Sheriff Joe’s world crumbles
The controversial Arizona cop is prepping for a possible trial. But already, his closest allies have fallen
By John Dougherty
Apr 18, 2012
With fresh calls for Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio to face a federal criminal trial, many are predicting the end of his controversial career. What few people realize outside metropolitan Phoenix is how much Arpaio’s world has already fallen apart around him.
One-by-one, Arpaio’s closest allies have been forced from power or severed support, leaving the combative 79-year-old sheriff seeking his sixth term increasingly isolated and vulnerable as emboldened foes sharpen their attacks.
The latest Arpaio political supporter to fall is former Maricopa County attorney Andrew Thomas, who was disbarred April 10 for engaging in unethical conduct to intimidate and smear his and Arpaio’s political adversaries.
A stinging 247-page opinion written by a three-member Arizona state Supreme Court disciplinary panel supporting the disbarment ruling also concluded there was “beyond reasonable doubt” that Thomas had violated federal civil rights laws.
While Thomas, a Republican, has not been criminally charged, the opinion made it crystal clear that his unethical and allegedly illegal conduct was the result of his “unholy collaboration” with Arpaio, also a Republican, to use their law enforcement powers to retaliate against critics.
Thomas and an assistant prosecutor, Lisa Aubuchon, were disbarred for violating perjury and intimidation laws when they filed criminal charges against Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Gary Donahoe and two county supervisors, Mary Rose Wilcox and Don Stapley.
All three of the criminal cases, filed in 2008 and 2009, were later dismissed for lack of evidence and conflict of interest issues.
The Supreme Court panel’s opinion stated that evidence indicated Arpaio had conspired with Thomas and Aubuchon to file the charges against the judge and two supervisors.
The Thomas disbarment opinion comes at the same time the Department of Justice has been conducting a three-year grand jury criminal investigation into allegations that Arpaio abused his power to go after opponents. And the federal grand jury criminal investigation is running parallel to a DOJ civil rights violations probe into claims that Arpaio’s deputies routinely targeted Latinos for arrest in an effort to round up and deport illegal immigrants.
Arpaio’s critics are now seizing on the Thomas disbarment opinion to put pressure on DOJ to bring criminal charges against Arpaio, or walk away...