Maricopa County Craziness

Thomas Defends Shoddy Conspiracy Case; Struggles to Explain Why "Biased" Judge Ruled in His Favor

Former Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas said in a disciplinary hearing against him today that he doesn't know why a judge he thought was "biased" made a major ruling in Thomas' favor.

Thomas has maintained throughout his fight with county officials that retired Judge Kenneth Fields, who was assigned to cover Thomas' attempted prosecution of County Supervisor Don Stapley, was heavily biased against him.

Like Aubuchon's testimony from yesterday, Thomas displays a mysterious faith in his weak conspiracy theory against the officials. He maintained an unshakeable belief in things that seem contrary to established facts: He says a bar complaint by Fields was against him, even though Fields targeted one of Thomas' special prosecutors, and not Thomas, in the complaint.

"It implicated me, potentially," he explained.

(Click here to watch now on the state Supreme Court's Web site.)

He stated that although a racketeering complaint against the Board of Supervisors, judges and others states that he's one of the attorneys for the plaintiffs (he's also a plaintiff), he really wasn't the plaintiffs' attorney.

The first 90 minutes of testimony by former Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas started off slow, but it picked up in the last 20 or so.

One of the most interesting exchanges occurred just before the mid-morning break.

Bar counsel Jamie Sudler explained to Thomas that Fields had the opportunity to rule against Thomas and squash the criminal case against County Supervisor Don Stapley before it really got started. Stapley's lawyers had filed a motion to kick Thomas off the case due to an alleged conflict of interest. Fields ruled that Thomas could prosecute Stapley.

Thomas put forward his personal theory why the "biased" Fields ruled in his favor:

"The law was so obvious, he didn't have the guts to ignore it," Thomas said smugly. "He waited till later to scuttle the case."

This makes darned little sense. If Fields was so biased, if he'd been hand-picked by other judges to do the Stapley case precisely because he was biased and might let Stapley off, it seems sound even for us non-lawyers to think it would have been cleaner to do it before the evidence against Stapley could be presented, and before Stapley's defense (the offense, rather) could get rolling.

As it happened, Fields ruled for Stapley when he saw the law didn't support the case. (The Board of Supervisors had never properly adopted the financial disclosure rules that Stapley was accused of breaking.)

Of course, Thomas doesn't think the law behind that ruling was "so obvious" that Fields couldn't ignore it. He doesn't agree with that decision by Fields, like he agrees with the other one.

Yet perhaps he should, considering Fields ruling to dismiss counts against Stapley was held up on appeal. Amazingly, Thomas admitted he never even bothered to read that appellate court ruling.

Okay, they're back on now, and Thomas is back to struggling to explain why now-retired Superior Court Judge Anna Baca was part of a criminal conspiracy, despite the fact that his only evidence for that criminal behavior were some judicial decisions she made. Those decisions, on their own, weren't necessarily evidence, Thomas says, echoing a refrain similar to that of Aubuchon's in her testimony yesterday.

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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.