We have been following the latest controversy of Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio in his support of a deputy who committed an outrageous act in rifling through the papers of a criminal defense attorney and then removing and copying notes about her client (here). Many questioned the actions of County Attorney Andrew Thomas who has supported Arpaio rather than the rule of law in the matter. Now, Thomas has joined Arpaio in charging the judge who stood up to the sheriff with three felony counts — bribery, obstructing a criminal investigation, and hindering prosecution.
While he has offered little evidence, Thomas held a press conference with Arpaio to make vague allegations of criminal acts by Donahoe regarding the county’s planned court tower, currently under construction. While he admitted that he has no evidence exists that the veteran judge personally has received personal financial benefits, Thomas insisted that Arizona has a “very broad” definition of bribery. Arpaio insists that he and county lawyers have been conspiring to block his investigation into the construction. The evidence: a series of rulings that Arpaio does not like.
The press did not seem to be buying it from Thomas, who has been criticized as a bit of a lap dog for Arpaio. Thomas finally said in frustration: “If I’m not explaining this well, I hope you’ll help me. . . In fairness,” Thomas said, after enduring increasingly pointed questions, “I admit this is a hard thing to believe.”
Notably, Thomas said that Donahoe had been obstructing justice “until about two hours ago.” The end of the obstruction appears to have been the cancellation of a hearing on matters related to the criminal investigation. Thomas explained “The hearing this afternoon was part of an ongoing criminal act,” Thomas said.
In addition, Thomas filed a “racketeering” lawsuit in FEDERAL COURT, accusing the supervisors, their lawyers, and the judges of being a criminal enterprise under RICO laws here).
None of this seems to make sense, but Thomas has brushed off accusations that he and Arpaio have made the county looked like a petty dictatorship. Instead, he found time to praise himself: “Quite candidly, you’re not going to find many prosecutors with the guts to prosecute judges.” Actually, prosecutors routinely investigate and prosecute judges. It is one of the mainstays of this blog. They usually have actual evidence to cite beyond rulings that prosecutors do not like.
These men need to put up some real evidence when they are making charges against a judge — who just happened to send one of Arpaio’s deputies to jail. After roughly two weeks, the press has yet to be able to see any evidence except unhappiness with Donahoe’s rulings. While there may be criminality linked to the construction, the inclusion of the judge would require some clear and established link beyond the fact that he did not do what Arpaio demanded. If they have such evidence, they should produce it or at least describe it to counter the growing view that this is a retaliatory move.
Thomas and Arpaio have developed a sense of unchecked power that threaten core values of the law, where they seem to act on impulse and with utter impunity. While Arpaio may be able to garner support from voters with his theatrics, Thomas must also answer to the bar which has been strangely quiet over the course of this controversy. There actions not only degrade the state of Arizona (which is made to look like banana republic) but they are destroying integrity of the legal system itself.