Officer Lovejoy's Lawsuit Against Joe Arpaio Allowed to Proceed; Judge Notes Former County Attorney's Brown-Nosing of Sheriff

U.S. District Judge Neil Wake is allowing Chandler police officer Thomas Lovejoy's lawsuit alleging rights violations to move forward in the latest blow to Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio.

Lovejoy's the over-worked officer who left his K-9 partner, Bandit, to die in a hot patrol car on August 11, 2007 and was later arrested and charged by the discredited law-enforcement duo of Arpaio and former County Attorney Andrew Thomas. Lovejoy claimed the whole thing was a sham, designed to pump up ratings for a sheriff obsessed with publicity.

Wake says a rational jury might agree with Lovejoy and denied the sheriff's attempt to have the case dismissed in summary judgment. The 43-page ruling (see below) notes that while Lovejoy's claim of a violation of the constitution's equal protection clause doesn't fly, his other claims have merit. The ruling's a pretty good summary of the facts, using transcripts and other material from the two-year-old case.

Arpaio, as could be expected, comes off looking poorly.

So does Thomas and his former sidekick, Lisa Aubuchon -- both of whom are now awaiting likely disbarment following a weeks-long disciplinary proceeding. Most of the antics that got them in so much professional trouble were done in cahoots with Arpaio -- from the failed prosecutions of County Supervisors Don Stapley, Mary Rose Wilcox and Andrew Kunasek, to the cooking up of bogus bribery charges against now-retired Superior Court Judge Gary Donahoe.

In this new ruling, Wake notes that a rational juror might conclude based on the evidence that Thomas and his underling, Aubuchon, didn't exercise independent judgment in helping Arpaio persecute Lovejoy.

Makes sense, when you look at Thomas' lack of judgment in other situations.

For instance, testimony and public records showed that during a meeting attended by Arpaio and Thomas, the sheriff came up with the idea to charge Donahoe. Their hope was to prevent the judge from making a major ruling that would have prevented Thomas from appointing out-of-state, hired-gun-type prosecutors to wage the legal fight against county officials. Thomas and Aubuchon, with the help of Arpaio's deputies, (who were skeptical, but useful), produced their charging document.

The brain behind these prosecutions appears to be not the prosecutor's, but Arpaio's.

That's the same sheriff, of course, who was the leader of what the Justice Department last week called the worst case of racial profiling in U.S. history, and through his leadership has caused his department to be neutered.

See Wake's ruling below:

Order Re Arpaio MSJ 12-23-11

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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.