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Sunday, May 19, 2024 | Back issues
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Arizona Panel Slams Three Arpaio Cronies

(CN) - Citing a "radical moral dislocation," an Arizona disciplinary panel disbarred a former attorney for Maricopa County who committed numerous ethics violations.

Andrew Thomas, a Republican who was elected to serve as the top prosecutor in Arizona's most populous county in 2004 and 2008, targeted political rivals on the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors with unsubstantiated criminal investigations and charges, according to the decision. Thomas' conduct allegedly violated the rules of professional conduct for attorneys.

The 247-page ruling paints a picture of an elected official drunk on his own power, who surrounded himself with like-minded allies and used his office to settle political scores.

"At some point in his career, a leak formed in the dike of Andrew Thomas's ethical restraint," the ruling states. "In short time, it rapidly grew. Whether known or not, intended or not; it was existent and became obvious. Within a few short years the hole had become a radical moral dislocation."

The three-member panel on Tuesday also disbarred former deputy Maricopa County attorney Lisa Aubuchon, and suspended attorney Rachel Alexander for six months and one day.

Thomas was found to have directed Aubuchon to root out what he considered to be a pattern of corruption in the county government, often by any means necessary.

"Mr. Thomas discerned he had in Ms. Aubuchon someone all too willing to do whatever was necessary to hammer his opponents, real or imagined, into submission," the ruling states.

Thomas, a longtime ally of embattled Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, enlisted friends and allies to serve as outside counsel, exceeding his budget by millions of dollars, the decision states. Among other ethical lapses, he also issued press releases that contained protected information, the panel found.

The formal complaint against the three lawyers listed 33 separate ethical violations, including conflict of interest, prosecutorial misconduct and abuse of the racketeering suit process "in an effort to burden and embarrasses political adversaries."

"His press releases condemned others for public dollars misspent and yet it appears he lavishly spent millions over his budget demanding to retain the right to hire the special lawyers he chose, while refusing the right to independent counsel for others," the ruling states. "The millions he spent also appear to have gone to friends and supporters."

Thomas, a graduate of Harvard Law School, resigned from office in 2010 in an unsuccessful run for Arizona Attorney General.

This case was tried over nine weeks before a specially appointed hearing panel.

"For respondents it did not matter how they produced their results as long as their desired outcome could be achieved," the ruling states. "They prosecuted innocent people, without evidence, and did not blink."

"Respondents Thomas and Aubuchon joined hands to inflict an economic blizzard on that public and multiple individuals which is paled only by the intentional infliction of emotional devastation their icy calculated storm left in its wake," the ruling adds.

"That harm is irrefutable, yet still finds respondents without a shred of remorse. Behind the flimsy fabric of their rationalizations raged apparent unfettered passions that were fueled by a darkness of purpose, blessed by a self-righteous self-centeredness and draped in a disguise of hypocritical indignation."

Thomas denied the charges, as he has all along, in a statement reported by the Arizona Republic on Tuesday. He said there was a conspiracy among corrupt officials to take his law license.

"Today, corruption has won and justice has lost," Thomas 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."

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