Maricopa County Craziness

Peter Spaw, High-Ranking Deputy County Attorney, Admits He Violated Legal Duties in Bogus Racketeering Suit; Bill Montgomery Isn't Saying a Word

The head of the Maricopa County Attorney's Office's Asset Recovery Bureau, Peter Spaw, has admitted to working on a racketeering lawsuit he knew was unsupported by evidence.

Yet the county attorney, Bill Montgomery, won't say a word about it.

Does the admission and potential two years' probation of his law license for knowingly working on a bad racketeering case impact his job, which presumably deals with racketeering cases?

"We're not commenting on it. I'm sorry," says Montgomery's spokesman, Jerry Cobb.

UPDATE: We clarified this article, which previously indicated the two years' probation was a done deal. In fact, the proposed punishment must be approved by the state Supreme Court's Disciplinary Judge.

See also: Peter Spaw, Deputy County Attorney, Focus of New State Supreme Court Probe Stemming From Andrew Thomas Case

Spaw, reached at his office, also declined comment, referring us to Cobb.

We put in a records request for Spaw's personnel file to find out whether the admission of wrongdoing in this case had any ramifications on his job in Montgomery's office.

Spaw admitted in a 27-page "Agreement for Discipline by Consent" to the Presiding Disciplinary Judge of the state Supreme Court that he'd been a naughty prosecutor. He agrees to be fined $17,059.55, have his law license is on probation for two years, and agree to attend a one-day "ethics enhancement" course.

In other words, he could get off pretty light, given the gravity of his offenses.

Quick background: Spaw worked on the corruptly conceived racketeering lawsuit filed in late 2009 against each of the five members of the Board of Supervisors, county judges, county officials and local lawyers. He supervised Rachel Alexander, an acolyte of disgraced former lawyer Andrew Thomas, who, as county attorney, teamed up with Sheriff Joe Arpaio to create an "unholy alliance" and legal reign of terror.

Arpaio skated from accountability in the scandal and even got re-elected last year to a sixth term. Thomas was stripped of his law license, as was another of his cohorts, Lisa Aubuchon. Alexander's license was suspended.

Spaw's admissions include:

* Filing a case that had no merit.

* Lawyering incompetently.

* Neglecting his duties as a supervisor.

* Conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice.

Spaw's conduct "violated his duty to the legal system and his profession, as well as the clients in the RICO case and the public," the document states.

The really sad part about Spaw's involvement is, as the admission document shows, Spaw objected to the filing of the bogus racketeering lawsuit from the moment he'd heard of it and voiced his opinion that it was a bunch of nonsense. And then he kept working on it, even filing an amended complaint on his own.

Spaw follows orders, that's sure. Montgomery, who apparently likes Spaw in his current position, knows loyal guys like that are keepers.

Click here to read the proposed punishment and statement of admissions by Spaw.

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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.