Our panelists tell three stories about someone ignoring all the warning signs while reaching for the stars, one of which is true.
Former Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas disbarred for ethics violations
Former Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas and his former deputy Lisa Aubuchon were disbarred by the Arizona Supreme Court Disciplinary Panel for violations of ethics rules and misuse of power.
Attorney Scott Zwillinger said his client, Rachel Alexander, will likely appeal. (Photo by Nadine Arroyo Rodriguez - KJZZ)
Another deputy, Rachel Alexander, was suspended for six months and one day. Together, the three ex-prosecutors faced 33 ethical violations, including knowingly filing charges after the statute of limitations had ended and indicting county officials for political reasons.
"Justice has been served," said Maricopa County Supervisor Mary Rose Wilcox, who was one of the officials Thomas targeted in conduct that led to the complaints.
The panel concluded former Thomas broke professional rules of conduct for lawyers in bringing unfounded criminal charges against two county officials, including Wilcox, and a judge in December 2009.
Independent Bar Counsel John Gleason argued that Thomas and Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio investigated officials they were in political and legal disputes with. After today’s announcement Gleason said the key to proving the case was hearing first-hand testimony.
"The most important factor in our mind was that we gave the victims of the conduct, the opportunity to tell their story and it was a compelling story," Gleason said. "We believed from the very beginning that it was a compelling story and we’re happy with the outcome."
Thomas and Arpaio have said they were working to fight corruption.
“Today, corruption has won and justice has lost," Thomas said in a statement following the hearing. "I brought corruption cases in good faith involving powerful people, and the political and legal establishment blatantly covered up and retaliated by targeting my law license. Arizona has some of the worst corruption in America, according to a recent national survey."
Thomas, Aubuchon and Alexander have ten days to appeal the decision to the Arizona Supreme Court. If any appeals are denied, the ruling will take effect May 10.
Alexander's attorney Scott Zwillinger said his client will likely appeal. "She was involved in this, it seemed more to me, because she’s an active political writer. There were others involved that were controlling her work, giving her advice, giving her bad advice," he said.
Former U.S. Attorney for Arizona Paul Charlton said it's too early to speculate if there will be criminal charges against any of the three.
"The court reached the right decision today, and we should be studying this in the criminal arena for many years to come," Charlton said. "[Thomas] pursued the innocent, and he did so for political gain."
Former Arizona Attorney General Jack LaSota called the panel's decision “sadly appropriate.”
“There were a lot of people, voices in Andy Thomas’ office who disagreed with some of the conclusions reached and advised him against it but he proceeded to process cases and to mount charges that were simply not there,” LaSota said. He referred to the lack of probable cause to proceed with the prosecution of county officials.
Read the opinion from the Office of the Presiding Disciplinary Judge of the Arizona Supreme Court.
KJZZ aired special coverage of the panel's findings Tuesday morning. Host Steve Goldstein spoke with reporter Nadine Arroyo Rodriguez; Mark Harrison, legal ethics expert from the Phoenix firm Osborn Maledon; Jack LaSota, former Arizona Attorney General; and Paul Charlton, former U.S. Attorney for Arizona. Listen to the discussion.
Updated 4/10/2012 at 3:11 p.m.