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Tuesday, June 25, 2024 | Back issues
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Arizona judge won’t dismiss Cochise County election interference case

The two Republican supervisors who voted to delay canvassing the results of the 2022 election failed to prove that the case should be dismissed or returned to the grand jury for further testimony.

PHOENIX (CN) — A state judge on Tuesday denied multiple motions to dismiss and remand charges against two Cochise County supervisors accused of interfering with an election officer in 2022. 

Tom Crosby and Peggy Judd, two Republican supervisors of Arizona's southeasternmost county, were indicted in November — barely a year after they voted to delay canvassing the county’s general election results past the legal deadline. Arizona prosecutors say the delay interfered with then-Secretary of State Katie Hobbs’ job to certify the statewide results.

Defendants say the case should be dismissed because, while the countywide canvass was completed after the Nov. 28, 2022, deadline, Hobbs still certified the results before her own deadline of Dec. 5. They also claim the state grand jury that indicted them has no jurisdiction over the crimes they’re said to have committed. 

Maricopa County Judge Geoffrey Fish disagreed and denied their motions through multiple opinions that hit the docket Tuesday.

Arizona Attorney General Kris Mayes said in a press release that her office is prepared to move forward with the case.

“This is a serious case, and the charges have merit,” she said. “Today's ruling by the court supports that.”

Crosby first suggested delaying the election canvass during a Nov. 18, 2022, meeting while responding to concerns from constituents over unproven claims of election fraud — peddled mostly by Republican politicians who say the last two general elections were stolen from Republican candidates.

A group of Cochise County citizens led by a man named Paul Rice, who claimed to be experts in voting machine certification laboratories, told Crosby they feared the machines used in Cochise County weren’t properly verified. Crosby told them they could present their argument against a representative from the secretary of state’s office on Nov. 28, 2022 — the supervisors’ legal deadline to complete the canvass. 

Hobbs declined to send a representative to the meeting, as she had already released information affirming the accreditation of the voting machines, backed by a ruling from the Arizona Supreme Court. 

“All they had to do was come refute what Rice was saying, and they didn’t do so,” Crosby said in a grand jury hearing on Nov. 13, 2023. 

When he arrived to the supervisors' meeting on Nov. 28, 2022, Crosby found that the only item on the meeting agenda, created by the board’s chair and only Democrat, Ann English, was the immediate acceptance and certification of the election results. Crosby said in his motion to dismiss that because the public hadn’t been properly notified that the canvass would be completed that day, doing so would result in an open meeting violation. Therefore, he and Judd had no choice but to vote to delay once again. 

Hobbs sued, and a state judge ordered the board to vote to canvass the results on Dec. 1, which it did by the end of the day. Hobbs certified the statewide results before her Dec. 5 deadline, which Crosby says is proof that no interference took place. He also argues that he and Judd enjoy legislative immunity from interference accusations because the votes to delay were actions within their governing authority.

State prosecutor Todd Lawson told the court in April that the supervisors' actions created “confusion” and “chaos” and were part of a larger conspiracy to cast doubts on elections and potentially shift political power in Arizona. He added that choosing not to canvass election results can’t be protected by legislative privilege, because the act is a ministerial duty that supervisors don’t have the power to refuse.

Judge Fish sided with the state on the question of legislative privilege, but left the matter of interference up to a potential jury. 

“The failure to hold a vote and conduct the canvass as a non discretionary function of the (board of supervisors) in order to delay and hold a hearing on the validity of the voting machines, does not amount to a legislative act,” Fish wrote in an opinion dated Sunday. 

Fish also rejected Judd’s argument that the grand jury didn’t have the authority to investigate the case. 

Arizona law allows the state grand jury to investigate, among other things, “any form of intentional, knowing or corrupt misconduct involving any person compensated by public funds,” Fish wrote in an opinion dated Tuesday. “There is no question both defendants are compensated by public funds. Defendants are county supervisors paid for with public tax funds.”

Both defendants argue that the case should be remanded back to the grand jury, which they say received misleading testimony from county attorney Brian McIntyre. Crosby added that the state failed to instruct the grand jury on specific definitions in statutes.

Fish found the state has no obligation to clarify definitions unless asked to by the grand jury. He also wrote that most of McIntyre’s testimony amounted to factual disputes for a trial jury to decide, but his legal conclusions were accurate and fair. 

“The presentation of evidence to the grand jury was fair and impartial and defendant’s due process was not violated,” he wrote in an opinion dated Saturday.

Trial is tentatively set for August 15 in Phoenix, with a pretrial conference on August 8.

Follow @JournalistJoeAZ
Categories / Criminal, Elections, Regional

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