In December, I blogged about the ongoing prosecutorial circus in Maricopa County Arizona. See Life in Bizarro World:County Attorney Charges Presiding Judge … and Coal in his stocking? County attorney’s prosecution of presiding …
But thanks to a court ruling February 24, 2010, the big top will be needing a new ringmaster since MCA Andrew Thomas was disqualified by Judge John Leonardo for conflicts of interest, State v. Wilcox – Ruling To Dismiss Indictment.
In part, the court found that, “Based on substantial evidence contained in the record, it is the finding of the court that the County Attorney has the following conflicts of interest between his duty to impartially exercise his prosecutorial discretion and:
1) his efforts to retaliate against members of the MCBS, including defendant. for actions they allegedly carried out in concert with each other against his office and against him personally as alleged in the civil RICO complaint;
2) his attempts to gain political advantage by prosecuting those who oppose him politically, including Defendant;
3) his political alliance with the Maricopa County Sheriff who misused the power of his office to target members of the MCBS for criminal investigation;
4) his duty to provide confidential, uncompromised legal advice to members of’the MCBS, including Defendant, on matters forming the basis of charges in the indictment.”
Consequently, the 42 count indictment against County Supervisor Mary Wilcox was tossed. And on the heels of this, Thomas decided not to wait for the second and third shoes to drop. He quickly dismissed the case he’d brought against another county supervisor, Don Stapley, as well as the one against Judge Gary Donahue. See Wilcox charges tossed; Thomas disqualified
The circus is still in town.
And if there’s any doubt this is a circus, the following paragraph from the judge’s ruling ought to remove any doubt as to what’s been going on in Maricopa County between the Maricopa County Attorney (MCA) and the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors (MCBS) as well as others.
“There has been a very public political confrontation ongoing between the MCA and the MCBS concerning a number of issues including the propriety of the MCAO to act as legal counsel to the MCBS while at the same time pursuing a criminal investigation of its members;the ability of the MCBS to decline to approve the request of MCAO to appoint special prosecutors to prosecute criminal cases against MCBS members; the federal civil RICO suit filed by the MCAO against the MCBS alleging that members of the Board, including Defendant,conspired to have the Mr. Thomas’ license to practice law revoked by the state bar, and threatened to attempt to recover legal fees from Thomas and his wife if he sued the Board; the MCBS’s reduction of the civil budget of MCAO by six million dollars; and the attempts by both sides to obtain investigative information from the other.”
“Oh my God, oh my God, oh my God . . . I do feel vindicated,” Supervisor Wilcox told The Arizona Republic after the ruling. See Supervisor cases collapse – AZCentral.com
But contrary to her wishful thinking uttered aloud, a dismissal on technical grounds does not necessarily translate into vindication. Ain’t no vindication with no adjudication.
But this said, it does seem that things are looking up for the indicted even if Thomas says he isn’t finished. The judge’s ruling states “The MCA may appoint a special independent prosecutor on the condition that the new prosecutor is not independently subject to disqualification, and that the MCAO and the MCA relinquish total control of the investigation and prosecution of Defendant to the special prosecutor and refrain from any further participation in these matters.”
So already, Thomas is scrambling to find someone to take up the ringmaster’s whip to seek new indictments and to keep the circus going. See Andrew Thomas suggests special prosecutor for Wilcox case.
But there’s always a silver lining to most things in life. The decision to disqualify him may end up being good news for Thomas, a blessing in disguise since he’s been weighing a run for state attorney general.
Since he’s been ordered to stay away from the aforementioned prosecutions, he’ll now have more time to further marinate his statewide political aspirations. Plus, he’s going to have more time to spend with his good buddy, the self-proclaimed toughest sheriff in America, Joe Arpaio. See Andrew Thomas for Attorney General Exploratory Committee.
But for most of the rest of us, it may not be good news. The hapless tax-payers will continue funding the three-ring spectacle. And with that, even the presence of clowns and ringmasters will fail to sufficiently amuse or entertain the audience in the stands.