Government Law

Ex-Maricopa County Attorney Skips Ethics Trial as Defense Lawyers Imply Case Is Political Payback

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Their onetime boss was absent, but a former deputy Marcopa County attorney and another ex-lawyer from the office were present yesterday as an unusual legal ethics trial began at the Arizona Supreme Court over alleged misconduct that some perceived as a threat to the rule of law.

Lisa Aubuchon and Rachel Alexander sat quietly as a prosecutor for the state bar laid out for a three-member disciplinary panel the case against the two women and former County Attorney Andrew Thomas, reports the Arizona Republic. The article doesn’t explain why Thomas didn’t attend; his defense lawyer, however, was present.

“The evidence and testimony that we will present will establish a four-year period of prosecutorial abuse by Mr. Thomas and Ms. Aubuchon,” said attorney John Gleason.

He contended that Thomas directed and supervised a “personal retribution” campaign against “enemies” of the former county attorney and Aubuchon, the Republic reports.

“If you crossed paths with the county attorney, Sheriff [Joe] Arpaio or former Chief Deputy David Hendershott,” of the sheriff’s office, Gleason said, “you should expect to be sued, criminally charged or both, by the county attorney.”

Alexander is accused only of joining Thomas and Aubuchon in pursuing what Gleason called a “meritless and frivolous” civil racketeering suit against judges and other county officials, the newspaper notes.

Charges in the case, concerning what Gleason called a “bizarro world” in which indictments were allegedly drafted prior to investigations and “creative writing” was, he claimed, a key skill for drafting search warrants, range from conflicts of interest and obstruction of the ethics investigation to criminal conduct and conduct involving dishonesty and fraud, the Republic reports.

Attorney Don Wilson, who represents Thomas, said he sincerely believed he was working to root out corruption among others in county government and “was stonewalled and stymied” in doing so by “powerful antagonists” and “a hostile judiciary.”

Attorney Ed Moriarity, who represents Aubuchon, said a conspiracy by politicians and judges led to the ethics trial, which he called “a political case” involving “selective prosecution,” the newspaper recounts.

A lawyer for Alexander argued that she had been caught up in the case after doing nothing wrong, only following the direction of superiors, and questioned why she was pursued in a disciplinary case when her supervisor and outside counsel weren’t.

The trial is expected to last between one and two months. The state bar is seeking the disbarment of Thomas and Aubuchon and suspension of Alexander’s law license, notes a Scripps Media story posted by a local ABC affiliate, which also provides a link to a video clip of the hearing.

The Associated Press summarizes the events that resulted in the trial and introduces the members of the disciplinary panel. They are: Presiding Disciplinary Judge William O’Neil; Mark Sifferman, who is an attorney in Scottsdale; and the Rev. John C.N. Hall, who serves as rector of an Episcopal church in Chandler.

Additional and related coverage: “Maricopa Paid Former Ariz Judge $100K to Settle Claim re Ex-County Attorney, Sheriff Arpaio”

Arizona Republic: “Former Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas to face ethics panel over investigations”

Arizona Republic: “GOP group denounces ‘baseless’ Andrew Thomas investigation”

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