Yesterday, a three-person Hearing Panel appointed at the direction of the Supreme Court of Arizona ordered former Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas disbarred. Thomas faced 33 charges, from dishonesty to conflict of interest, alleging that he misused his prosecutorial powers for political purposes. Most of the charges were upheld by the Panel by clear and convincing evidence. An appeal of the decision is likely.
The 247-page opinion details trumped up charges, clandestine meetings, conflicts of interest and overall disregard by Thomas of his obligations as County Attorney. Central to the findings was the conclusion that Thomas used his office to attempt to hurt his political enemies. A prime example includes the filing of a RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization Act) complaint against officials when Thomas was told by experts in the field that there was no merit to the claim. Another involves the filing of a criminal case against then-Superior Court Judge Gary Donahoe, alleging that Donahoe was guilty of bribery, and that the complaint was filed after the judge held that the County Attorney’s Office (headed by Thomas) was disqualified from investigating construction of a court building.
More Will Be Revealed . . .
A reading of the opinion issued yesterday reveals that much of the goings on at the County Attorney’s Office also involved officers from the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office, including Sheriff Joe Arpaio. Various media sources have described Thomas as Arpaio’s hand-picked lawyer, and one source described Thomas’ six-year tenure as County Attorney as a “legal rampage” by Thomas and Arpaio against their political enemies. While yesterday’s opinion has no official consequence for Arpaio, this Phoenix criminal lawyer believes there will be further fallout directed at the Sheriff’s Office. For example, we reported in December the details concerning a United States Justice Department investigation of the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office.
We are not in a position to project the results of appeals and continuing investigations – however, we do believe that while yesterday’s opinion may bring to an end to a sordid chapter of Phoenix politics, the end of the book has yet to be written.