Earlier today, the former top brass at the prosecutor’s office for Arizona’s largest county felt the long arms of the law pick them up, shake them hard, and toss them out the building.
The former Maricopa County attorney and one of his deputies were disbarred for a strikingly long list of ethical violations (a second deputy’s law license was suspended as well). What did they allegedly do? And did they show any remorse to their alleged victims?
Without further ado, let’s learn the scandalous story behind our ex-lawyers of the day….
AZ Central has the details:
Former Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas and his onetime deputy, Lisa Aubuchon, were stripped of their law licenses today as a disciplinary panel handed down the toughest sanctions possible for ethical violations in a case that attracted national interest.
The panel also suspended Rachel Alexander, another Thomas deputy, from practicing law for six months and one day for her role in filing a federal civil racketeering lawsuit against judges and county officials.
That’s pretty serious stuff. You can almost imagine the judge literally throwing a book at Thomas sometime during the hearing. But the list of 33 allegations is pretty damn serious. And long:
Charges cover a variety of allegations, including conflict of interest for holding press conferences to denounce the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors, which was his client, and threatening county officials with litigation; falsely claiming a judge had filed Bar complaints against Thomas, in order to have the judge removed from a case; and seeking indictments against county officials to burden or embarrass them. In one case, the charges allege, Thomas and Aubuchon brought criminal charges against a county supervisor even though they knew that the statute of limitations had already expired on the offenses.
The most serious allegations involve filing criminal charges against a sitting Maricopa County Superior Court judge without probable cause in order to stop a court hearing. Several of the allegations of ethical misconduct revolve around a federal civil racketeering lawsuit claiming that judges and county officials conspired against Thomas and Sheriff Joe Arpaio. The independent Bar counsel appointed by the Arizona Supreme Court claims that the three prosecutors were incompetent in drafting the racketeering complaint, and that they filed it for purely political reasons against people they had already charged criminally or who they thought had filed earlier Bar complaints against them.
For his part, Thomas is unrepentant and says he has done nothing wrong. He goes so far as to say he is the real victim:
“Today corruption has won and justice has lost,” he said. “I brought corruption cases in good faith involving powerful people, and the political and legal establishment blatantly covered up and retaliated by targeting my law license. Arizona has some of the worst corruption in America, according to a recent national survey. The political witch hunt that’s just ended makes things worse by sending a chilling message to prosecutors: Those who take on the powerful will lose their livelihood.”
Cue that old Everclear song.
His vehement denial notwithstanding, some other high-profile members of the community appear to have some pretty raw emotions about the trio. The article quotes a county supervisor as saying Thomas and company were committing “domestic terrorism.” Another prosecutor said they committed “clear abuses,” and caused the community to live through years of “torment.”
During testimony, two retired judges even cried:
Two of the four retired Superior Court judges who were targeted by Arpaio and Thomas broke down on the stand during testimony. Sheriff’s deputies testified about their discomfort with the way investigations against county officials were carried out, saying they took documents home to protect themselves and were asked to swear to facts they knew nothing about.
It sounds like working in the Maricopa County Court system was more like Robespierre’s Reign of Terror than it does Phoenix. Hopefully this shakeup will improve the overall morale of the courts there, and lead to a better local justice system for everyone involved. If nothing else, maybe it will lead to a more pleasant work environment.
Thomas, Aubuchon stripped of their legal licenses [AZ Central]