are only required to disclose business loans if they are of an amount greater than $10,000 -- and are more than 30 percent of the business's total debt.
Wilcox's lawyers say the loans from CPLC meet neither criteria.
At New Times, we don't have access to Wilcox's business ledger. But we can tell you this: The first loan from CPLC to Wilcox, which totaled just $7,500, was the basis for a whopping 19 felony counts. If Wilcox's lawyers can simply show the judge it was a business loan -- which seems like a pretty easy case to make -- more than half the charges immediately go up in smoke.
The more we learn about this case, the more it becomes clear just how sloppy, short-sighted, and (frankly) incompetent the County Attorney's Office has been. It's not just that vote where she wasn't even present, although that's bad enough. It's also, as Wilcox's lawyers point out, that prosecutors couldn't even get the right total for how many loans Wilcox got. (They claim she got four, totaling $297,500 -- but in reality, she only got three loans, and the total was $177,500 instead. Don't they double-check anything in that office?)
These defects are one reason Wilcox's lawyers want Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas' office off the case.
"The County Attorney's inability to serve as an unbiased prosecutor is manifest in the shoddily composed and unsupported indictment," they write. "Even a quick glance at the case law should have alerted a neutral prosecutor to the infirmity in the charges."
In their 15-page brief, filed with the court Friday, the lawyers also detail Thomas' host of conflicts in prosecuting the case: For one, attorneys with his staff previously advised Wilcox on the financial disclosure forms in question. For another, he's filed a RICO lawsuit against a host of county officials, including Wilcox, alleging they're a "criminal enteprise."
The law holds that if a prosecutor has a personal interest in a civil matter, then he's disqualified from "initiating or participating in the prosecution of that criminal case," the lawyers write, citing case law. Seems pretty clear cut.
We've rarely seen such a thorough motion filed within just one week of an indictment -- much less one that destroys a case this effectively and makes such a strong argument for removing the prosecutor. We hate to ever predict anything in this crazy county, but it seems safe to say that the current case against Mary Rose Wilcox is in serious jeopardy.
UPDATE: Campbell files a new motion on Monday that seeks to force a guarantee from Thomas that he won't hassle the Tucson judge assigned to the Wilcox case.
Keep Phoenix New Times Free... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Phoenix with no paywalls.