Arpaio And Thomas: The Most Unethical Sheriff And Prosecutor In America Conspire To Abuse Power And Obstruct Justice

In addition to some of the finest weather and most spectacular natural beauty in the US, Arizona is also home to two of the biggest and most virulent self serving political hacks imaginable, Sheriff Joe Arpaio and Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas. For years, there has been an escalating turf war between the Siamese twins of local law enforcement oppression, Arpaio and Thomas on the one hand, and the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors and the Maricopa County judiciary, who keep trying to reign in the out of control officers, on the other hand.

Last week, Arpaio and Thomas upped the ante in the war by filing a civil racketeering suit in Federal court. From The Arizona Republic:

Alleging widespread conspiracy, Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas and Sheriff Joe Arpaio filed a civil suit in U.S. District Court on Tuesday against county administrators, elected officials, judges and attorneys. Those defendants, they say, are violating federal racketeering laws by hindering criminal investigations and depriving their offices of resources.

County officials dismissed the claim as frivolous, saying Arpaio and Thomas have routinely lost on similar claims in state and local courts.

In the lawsuit, Thomas and Arpaio name all five members of the Board of Supervisors along with County Manager David Smith, Deputy County Manager Sandi Wilson, four Maricopa County Superior Court judges, director of the county’s civil-litigation division, two attorneys and a law firm.

The suit, in essence, reiterates all of Thomas’ battles with the courts and county since 2006, including accusations of conspiracy by Judges Barbara Mundell, Anna Baca, Donahoe and Fields, claiming that the dispute began with the court’s opposition to Thomas’ immigration policies. It revisits the questions Thomas raised about the new $341 million court tower. Donahoe removed Thomas’ office from that investigation, and the Arizona Court of Appeals upheld Donahoe’s decision. Coincidentally, on Tuesday, the Arizona Supreme Court refused to reconsider that case. (emphasis added)

The last part in bold is key. Thomas and Arpaio have waged war against Maricopa County, the courts, elected officials and anybody else that dares to question or restrain their use and abuse of power. The issue here is a local concern, under purely Arizona state law, on which Thomas and Arpaio have resoundingly lost at every level of Arizona court, all the way to the Supreme Court of Arizona. With disdain and contempt for any court disagreeing with them, which is pretty much every court that reviews their conduct, they have now tried to counter the rule of law by tying the entire Maricopa County government in knots through spurious and unethical application to the Federal court.

The Judge Donahoe referred to in the Arizona Republic quote above is Maricopa County Superior Court Presiding Criminal Judge Gary Donahoe. Arpaio and Thomas have a special vendetta against Judge Donahoe and, today, doubled down on their crusade by criminally charging Judge Donahoe with bribery, hindering prosecution and obstruction based, amazingly, primarily on the same complaints and facts that the entire spectrum of trial and appellate courts in Arizona have previously rejected. From a late breaking story today by The Arizona Republic:

The escalating legal battle between county officials manifested itself in more criminal allegations Wednesday when Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas and Sheriff Joe Arpaio filed charges against Superior Court Judge Gary Donahoe.

The direct complaint alleges that Donahoe participated in a scheme to commit bribery, hinder criminal prosecution and obstruct a criminal investigation.

The charges center on Donahoe’s role in the sheriff’s and county attorney’s investigation of the criminal court tower under construction in downtown Phoenix. The complaint also pulls in a host of other issues related to the judge, including the prosecution of Supervisor Don Stapley and Donahoe’s recent ruling on a sheriff’s detention officer who took documents from a defense attorney during a sentencing hearing.

The charges were released hours before Donahoe was scheduled to hear arguments on whether the Board of Supervisors and county administrators have the authority over appointing a pair of outside prosecutors to investigate allegations against Stapley. County officials have tried to block funding for the “special prosecutors” Thomas had appointed and asked a court to rule on the issue, which Thomas said was related to the obstruction allegation against Donahoe.

This battle royale spilled into the national consciousness in early October when Thomas and Arpaio, frustrated at having their heavy handed attempt to criminally prosecute one of the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors summarily dismissed by the court, tried to hire the expensive and controversial husband and wife right wing partisan hit team of Joe diGenova and Victoria Toensing, from Washington DC, as special prosecutors to further investigate and refile charges against the Supervisor, Don Stapley.

That attempt ground to a halt in light of the fact that County Attorney Thomas did not have authority to hire out of state counsel, was planning on funding the gambit from inappropriate draining of seized RICO funds and, of course, the pesky little fact that diGenova and Toensing are not licensed to practice law in front of Arizona state courts. Andrew Thomas is no stranger to improper abuse of the RICO funds; he has previously depleted the account for purposes of proselytizing his pet religious and faith based initiatives (See the Phoenix New Times here, here and here).

Given the sordid history of Thomas and Arpaio’s war of intimidation and attrition on Maricopa County and its courts, you would hope they would have the minimal character and ethics to not charge the Presiding Criminal Judge for Maricopa County with felony crimes of dishonesty without substantial factual and legal basis, but that would appear to be asking far too much.

From Paul Rubin of the Phoenix New Times, who was at the dog and pony press conference Thomas and Arpaio held to announce the charges:

But Thomas couldn’t offer any evidence to the assembled media scrum that Donahoe actually had accepted a bribe of any sort. Instead, he and Sheriff Joe Arpaio (who stood next to Thomas at the lectern) offered the same vague allegations they have made for nearly a year regarding the county’s planned court tower, currently under construction.

In fact, the county attorney said no evidence exists that the veteran judge personally has received anything in the way of a personal financial benefit during the flap over the $347 million construction project.

But today’s announcement that Donahoe now faces felony charges — when the only evidence of “wrongdoing” on the judge’s part is a series of rulings that Thomas and Arpaio vehemently disagree with — is unprecedented even in Maricopa County.

Donahoe also is the same judge who ordered detention officer Adam Stoddard to jail last week for swiping a defense attorney’s notes — drawing Sheriff Joe’s ire.

Even the Valley’s usually compliant press corps seemed incredulous with the announcement of criminal charges against the highly respected Donahoe, who is retiring from the bench in the near future.

A quick explanation of Rubin’s reference to the Adam Stoddard matter yields yet another example of the contempt and abuse of office by Sheriff Joe Arpaio and his partner in conspiracy Andrew Thomas. Stoddard is a Maricopa County Detention Officer; the detention officers are employees of the Sheriff’s office responsible for staffing Sheriff Joe’s jails, transporting defendants and security at Maricopa County Superior Court complexes and courtrooms. Stoddard, while on duty in a criminal courtroom, stole privileged work product from a defense attorney’s file at the defense table while the attorney was up arguing her client’s case. Stoddard then had the material copied and tried to surreptitiously place it back in the file.

Arpaio, instead of disciplining his employee for the outrageous conduct, belligerently supported him and tried to slander the attorney by associating her with unrelated criminal conduct she had nothing to do with. Judge Donahoe, as presiding criminal judge, found Stoddard’s acts improper and tried to give him an easy out by ordering him to apologize. When Stoddard refused (reportedly at Arpaio’s urging), he was held in contempt of court and jailed. In response, Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s detention officers petulantly staged a “sick out” (during which a bomb threat curiously and suspiciously was made) effectively shutting down the entire Maricopa County criminal court system.

Today, Arpaio and Thomas filed and announced their criminal charges against Judge Donahoe just hours before he was scheduled to hear a petition by the County Board of Supervisors to disallow once and for all the publicity stunt Thomas and Arpaio tried to pull with the attempt to inappropriately hire the unlicensed partisan hit team of diGenova and Toensing. When the bogus Federal racketeering suit did not get the removal of Donahoe like they wanted, they upped the unethical ante yet again and filed bogus criminal charges against him.

The foregoing is the consistent and unrelenting method of operation for Sheriff Joe Arpaio and Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas; they use and abuse their positions of authority and public trust to pursue personal and political desires and vendettas and, if questioned or challenged, use their offices to attack and cripple their enemies, whether they be private individuals or elected officials and judges. It is a corrupt and craven fiefdom they are running in the fourth most populous county in the United States.

This reign of intimidation and abuse of office has been going on for years. Conspiring together, Arpaio and Thomas have created a power center that is uncontrollable and dismissive of any and all local authority and law; they answer to no one, and will attack anyone in their way. You have to wonder where the Feds are, and how the conduct is allowed to continue.

Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon, another victim of Arpaio’s wrath, has repeatedly sought intervention by the Department of Justice, even going so far as to travel to Washington to seek assistance. The US House of Representatives Judiciary Committee implored Eric Holder and Obama’s DOJ to intervene against the abuses and described the situation as a:

…repeated course of conduct, which values publicity opportunities over the civil rights of residents of Arizona, is too disturbing to leave enforcement of the civil rights laws to private litigants. There are several tools at the federal government’s disposal to address these allegations, and we urge their prompt consideration and application.

But nothing ever bears fruit, even from the vaunted Department of Justice, and the oppressive conduct maintains unabated. In October, the Phoenix CBS news affiliate, KPHO News5, did an outstanding and comprehensive investigative story on Arpaio’s abuse of authority to carry out personal and political vendettas. Unable to get a get any response or traction with the DOJ with their powerful compilation, CBS News5 retained former US Attorney David Iglesias to review and evaluate the investigative materials. Iglesias’ response was:

“I’ve been in and around law enforcement for about 20 years — state, local and federal level (and) even some military prosecution work. I’ve never seen anything like this,” Iglesias said after he looked through 5 Investigates’ research and did some on his own.

If he were handling the case, Iglesias said, “I would work very closely with the civil rights division in Washington, D.C., and based on the information I have, I would seek an indictment.”

The video from the KPHO CBSNews5 investigation is excellent and is attached above.

Any rational Federal prosecutor would do the same as Iglesias suggests, but that, of course, would require the DOJ and its vaunted Civil Rights Division to be willing to do their job. There has been scant evidence of that willingness or ability to date. The refusal to take on a powerful right wing wildcard like Arpaio, and his legal henchman Thomas, might have been understandable under the emaciated Bush DOJ Civil Rights Division, but Barack Obama and Eric Holder took office swearing to restore the pride and primacy of the most critical division for protection of the rights of the public and rule of law.

Where are they?

28 replies
  1. bobschacht says:

    Ah, Arizona.

    Arpaio and Thomas need a lesson in civics: it is the Courts whose job it is to decide what the law means, not a county sheriff.

    BTW, what role, politically and legally, does the AZ-AG, Terry Goddard, have in all of this, if any? Or is Goddard keeping his hands off because he’s contemplating a campaign for Governor, and doesn’t want to risk alienating Arpaio’s rabid base? Isn’t Goddard Thomas’s boss?

    Bob in AZ

    • bmaz says:

      No, Goddard does not have any direct relation to, nor authority over, Thomas. The jurisdictions of the state Attorney General and the various county attorneys overlap to some degree, but they are independent. However, Goddard could, it would seem, do more to rein in Arpaio and Thomas and, yes, I would hazard a guess political considerations may play a part in the fact he has not. Terry absolutely plans to run for Governor and Arpaio, incredulously, is still the most popular politician in the state. Interestingly, Arpaio has not indicated he is going to run for Governor, but a recent poll found him to be the only one who could beat Goddard, so maybe Goddard does not want to rile him up. By the same token, Thomas has already indicated his intention to run for Attorney General in the next election in 2010 and it will be catastrophic if he were to ascend to AG, much less were Arpaio to go to Governor too.

  2. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Obama’s repeated claim is that taking on past rightwing crimes would derail his “agenda”, a mysterious, poorly defined set of goals that appears to mean, avoid distracting the boss. More and more, however, not taking on rightwing crimes seems to be the agenda itself, which merely serves to reinforce, regularize and institutionalize them and make their repetition more likely. That seems pretty novel, even for the Democrat Party.

  3. Mary says:

    Arpaio, incredulously, is still the most popular politician in the state

    That’s a hard one for even a Kentucky girl like me, watching Mitch McConnell and Jim Bunning get elected and elected, to understand.

    Who is the USA? It’s pretty unbelievable that the feds are just sitting back while the local sherrif and prosecutor basically gang up to harass and try to intimidate judges and local gov officials.

    • bmaz says:

      Chap by the name of Dennis Burke. Has worked with Napolitano in the past; is mostly a decent guy from what I know of him, but was just confirmed about two months ago. I don’t know where he has been on this, nowhere that I have seen. But the investigation triggered by Conyers et. al at House Judiciary was supposedly started some time ago and should be ongoing – where the hell are they?

  4. Loo Hoo. says:

    This reign of intimidation and abuse of office has been going on for years. Conspiring together, Arpaio and Thomas have created a power center that is uncontrollable and dismissive of any and all local authority and law; they answer to no one, and will attack anyone in their way.

    Be careful, bmaz.

  5. JamesJoyce says:

    His actions are abuses of power. A clear pattern exists. Any American of German descent understand this clearly. This man is a cancer whose propensity to intimidate is on record. Get rid of him!

  6. MadDog says:

    An excellent summary of the state of play counselor bmaz, and an even more compelling cry for help from someone like yourself who doesn’t go off half-cocked!

    So AG Holder and Co., WTF does it take to get you folks off your dead asses in light of the actions of these domestic terrorists and insurrectionists?

    If something like this was happening in the State of Illinois (yeah, Obama’s home) or New York or California or Minnesota (or almost any other non-Confederate state), the Feds would be all over it like flop on sweat!

    Almost unbelievable bmaz, but coming from you, I take it most seriously!

    • davidkowalski says:

      In Alaska convicted Republicans are let go. Elsewhere Republican holdovers in NJ continued to persecute Democrats and played a big role in winning the election for Christie (Democratic turnout operations in persecuted counties were pathetic).

      This “bipartisan” Administration continues to use IYOKIYAR (It’s OK If You Are Republican) as its basic standard. Screw that bipartisan covert Republican BS. Let’s get a little lustice and fair play going.

  7. slide says:

    Thanks for the update on these criminals. I am of the opinion that Obama, Holder & Co. are in favor of a police state. It would not surprise me to see more of this going on around the country, not less. We truly are in deep shit. The wingnuts and corporations own all of us.

  8. MadDog says:

    OT – If anybody has some free time this morning, they could call in to the ACLU teleconference I mentioned this past Tuesday:

    ACLU Teleconference Thursday At 10:30 AM: The Obama Administration And Impunity For Torture

    Experts Will Discuss Major Civil Lawsuits, The Forthcoming OPR Report And The Obama Administration’s Efforts To Shield Bush Administration Officials From Accountability For Torture…

    Teleconference featuring ACLU experts discussing major civil lawsuits, the forthcoming OPR report, lack of transparency and the Obama administration’s efforts to shield Bush administration officials from accountability for torture, followed by a question and answer period for members of the media

    Jameel Jaffer, Director, ACLU National Security Project
    Ben Wizner, attorney in the ACLU’s rendition lawsuit against Boeing subsidiary Jeppesen DataPlan
    Alex Abdo, attorney in the ACLU’s torture FOIA lawsuits
    Christopher Anders, ACLU Senior Legislative Counsel

    Thursday, December 10, 2009
    10:30 a.m. EST

    United States: (800) 288-9626
    International: (612) 332-0335

    I screwed up and for some reason thought it was happening yesterday.

    I called the 800 number for the ACLU conference call and confused the heck out of the ATT Conference Call assistance lady by insisting that the ACLU was having this conference call and intimating she was mentally deficient when I kept insisting I was correct on the number to call, who was hosting the conference call, and most embarrassingly, the date of the call!

    And then I looked at the date info above again to find that I somehow thought yesterday was Thursday.

    Big fookin’ doh!

    In any event, I can’t make the call this morning. Can someone else jump in if they have the time?

    I’ve got to head back over to one of my brothers to see if I can get his PC uninfected from one of the most nasty viruses I’ve ever encountered.

    Take it from me, you don’t ever want to get infected with the “” critter!

    I spent 5 hours in front of my brother’s PC on Tuesday trying to disinfect it, and then another 5 hours in front of my computers researching how bad the infection was and trying to find some way of cleaning it.

    The “” critter is so nasty that it prevents every well known anti-virus package from running (even in Safe Mode), it “blue screens’ when one tries to run some of the lesser known anti-virus packages, it prevents any and all access to CD-DVD drives (even in Safe Mode), it constantly is throwing up pop-ups, it constantly tries to install other viruses, it constantly is sending/receiving stuff from the Internet, and in most instances, it won’t even allow one to move the mouse cursor or use the keyboard.

    In any event, I’m heading back over to my brother’s place this morning armed with a DVD of UBCD4Win to see if I can boot the system off the DVD (it is based on Microsoft’s Win PE) and run some top of the line anti- virus-rootkit-malware-spyware-trojan killers and see if I can save his PC.

    I’m doubtful since my research indicates that “” is like a full-blown cancer with its hooks into a myriad of Window XP’s underpinnings, but as a good techie, I can’t seem to surrender and admit failure by wiping the entire system and starting from scratch. Sheeeesh!

    In any event, I sure hope somebody can jump into that ACLU conference call this morning since I’m gonna be busy again.


  9. dopeyo says:


    remove the drive, put it in a secure box with a usb interface. take it to a pc known to be clean, with a strong anti-virus program installed. process according to instructions. repeat.

    by extension, the same should be done with the sheriff and the prosecutor.

    plan b: look around for a utility called “BartPE” which will run as a live-CD, allowing you to explore the drive and remove offending files by hand.

    • MadDog says:

      remove the drive, put it in a secure box with a usb interface. take it to a pc known to be clean, with a strong anti-virus program installed. process according to instructions. repeat…

      Thanks for the support!

      I do really appreciate the thought, but sorry my friend, but that might infect the clean PC. “” is not your grandfather’s virus. *g*

      Seriously, this turd is a monster! Highly complex and it seems ready to do battle with anyone and anything!

      …plan b: look around for a utility called “BartPE” which will run as a live-CD, allowing you to explore the drive and remove offending files by hand.

      UBCD4Win is based on BartPE which is based on Microsoft’s WinPE.

      I’ve been using WinPE for almost a decade now and think this UBCD4Win is the one of the very best at harnessing the power of WinPE.

      It has a plethora of great utilities, anti-virus products, etc. built in. And it is free!

      The guy who built this is an uber-tech! Check it out and see if you don’t agree.

  10. Peterr says:

    Arpaio brings to mind Bull Connor and the rogue sheriffs of Jim Crow. Sure, Arpaio doesn’t use fire hoses and attack dogs against Donahoe, but the intent is the same: to preserve his own personal power, and his twisted vision of Arizona’s way of life.

  11. allan says:

    Where are they?


    I’m sad to see that Boris and Natasha were sidelined.
    I was looking forward to watching their antics from a safe distance.

  12. Jim White says:

    It’s a shame Obama took Napolitano away from you folks. Here in Florida, the Governor can remove people from office when they go over the limit. It would seem to me that the number of frivolous, intimidating lawsuits filed by Arpaio and Thomas now would make removing them from office appropriate. Do you think Napolitano would have had the courage (if she also had the authority) to do that? Now that you have a wingnut Guv, though, such thoughts are worthless…

  13. Skilly says:

    Perhaps someone local can explain to me 2 things: 1) how do they keep getting re-elected? 2) Why doesn’t the holder of the purse strings starve the sheriff out?

    • BoxTurtle says:

      They keep getting re-elected because they do things that make voters happy. Like it or not, violating the civil rights of criminals and immigrants is popular in most areas.

      The guy who robbed the minimart is roasting in a tent in a pink jumpsuit on a diet of little more than bread and water. A few folks are outraged. A few don’t care. Most are pleased. A few wonder why he isn’t getting roughed up by the guards more often.

      Boxturtle (Msg to Sheriff Joe & minions : Karmic backlash is a BITCH)

      • bmaz says:

        The Sheriff’s office IS drowning in lawsuits; last I checked, and it has been a while, Arpaio had somewhere in the vicinity of 50 million in settlements and verdicts against him and was headed upwards with a bullet.

  14. BoxTurtle says:

    I’m kinda suprised the sheriff’s office isn’t drowning in civil suits. Certainly, the board of supervisors has a case. You can’t use the courts to harass someone by filing bogus paperwork.

    But as long as the population supports him and he concentrates his abuses on people who are percieved to deserve them, he’ll get away with it. Remove him from office, he’ll simply run for re-election.

    Obama’s DOJ will not do anything that might endanger the Almighty Agenda and it seems that prosecuting elected republicans in general is considered dangerous.

    Boxturtle (Only difference between Holder and Gonzo is Holder works for ObamaCo)

  15. azportsider says:

    Excellent rundown on Arpaio and Thomas, bmaz. BTW, I thought Paul Rubin took it very easy on the Valley’s press corpse by only calling them ‘compliant.’ That’s why he makes the big bucks. I’d have called them ‘comatose’ or even ‘complicit,’ but I’m not as civilized as he is.

  16. earlofhuntingdon says:

    I echo the suggestion that you watch your back, though Joe, whose heritage is Italian, not American Indian, seems more comfortable intimidating the powerless.

    He’s reaching out, though. Indicting a sitting state court criminal judge in federal court, on charges he lost on through the state court system, is about as ballsy as it gets. He acts as if he were a member of RFK’s DoJ in 1960’s Mississippi. He’s not. He’s bringing the criminal “justice” standards of the 1950’s American South to 21st century Maricopa County – a huge territory much larger than the environs of Phoenix.

    • bmaz says:

      The civil suit was filed in Federal court; Thomas and Arpaio have no jurisdiction to bring criminal charges in Federal court, that complaint was filed in Maricopa County Superior Court, the same court Donahoe is presiding crim judge in.

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