Maricopa County Craziness

Lisa Aubuchon Displays Bizarre Thinking in State Bar Discipline Hearing

Lisa Aubuchon lives in an alternative universe.

True, we may have watched too many Star Trek episodes as a kid, but after watching the former deputy county attorney's performance on the stand in the State Bar's disciplinary hearings yesterday, we could come to no other conclusion. From the way she connected dots that didn't seem like dots, to her frightening ability to give nonsensical answers without hesitation or lack of confidence, her testimony didn't appear to help her case. Not a bit.  

For wonks who can't get enough of the infighting and apparent abuse of power by the top current and former law officers in Maricopa County, Sheriff Joe Arpaio and former County Attorney Andrew Thomas, Aubuchon's testimony was a fascinating look into the mind of an allegedly reckless, incompetent prosecutor.

We made a few notes while watching, and we've noted the time-stamps on the state Supreme Court's archive video from Tuesday's four-and-a-half-hour show, for your viewing convenience. Click here to see the Court's Web site, then click on the October 25 hearing video. (You can also use that link to view Andrew Thomas' live testimony today, starting at 9am):

40:20 -- Aubuchon's accused of complaining that now-retired judge Kenneth Fields filed a Bar complaint against Thomas. Fields' Bar complaint was about former special prosecutor Dennis Wilenchik, not Thomas. Asked if the Bar complaint was against Thomas, Aubuchon says "yes."

She later explains...

45:29 -- Aubuchon is accused of filing criminal charges against County Supervisor Don Stapley for alleged discrepancies in Stapley's financial disclosure forms when she knew a one-year statute of limitations had expired. She explains her defense: When Mark Goldman, a rich Valley lawyer working directly under Thomas as a "volunteer" assistant, discovered the discrepancies in Stapley's forms in early 2007, (the charges were filed in late 2008), he wasn't doing an "investigation." Jamie Sudler, one of the Bar's lawyers, asks Aubuchon whether there's a distinction in her mind between "research" and "investigation."

"There can be, yes," she answers.

She's right -- the most general sense. When the "research" later proved the basis for throwing the book at someone, after the statute of limitations has expired, we simply don't follow her thinking. We're too stupid to understand, clearly.

52:30 -- Aubuchon admits that she did see the 2007 date stamps on the printouts from Goldman's "research." You'd think anyone would be greatly concerned about the possibility, more than a year later, that this "research" -- which had been performed by Goldman after Thomas told him to check on various allegations against Stapley -- was, in fact, the investigation. But not Aubuchon.

1:09 -- Aubuchon explains that Goldman had been helping with a "completely different investigation" when he stumbled on the evidence that would later be used against Stapley. She says she heard it was a different investigation from Sally Wells. This was one of the many assumptions Aubuchon relied upon that seem to defy good prosecutorial practices -- the charges were no good if they were past the statute of limitations, and Aubuchon comes off as not curious enough that such a problem might actually be the case.

(To see how Goldman approached the same subject when he testified on October 12, click on the October 12 archive and scroll to 3:22, when he talks about printing out Stapley's disclosure forms and what he did with them.)

1:22:15 -- Aubuchon asks if the Stapley case was "unique" after confirming she'd never before heard of a similar case. "What do you mean by that?" she asks.

1:33 -- Aubuchon explains why she's right, and court rulings about a decision by now-retired Superior Court Judge Gary Donahoe are wrong.

1:55 -- Aubuchon tells Sudler she doesn't think she would have been called as a key witness in the racketeering lawsuit against the Board of Supervisors, judges and local lawyers -- even though the suit alleged she was one of the victims of the conspiracy. Her inability to see herself as a witness in the cases she cooked up becomes a recurring theme in the hearing.

1:56:30 -- "I had no concerns when I decided to file it that I was not doing the right thing."

2:09 -- Aubuchon says that a massive records request to Maricopa County was intended to "gather the information." No matter how hard she tries, Aubuchon can't seem to make that request look like anything but a grand fishing expedition, based on no real evidence of any crimes.

2:23 -- Aubuchon says she didn't ask for help on the racketeering case, even though she'd never before done something so complicated, because Thomas wanted to keep things "quiet."

2:26:20 -- Even though she was inexperienced in racketeering cases, she explains confidently that she figured she could "study up" on the subject and do a good job.

2:31 -- Paperwork shows clearly that Thomas was acting as his own lawyer in the racketeering case, which alleged he was also a victim. Asked if Thomas was his own lawyer, she answers, "That's kind of a complex question."

2:36 -- Sudler, seemingly amazed that Aubuchon can't understand she would have likely been called as a witness in the racketeering case, asks her, "Then who will testify about (it)?"

2:38 -- The racketeering case named Supervisor Max Wilson and Fulton Brock as co-conspirators, despite the total lack of evidence they did anything wrong. Here, Aubuchon explains that it was their votes on the Board that made them guilty.

2:42 -- One of the many examples in which Aubuchon struggles to explain that if you look at each individual piece of alleged evidence in the racketeering case, it might appear to be something innocuous, but all together it adds up to crime. Our math skills aren't the greatest, but doesn't zero plus zero (or even a whole lot of of zeroes) still equal zero?

2:57 -- This is another scene in which Aubuchon tries to explain how everything adds up. Donahoe, through his rulings, was protecting himself from a possible criminal investigation, she argues.

"Not in and of itself" becomes a common refrain at this point, as she's asked about specific things Donahoe and others did that she considered a probable crime.

3:16 -- Aubuchon justifies why the racketeering complaint mentions, as evidence of a conspiracy, that lawyers for the Board "laughed" at her in open court. "They were making fun of us," Aubuchon explains.

3:18 -- Sudler asks again why she wouldn't think she would be called a witness, when she's the one alleging in the racketeering complaint that being laughed at was a clue to conspiracy. Aubuchon explains that she wouldn't need to be called as a witness because "there were videos" of the offending courtroom exchange.

3:30 -- Here she explains how Donahoe ended up getting charged with bribery and obstructing justice on the morning he had scheduled a hearing on Thomas' ability to hire special prosecutors to investigate the alleged conspiracy of judges, lawyers and Supervisors.

4:02 -- She admits the Donahoe investigation was not an investigation "in the traditional sense." We agree with that, and Aubuchon's description of her, Thomas, Arpaio and Arpaio's former chief deputy, Dave Hendershott, sitting around cooking up the charge drives this point home.

4:15 -- Aubuchon lamely describes where in the probable cause statement that accompanied the Donahoe charging document could be found any specific references to bribery.

4:18 -- Aubuchon's explanation is that all those little "facts" are "all connected to bribery."

4:32 -- Sudler asks if she has remorse for any of her actions. "No."

Thomas is scheduled to testify at 9 a.m.