Attorney who filed ethics complaint against Thomas: 'I believe in the law'
Former Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas will learn today if he’s disbarred. Thomas and two of his former deputies, Lisa Aubuchon and Rachel Alexander, were accused in 2010 of violating ethical rules and misusing their power. From Phoenix, KJZZ’s Nadine Arroyo Rodriguez recaps the history of the controversy – and talks with the person who first filed the complaint.
NADINE ARROYO RODRIGUEZ: The disciplinary hearing of Andrew Thomas, Lisa Aubuchon and Rachel Alexander lasted 26 days. From September to November, 56 witnesses testified.
On the first hearing day, independent Bar Council John Gleason stood before a three-person panel and listed the reasons why Thomas, and his former deputies Lisa Aubuchon and Rachel Alexander, were brought up on charges. Gleason said for four years Thomas and his staff targeted county officials – conducting unfounded criminal investigations and filing unnecessary lawsuits. Gleason called it an act of political vengeance.
The defendants, county superior court judges, board supervisors and a number of county and sheriff’s office staff members took the stand. Among the most notable witnesses – Sheriff Joe Arpaio.
[Arpaio answering questions during the hearing.]
ARROYO RODRIGUEZ: During the hearing independent counsel questioned the witnesses about how charges and arrests against Superior court judges and county board supervisors were filed and executed. Several witnesses said when they refused to follow Thomas’ orders, they were intimidated. In her testimony, County Supervisor Mary Rose Wilcox said she and Supervisor Don Stapley were targeted.
MARY ROSE WILCOX: People felt that Don got indicted for being a strong chairman and some of the indictments may not be valid, and they felt that the Sheriff and Mr. Thomas were persecuting him. And what lengths would they go to scare the rest of the board.
ARROYO RODRIGUEZ: Judge Gary Donahoe was also investigated.
GARY DONAHOE: These allegations and the RICO complaint and – complaint just ruined my career and my reputation.
ARROYO RODRIGUEZ: At the hearing, the bar counsel said that since 2008, Thomas had been at odds with Maricopa County officials. After he was elected, a feud erupted between Thomas and the board when he appointed outside counsel – without board approval – to represent the county. The board accused him of making the appointments for political reasons. In 2009, Thomas filed federal racketeering charges against several Superior Court judges. They were accused of improprieties on court building construction, improperly removing legal work from the County Attorney, and interfering with investigations. The attorney for Andrew Thomas painted a different picture. Donald Wilson said his client was going after public corruption.
DONALD WILSON: He tried to investigate it. He tried to prosecute it. The evidence that you will see in this trial is that he was stonewalled and stymied. He confronted bitter and powerful antagonists.
ARROYO RODRIGUEZ: In his defense, Thomas said he was a victim in the process.
ANDREW THOMAS: Bar complaints have been used consistently against me as an attack. They have filed bars against me all the time to intimidate me in the course of doing law enforcement duties. And I consider that the initiation of a pattern that continues and candidly to this day.
ARROYO RODRIGUEZ: Attorney Denise Quinterri disagrees. That’s why she says she filed the first complaint against Thomas.
DENISE QUINTERRI: I called the bar to check if there were any complaints filed and there were none and I could not believe that, because he had just arrested Judge Donahoe.
ARROYO RODRIGUEZ: Quinterri is in private practice, and was once a State Bar of Arizona attorney and investigator. She says when she decided to file the complaints against Thomas she knew what she was getting into, uncovering an attorney using his position to decide, on his own, who should be arrested or charged.
QUINTERRI: I believe in the law and I believe that we’re supposed to apply the law fairly to everybody. And not let our emotions get in the way of it. We’re supposed to go by the case law. And frankly honest, going by the case law, they could get suspension and it would be fair.
ARROYO RODRIGUEZ: After the disciplinary panel announces its findings, attorneys will have ten days to appeal to the Arizona Supreme Court.
EDITOR'S NOTE (4/11/2012): In an earlier version of this story, Denise Quinterri's name was misspelled.