BY ANDREW THOMAS | AUGUST 25, 2010
Protecting the People v. Protecting the Powerful
Former Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas explains how the liberal Maricopa County Board of Supervisors have avoided prosecution and instead brazenly retaliated against himself and Sheriff Joe Arpaio.
A prosecutor must seek justice regardless of a defendant's wealth, connections or position. Unfortunately, Arizona prosecutors who try to follow this standard come under public attack.
Throughout the recent controversies in Maricopa County, a clear theme has developed. On one side are the elites-the political establishment, courts, major media-supporting the board of supervisors no matter the evidence of wrongdoing and egregious taxpayer abuses. On the other side are the people. They have a stubborn habit of siding with Sheriff Joe Arpaio and me when we've brought cases before the county grand jury. This divide became clear once again following the self-serving and false claims by interim County Attorney Richard Romley about investigations and prosecutions done with Sheriff Arpaio's office.
Romley's recent efforts obviously were done to distract from his rejection by members of his own party who are tired of his liberal policies and endorsements. When citizens seated on a grand jury have heard the evidence of guilt involving county officials, they have sided with Arpaio and me.
Two county supervisors-Donald Stapley and Mary Rose Wilcox-have been indicted twice by two separate grand juries. A third grand jury heard testimony related to alleged hindering of prosecution by county officials who ordered a publicly funded sweep for electronic "bugs" immediately after Stapley was served with his first indictment, and alleged misconduct by Judge Gary Donahoe.
Right after the grand jury heard the evidence, they asked for a draft indictment.
Experienced prosecutors know this request almost always leads to some sort of indictment.
However, before the grand jury could finish deliberating, Judge Donahoe's lawyers appeared before a judge in another county and obtained a stay blocking the grand jury's deliberations.
But for that action, all signs suggest the grand jury was prepared to act.
Later, our prosecutors asked that the grand jury end their inquiry so it could be referred to another law enforcement agency. They did so.
It's not easy to tackle public corruption, just as it wasn't easy to take up the fight against illegal immigration years ago. But I did so unapologetically.
For their part, the board of supervisors and their employees have brazenly retaliated against Sheriff Arpaio and me, both directly and indirectly by exploiting their network of relationships.
Forgotten is the fact that I sought to appoint highly qualified special prosecutors so I would not have to prosecute these matters. The board of supervisors blocked their appointment, then complained when I handled them myself.
I also offered to hand over the matters to the U.S. Attorney's Office. They declined to take them. Now that same office reportedly is investigating and second-guessing Sheriff Arpaio's and my handling of the same cases they refused to accept.
If true, this is not only a blatant violation of state police powers and the Tenth Amendment. It threatens to destroy our system of justice. Prosecutors simply will not bring charges against powerful officials if they know their work will be subject to effective lobbying before the Obama Justice Department or the State Bar.
I've taken on public corruption and paid a political price with election-year smears from friends of these officials. But like Sheriff Arpaio, I've always believed I answered to the people. Soon the people will make the ultimate decision, choosing whether they want a top prosecutor who will tackle these tough cases or take the easy way out. As for me, I will do my duty and serve the people no matter the cost.
A m e r i c a n P o s t - G a z e t t e
Distributed by C O M M O N S E N S E , in Arizona