Posts tagged ‘RICO’

Andrew Thomas Disbarred, but Only Because His Prosecutorial Abuse Was Against Elected Officials

The good news:  Andrew Thomas was disbarred, a fate he richly deserved for his amazing prosecutorial abuses, for example bringing fake RICO and bribery charges against a judge to force him to recuse himself from another case in which he was likely to rule against Thomas.  Some of my many articles on Thomas are here.

But here is what depresses me:  I believe he was disbarred only because his prosecutorial over-reach and abuse was aimed at public officials.  Similar or worse abuses against private parties are seldom if ever punished.   This is lawyers and public officials defending their own.  When I see this much concern aimed at abuses of private individuals, I will be more likely to cheer.

Update:  I am a terrible editor, but I am sure I did not type "Proprietorial" rather than "Prosecutorial" in the original title.  I think I have some kind of weird auto-correct problem going on.  Though until now I did not know "proprietorial" was a word.

More on the Thomas/Arpaio RICO

I will say that I have a certain fondness for the idea of tossing everyone in Congress in jail on a giant RICO prosecution.  So Thomas and Apraio's crazy RICO suit naming most everyone of any importance in the county government and judicial system as conspirators has a certain appeal.  Unfortunately, unlike my dream RICO suit, the basis for the suit is that Arpaio and Thomas were consistently prevented from excercising unchecked power

In essence, the lawsuit alleges that any county official who at any point attempted to stop Thomas and Arpaio from doing anything -- whether it's prosecuting Don Stapley, "investigating" the $341 million court tower project, or repeatedly suing Thomas' own clients -- is part of a criminal enterprise. That includes judges who ruled against them, attorneys who opposed them in court (like Ed Novak and Tom Irvine) and county employees who attempted to stop the insanity.

Could This Be The Tipping Point for Arpaio and Thomas?

It is not uncommon for certain shady dealing to go on for years, with a small group of critics but never really breaking out into the media.  We skeptics have been criticizing climate scientists for years for various problems with their temperature indexes and historical temperature reconstructions, but never really got traction until the CRU emails were made public, and then there has been a real firestorm of media attention.  Criticisms that never got much traction before are now being actively investigated.

I am hoping that we have a similar situation with Sheriff Joe Arpaio and County Attorney Andrew Thomas.  The story is so wacky it simply defies easy description, but Arpaio and Thomas have been pursuing a number of corruption probes against their bosses in the County government.  All well and good, except for the funny fact that the targets of the probes all seem to be historic critics of Arpaio and Thomas, who have brought out their biggest guns for the one Democrat on the County Council (Arpaio and Thomas are both Republicans).

Both these men have  a history of indifference to civil liberties.   When Arpaio is not busy arresting folks for breathing while Mexican (he once managed to make a crime sweep through the 99% Anglo neighborhood of Fountain Hills and arrest 75% Mexicans), he likes to haul folks off to jail whose only crime is speaking out against the Sheriff .   He arrested (with Thomas's help) newspaper reporters and editors who wrote critically of him.  This is a man who in his paranoia invented an assassination plot (against himself, of course) and got the city to spend $500,000 protecting him.  If his deputies want to see a defense attorney's working papers, they just take them.  If he can't get a judge to release computer records, he has his posse storm into the County computer center and take it over at gunpoint.

Most recently, Thomas and Arpaio wanted a judge who has handed them a number of court losses removed from a certain case.  To make that happen, Arpaio and Thomas bizarrely charged the judge and numerous other county employees in a giant RICO case, a case attorneys are still laughing about because it was so transparent and shoddy.  When that didn't work, he charged the judge with felony bribery, apparently on the interesting theory that getting a new, updated court house building was effectively a bribe to the judges working there.

It gets much weirder even than this, with Arpaio's stealing documents from a defense counsel in court (caught on video) with this same judge holding Arpaio's deputy in contempt for the action and then the sheriff's deputies essentially going on strike at court, refusing to bring in prisoners.

But after years of fawning, positive publicity as "Americas Toughest Sheriff," the dam may finally be breaking.  When the AZ Republic finally covers it, you know the situation has to be bad:

Hundreds of attorneys gathered on the courthouse steps in downtown Phoenix to protest Thomas and Arpaio's public campaign against public corruption.

LOL, I have a picture of these guys with suits and holding placards.  Anyway, this was a real blow:

And, in a scathing letter to The Arizona Republic, the Yavapai County attorney

, who previously handled some of Thomas' cases against county officials, blasted the prosecutor and sheriff as "a threat to the entire criminal-justice system."

Oops, so much for the respect of your peers.  Shelia Polk, the Yavapai County attorney (that is a neighboring county) handled the investigations into some of Arpaio and Thomas's early charges against our County officials, so she knows the details of the story.  And she is a Republican, the same party as Arpaio and Thomas:

In her letter, Polk wrote that although Maricopa County isn't her jurisdiction, she can't sit by and watch the abuses from a distance anymore.

"I am conservative and passionately believe in limited government, not the totalitarianism that is spreading before my eyes," she wrote. "The actions of Arpaio and Thomas are a disservice to the hundreds of dedicated men and women who work in their offices and a threat to the entire criminal-justice system."

Polk had stayed out of the legal drama in Maricopa County, and her remarks offer the first insight from an outside law-enforcement official who has some knowledge of the cases Arpaio and Thomas have lodged against county officials.

Arpaio's response was predictable:

Hendershott spoke on behalf of Arpaio. Hendershott said that Polk's office repeatedly failed to issue subpoenas the Sheriff's Office needed.

"It seemed clear to us that this case was being deliberately stalled," he said. "We basically let her know that her work product was ineffective."

This is a constant refrain from the sheriff - anyone who seeks to impose any limit on his power is therefore evil and conspiring to thwart his will.  It comes up time and time again - he simply does not react well when denied a subpoena, or a search warrant, or access to certain information.  If they are not rubber stamping Sheriff Joe's requests, then they must be corrupt.  If he had been honest, his RICO charges would have simply read "they didn't give me what I want."  But there is a reason these third parties are part of the process, and you can see it in Polk's letter:

Polk said she worked with the Sheriff's Office on the cases for the next six months, then returned the cases to the Maricopa County Attorney's Office.

In Polk's letter, she wrote that she was "happy to remove myself from the cases and from contact with Sheriff Arpaio. My discomfort grew daily and my role in restraining potential abuses of power increasingly more difficult."

America's Worst Sheriff

I am working on a longer post on Sheriff Joe Arpaio's sweeps through Hispanic neighborhoods to round up the usual suspects (Mayor Phil Gordon has asked the feds to investigate these practices, which I hope they will do).

But this one is just weird.  Apparently Phoenix tax money is being used by Arpaio to train Honduran police, in a program that makes sense (from a Phoenix point of view) to no one.  Sheriff Joe watchers will enjoy his numerous nonsensical explanations, though the last one probably is the correct one.  For those outside of Phoenix, sit back and enjoy the weirdness -- its the only consolation we here in Arizona get for having the worst and most abusive sheriff in the country.

Explanation One:  Arpaio looks to small Latin American countries as models for his police force

Sheriff's officials told the county Board of Supervisors that the
Honduran National Police possess the "intelligence data, knowledge and
cultural experiences to benefit the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office."

Explanation Two:  We can't tell you, because it would endanger Sheriffs' lives (this is an Arpaio oldie but goodie):

discussing efforts in Honduras could endanger the lives of law-enforcement officers in both countries....revealing details could put lives at risk

Explanation Three:  Honduras supplied millions of photos for Arpaio's facial recognition software (yeah, I know non-Phoenicians, this is weird)

The sheriff's facial-recognition software program is supposed to be among the biggest beneficiaries of the Honduras engagement....When Arpaio was first confronted about the department's trips to
Honduras, he said the agency had received "millions" of photos from
Honduran officials.

Explanation Four:  Its a RICO thing, so we can't tell you (at least, it uses RICO funds)

The agency has spent more than $120,000 on Sheriff's Office employee
salaries in Honduras, and an additional $30,000 in RICO funds seized
from criminals. And some of the trips occurred during a time period
where the Sheriff's Office overspent its overtime budget by nearly $1
million.

Explanation Five:  We can't talk about it, because that would open up public officials to scrutiny for their actions:

The Sheriff's Office will not grant interviews to explain how and why
the program was started and what the benefits are to Maricopa County,
because officials say discussing the program fuels criticism