Maricopa County Craziness

Ruth McGregor Assigns Special Prosecutors Issue to Yuma Judge; County Answers Andrew Thomas' Belatedly Served Court Complaint


A couple more turns of the screw to report this morning on the county front:

1. Former Arizona Chief Justice Ruth McGregor -- a retiree who just returned from an out-of-country trip -- ruled that a Yuma judge will decide last week's squabble over the appointment of a special prosecutor in the criminal case against county Supervisor Mary Rose Wilcox. The squabble followed a judge's decision to throw Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas off the Wilcox case and dismiss the charges against her.

2. The county responded to a special action sought by Thomas on the same issue, predictably rebuffing Thomas and kicking more sand in his face. 

Leonardo's ruling was stunning, accusing Thomas of denying Wilcox her legal rights because of real and perceived conflicts of interest. Leonardo also took a shot at Sheriff Joe Arpaio, stating that Thomas shouldn't have allied himself with Arpaio, who had abused his power in targeting Wilcox.

But Leonardo also stated that Thomas "may appoint" a special prosecutor. The county rejected that idea, and a court filing made on Friday explains why.

The filing, an answer to Thomas' January 29 request to be allowed to hire a special prosecutor, says Thomas is not only asking the Board of Supervisors to do something illegal, but he's failing to take the most obvious option: hand over the case to another Arizona county attorney or the state Attorney General.

Now, the question of whether Thomas can appoint a special prosecutor -- who would likely take over the case against Supervisor Don Stapley, too -- rests in Gould's hands.

It's easy to anticipate the criticism that will soon be heaped on Gould by the offices of the Maricopa sheriff and county attorney.

When Yavapai County Attorney Sheila Polk went public with her concerns of Thomas and Arpaio, representatives of the politicians went on the offensive, telling the media that Polk was making waves out of personal ambition. Her motive, they said, was that she wanted to be a judge.

After a few seconds of Googling, we found that "ambition-bias argument," as it might be called, could also be leveled at Gould: An Arizona Republic article from 2006 shows that both Polk and Gould were on the same short list of applicants for an opening on the state Court of Appeals.

That's more than enough fodder for the "six-degrees-of-Kevin-Bacon" mentality over at the offices of Thomas and Arpaio.

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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