The Wild West of Arizona law enforcement just got a little bit tamer as the former legal right-hand of infamous Sheriff Joe Arpaio got cut off.
Former Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas was disbarred Tuesday.
An Arizona State Supreme Court disciplinary panel found that Thomas — as well as his former deputy, Lisa Aubuchon — were attempting prosecutions in the name of politics.
Thomas and his comrades can appeal the decision, but barring that, Thomas is without a law license for the next five years.
The conservative prosecutor was the chief ally to the controversial sheriff of Maricopa County, Joe Arpaio, for six years, not only in his treatment of undocumented immigrants but in fighting what he said was rampant corruption among government officials.
With Arpaio’s help — the panel described it as an “unholy collaboration” — he targeted their enemies with criminal investigations, had some of them arrested and some charged with crimes. The evidence he and Arpaio used in the process was often questionable and Thomas himself committed crimes.
They were all his political opponents and included all five members of the Board of Supervisors, four judges, the county’s top two appointed officials, a high-ranking attorney for the county and two private lawyers.
Under Arpaio’s leadership, sheriff’s deputies were used like a personal goon squad to intimidate county employees, the panelists wrote. Ethics investigators found that Thomas and Aubuchon knew the charges were bogus but filed them anyway to ruin the reputations of the accused.
After the failure of his cases, Thomas resigned one year into his second term to try for state Attorney General. He lost to a Republican who called Thomas corrupt and out of control. The country prosecutor who followed him dismissed all the cases and that’s when the ethics investigation started.
A number of those targeted by Thomas have received big settlements, up to $1 million.
The ruling was scathing. At the end, it says:
This multi-year-wreck-of-a-ride, operated by Andrew Thomas and staffed by Aubuchon … outrageously exploited power, flagrantly fostered fear, and disgracefully misused the law.
By the time Andrew Thomas resigned, with his hopes of attaining higher public office and greater public trust, his legacy lay in a smoldering heap, its smoke slowly curling skyward like a prayer for relief.
Thomas was the opposite of contrite in reaction, announcing on the court room steps:
Other men, far greater than I, have gone to jail in defense of principles they believed in and so they would not kowtow to a corrupt ruler. People like Gandhi, people like Dr. King, people like Solzhenitsyn, people like Thomas More, people who stood for something….and I’m going to stand firm.
Reports the Phoenix Sun-Times:
“Gandhi?” wondered one onlooker in amazement.
Thomas’ ‘vast conspiracy’ claims puts him at one with Arpaio, who said last week that the Republican Presidential candidates, who had all feted him, were all in on the conspiracy to hide the President’s real birth certificate.
There is also a Federal investigation of Thomas. That investigation could also end Arpaio’s career but he’s already the subject of a Justice Department investigation for civil rights violations as well as civil cases from those he and Thomas targeted.
Picture by s_falkow