Our Out of Control County Attorney

Radley Balko has a great article on Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas, the wingman for Sheriff Joe Arpaio in any number of abuses of power.  I have tried to write about Thomas before, but some of his exploits are so bizarre and complex that they make simple description difficult, but Balko is clearly a better journalist than I and does a good job summarizing some of his most egregious actions.

The common denominator for both Thomas and Arpaio tends to be their near vendetta responses to anyone who either criticizes them or tries to limit their power (ie by denying a search warrant or dismissing one of their cases).

The most recent mess in Maricopa pits Thomas and Apraio against...well, just about everyone else. The two have been squabbling with members of the county board of supervisors for years over the construction of a $341 million county courthouse tower, which both feel is a waste of money. They might have a point. But Arpaio and Thomas are using criminal law as a cudgel in the dispute.

Last month, Thomas indicted two county supervisors on some petty financial disclosure violations. When Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Gary Donahoe issued a ruling pertaining to the court tower investigation that Arpaio and Thomas didn't like, Thomas then indicted Donahoe for bribery, on the absurd premise that as a judge who works in the courthouse, Donahoe (who is retiring soon) would have benefited from the new tower. That indictment came shortly after Donahoe held one of Arpaio's deputies in contempt after a highly-publicized incident in which the deputy was caught on video stealing documents from the file of a defense attorney in open court.

Using criminal charges"”or the threat of them"”to silence political opponents has become something of a habit for Thomas. He has indicted more than a dozen public officials who have criticized him or Arpaio. He has launched or threatened criminal investigations into dozens of others, including politicians, columnists, and other media figures who have dared to criticize him or the sheriff. When Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon asked for a federal investigation of Arpaio's immigration enforcement tactics, Arpaio and Thomas investigated him too, attempting to snoop on Gordon's email, appointment book, and phone records. Thomas even recently threatened to criminally investigate a defense attorney for issuing public statements in support of his client.

These guys are from the bad, statist end of the Republican pond.  Interestingly, Thomas and Arpaio have alienated most of the Republican leadership in Arizona, and rely on their continued popularity with national conservative media and the local populace.   The latter is hard to describe to outsiders.  Its often hard for me to understand.  My best guess is that people ignore Thomas and Arpaio's worst behavior as aimed at people who somehow "don't count," particularly immigrants from Mexico.   Balko quotes Clint Bollack of the Goldwater Institute:

Bolick says their perseverance is also due to the polarizing effects of the immigration debate. Immigration "is extremely divisive," he says. "In the eyes of a lot of people, because they're cracking down on illegal immigrants, Thomas and Arpaio can do no wrong. So there's justification for whatever they do, and any criticism of them on any issue is a betrayal of the cause. It's really unfortunate that it's causing a lot of good people to turn a blind eye to ineffective law enforcement and abuses of power."

I don't want to violate Godwin's law here, but this quote springs to mind about the reactions to Thomas and Arpaio (from a member of the German protestant clergy in the 1930s)

First, the Nazis went after the Jews, but I wasn't a Jew, so I didn't react. Then they went after the Catholics, but I wasn't a Catholic, so I didn't object. Then they went after the worker, but I wasn't a worker, so I didn't stand up. Then they went after the Protestant clergy and by then it was too late for anybody to stand up.

  • twolaneflash

    Go get 'em, Joe. Nobody else seems to think America is a sovereign nation with borders worthy of defending from invasion. It only takes one pebble in the pond to start the waves across the whole surface. A local town in GA, beseiged by burglaries, passed an ordinance requiring every homeowner to have a gun in the home. After the ordinance was advertised, burglaries ceased. Stopped completely. Criminals are cowards. Let them know they face strong and possibly lethal resistance and they are deterred entering from the area or from doing the crime. I'm sure a lot of criminals avoid Sheriff Joe's jurisdiction just because they know there won't be any liberal bedwetters there to coddle and enable them. Criminal penalties should be cruel and unusual. Art therapy just doesn't seem to work on sociopaths.

  • Reformed Republican

    I am sure a lot of non-criminals also avoid Sheriff Joe's jurisdiction because they do not want to get caught up in his bull.

    This nation was built on immigration. Should the nation be protected from attackers? Yes. Should it be "protected" from people who want to come work? No.

    On the other hand, your comment pretty much confirms exactly what Coyote said in his post.

  • MJ

    twolaneflash,

    So it's not only OK for local law enforcement officials and attorneys to pass unconstitutional laws in order to prevent burglaries, but also to arbitrarily investigate people who have committed no other offense but publicly criticizing a government employee? That's a strange view of who the real threat is.

  • Bryan

    @ MJ
    I'm not sure that you can call a local law requiring homeowners to own a gun "unconstitutional". An overreacton, a recipe for accidents, or an unwelcome government intrusion sure, but nessesarily unconstitional.

  • TC

    Just another "Nifong in training"!

  • mahtso

    "Last month, Thomas indicted two county supervisors on some petty financial disclosure violations."

    Based on this, it is hard for me to take the Reason commentary seriously because: (1) a reasonable inference is that the author wants the County Attorney to turn a blind eye to the (alleged) crimes of elected officials; and (2) in the case of one of the supervisors, the indictment alleges misappropriation of campaign funds (i.e., the Reason commentary is not accurate).

  • Art

    That's right, illegal immigration is divisive. There are many in this country who believe that we are still a sovereign nation and that citizenship should not be handed out like a party favor to those who come here illegally and manage to elude the authorities until yet another "amnesty" is declared.

    Reformed Republican: This nation was built on immigration. Should the nation be protected from attackers? Yes. Should it be “protected” from people who want to come work? No.

    This is not your country to give away. Many of us have family that have fought and died for the opportunities that you seem to take for granted. Will these illegal "workers" be subject to the draft in the event of national emergency? Or, is that a job you expect only Americans to do?

    We are not a nation of immigrants, we are a nation that has always welcomed legal immigrants. We take in more legal immigrants than all the other nations of the world combined. So, you can take the nativist and racist name calling and put it where the sun doesn't shine.

    I suspect that Sheriff Joe and Andrew Thomas, having found themselves subject to the petty, politically motivated investigations and accusations of their opponents, are simply giving as good as they get. I guess that two can play at that game. Live with it.

  • Gil

    How are illegal immigrants on par with the Jews in Nazi Germany? T'is interesting that Gypsies and Homosexuals are usually left off the victim list of the Holocaust because they're both hated groups who always deserve death and Nazis were doing everyone else a favour on those two counts (apparently).

  • http://herdgadfly.blogspot.com/ gadfly

    As Mark Steyn brilliantly paraphrased Martin Niemoller:

    First they came for Piglet, and I did not speak out because I was not a Disney character and, if I was, I'm more of an Eeyore. So then they came for the Three Little Pigs, and Babe, and by the time I realized my country had turned into a 24/7 Looney Tunes it was too late, because there was no Porky Pig to stammer "Th-th-th-that's all, folks!" and bring the nightmare to an end.

  • http://www.dmcantor.com/ David Michael Cantor – Arizona DUI Lawyer & Criminal Defense Attorney

    Thanks for the post it contained a lot of useful information.

  • Reformed Republican

    This is not your country to give away. Many of us have family that have fought and died for the opportunities that you seem to take for granted. Will these illegal “workers” be subject to the draft in the event of national emergency? Or, is that a job you expect only Americans to do?

    And it is not your country to keep people out.

    The draft is a non-sequitur. I do not support any sort of slavery, for people born here or for people from other countries. I expect volunteer soldiers to defend the country if needed.

  • Bad Idea Commenter

    The real problem with Andrew Thomas is that he's not very bright and doesn't really understand what he's doing and why it's so terrible. These "petty financial disclosures" confirm what lots of people have been saying for years, which is that Mary Rose Wilcox is crooked - she gets a pass from the voters because she was shot years ago - and so are a lot of these others in the county and state government. Low level stuff, but definite abuses of power or violations of the law. But then you get these Maricopa County judges, who make a gut decision and work backwards to justify it, and Thomas doesn't know how to handle it. He's got the evidence, he's got the law, he's prosecuting everything as thought it were the Nuremberg trials (Hi Godwin!) and then here's these judges who are like "Really? REALLY?" because this is a pretty easygoing town and it seems like such ado over nothing. Because Mary Rose, for example, hasn't made herself rich with this stuff, and maybe the law isn't clear, and gosh, it sure is disruptive that the County Attorney won't let the board of supervisors do their jobs, and doesn't Thomas understand that this is the way it works? But to Thomas, it looks like - Hey! I've got a case and the judge won't grant my motions . . . so in his small brain, the only thing he can come up with is - They must be in on it!

    It's a bad situation all around, a stupid clusterf*** that is expensive and unnecessary and hurts people. We need a smarter AG, non-corrupt supervisors, a sheriff who doesn't think he's the law, and better judges.

    ---------
    This is just one observer's take on what people are saying, not whether certain events actually occurred. Understand I am not making any statement as to the veracity of the factual assertions herein.

  • roger the shrubber

    so i'll ask once again: to those here who are so outraged by arpiao targeting and arresting illegal aliens, why do you consider this to be a bad thing? they're *not* US citizens. they're *not* entitled to any of the social and/or monetary benefits and programs instituted to assist US citizens. they're here *illegally*. experience and common sense shows that a large illegal alien population tends to result in higher crime, with lower 'solve' rates, due to their propensity to boogie back to mexico when they've committed felonies.

    yeah, he's making a name for himself by going exclusively after the low-hanging 'illegal' fruit, but arpiao is enforcing the law as it's written. it's clear some folks here don't like that. (i'm not one of them: i was raised on the mexican border, and i'm all too familiar with the havoc illegals cause.) so once more: y'all seem to think that it's wrong and immoral for the USA to enforce its immigration laws and defend its border. further, you seem to feel that we have some kind of noblesse oblige *duty* to allow the illegals to remain here, work, access our social welfare benefits, etc., despite that no US citizen making use of their methods - fake ID's, bogus SS#'s, no auto insurance - would be allowed to do so. is that about it? we're supposed to sublimate our national sovereignty and take actions not in our national interest just so we can be...what? "nice"? "neighborly"?

    como se dice "suicidal" en espanol?

  • Not Sure

    "so i’ll ask once again: to those here who are so outraged by arpiao targeting and arresting illegal aliens, why do you consider this to be a bad thing?" - roger the shrubber

    Not meaning to be speaking for others, but coyote's point often seems to be that Arpaio targets people who *might be* illegal aliens, and in so doing, causes troubles for those who aren't, but end up in the net anyway.

    Kind of a "Kill them all and let God sort it out" mentality, if you will.

  • perlhaqr

    Roger the Shrubber said: they’re *not* US citizens. they’re *not* entitled to any of the social and/or monetary benefits and programs instituted to assist US citizens.

    Because the problem isn't that "illegals" are collecting those benefits, the problem is that I'm being mugged by the government to provide those benefits at all.

  • Daniel Montes

    I avoid Arizona anyway. Concerning Andrew and Arpaio, yes they are
    enforcing the laws as written, but seem to apply them overbroadly.
    Also both maybe in violation of the Hatch Act from their investigations
    and indictments against political foes. Seems like a police state in Maricopa
    County. When Andrew and Arpaio begin arresting the citizens then
    maybe then they will be voted out of office. I have mixed feelings on these
    two. I recommend if you like living in Maricopa County then fine. All
    others I recommend moving elsewhere. Daniel Montes.