Here’s a very rare event, a prosecutor getting disbarred for ethics violations. It almost never happens. And this time, it happened to one of fascist Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s closest allies. And he was nailed for the very thing that Arpaio has been accused of time and time again, using his authority to punish his political enemies.
A three-member state disciplinary panel ruled that ex-Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas abused his powers as a prosecutor to target his political enemies. Because of that, they ruled he would be disbarred.
One of Thomas’ top aides, Lisa Aubuchon, was also disbarred for her role in the misconduct. A second aide, Rachel Alexander, had her law license suspended for six months.
The punishments are scheduled to take effect May 10. All three are expected to appeal the ruling…
Politically, Thomas and Arpaio were almost inseparable during their years as the top law enforcers in Maricopa County. They supported each other on almost every issue and often found themselves locked together in heated battles with judges and other local government officials.
Those battles were ultimately what led to the ethics case against Thomas.
Investigators with the State Bar of Arizona said somewhere along the way he became obsessed with his political enemies. He turned disagreements over policy into a full-fledged attempt to see his opponents jailed and disgraced.
With Arpaio’s help, investigators said, Thomas used the powers of his office to target his opponents with criminal investigations. He had some arrested and some charged with crimes. The evidence he and Arpaio used in the process was often questionable. The charges rarely stuck.
Throughout it, Thomas and Arpaio said that they were on a mission to root out corruption in local government. When ethics investigators came calling several years ago, Thomas said he was the victim of a witch hunt by the local establishment. He said it was part of a conspiracy to maintain the status quo.
Presiding Disciplinary Judge William O’Neil announced the decision Tuesday morning, Arizona time, from the bench of the state Supreme Court. He said the panel sided with the Thomas and his former aides on a few of the 33 charges against them. But he said there was “clear and convincing evidence” that they violated the rest.
Balko wrote about Thomas a couple years ago at Reason’s Hit and Run:
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, onthe 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.
One down, one to go.