THIS BLOG is NOW RETIRED

I began this blog in May 2009 following the death of Marcia Powell at Perryville State Prison in Goodyear, Arizona. It is not intended to prescribe the path that leads to freedom from the prison industrial complex.

Rather, these are just my observations in arguably the most racist, fascist, militaristic state in the nation at a critical time in history for a number of intersecting liberation movements. From Indigenous resistance to genocidal practices, to the fight over laws like SB1070 and the ban on Ethnic Studies, Arizona is at the center of many battles for human rights, and thus the struggle for prison abolition as well - for none are free until all are. I retired the blog in APRIL 2013.

Visit me now at Arizona Prison Watch or Survivors of Prison Violence-AZ

David Rovics: We Are Everywhere

To my fellow activists now struggling through life - let this be a reminder that you are not alone and that we desperately need you here. All the injustice, grief, war, and human suffering calls for us to stay and do everything we can about it - you can't help us anymore when you're gone. Don't give up the fight - your last shred of hope may just keep someone else alive, too.
BLOG POSTS

Sunday, December 13, 2009

The Politics of Thomas and Arpaio. New Lows?

UPCOMING EVENTS


December 14: Fifth Special Legislative Session Begins (?)

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This is actually more of the same from these two (Arpaio and Thomas) I think we all know who the corrupt politicians really are in this town - I don't know how they think they can keep getting away with this.

Where the hell is the FBI and DOJ ? We're being terrorized by these men. They should be indicting Arpaio and investigating Thomas (I'm starting to think he's more nuts than I gave him credit for, considering how he's still hitched on to Arpaio - why would he think he'd be in line for attorney general after this kind of BS? We aren't all as stupid as previous elections suggest we may be. Just those people who voted for these men were...).

I'll have more to say on all this soon...Here are a few excerpts from this past week's Phx New Times on the pathetic state of Maricopa County, AZ:
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Sheriff's Office Raids Computer Company, Accuses County Leaders (Again) of Fraud and Other Crimes

The squabble between Maricopa County officials took yet another turn today as deputies raided the offices of a local computer firm, looking for evidence of fraud and other crimes...


....Yesterday, the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office served a search warrant at the offices of Chicanos Por La Causa. The raid's primary focus was to find dirt on County Supervisor Mary Rose Wilcox, who was indicted this week. Records show she didn't declare loans she took out from the Hispanic social service agency on her financial disclosure forms, nor did abstain from voting to approve county contracts with Chicanos Por La Causa.


With the amount of files seized, it appears this is turning into a bit of a fishing expedition. Clearly, deputies would consider it a bonus if they turned up evidence of crimes committed by employees of Chicanos Por La Causa. The same thing goes for Calence/Insight, no doubt.

While we're concerned about the origin of that $527,000 "donation," we're also worried about the use or abuse of police power here. Time will tell, but it seems possible that the feud among county leaders has gotten so bad that the Sheriff's Office is criminalizing things that might normally be considered gross inefficiencies.

We'll be looking forward to reading the transcripts of the interview with the whistleblower.

The Sheriff's Office is certainly collecting a big pile of potential evidence. A planned raid of the Superior Court Presiding Judge's home and office has been stymied, for now, by the Court of Appeals. Raids are expected at any time on the offices or homes of Don Stapley, Mary Rose Wilcox and God knows who else.

From the county perspective, next week could be as exciting as this one was...

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Judge Donahoe Criminal Case Assigned to Pinal County Judge; Stapley and Wilcox Cases Assigned to Pima County Judge

The presiding judge of the Maricopa County Superior Court has assigned the criminal cases against Judge Gary Donahoe and County Supervisors Don Stapley and Mary Rose Wilcox to judges in other counties.

mundell.jpg
Presiding Judge Barbara Mundell, (left) who is herself a target of the broad -- and vague -- racketeering investigation of Sheriff Joe Arpaio and County Attorney Andrew Thomas, wrote in a minute entry that she was moving the Donahoe case to avoid the appearance of impropriety or a conflict of interest. But she was, in essence, forced to move the case by Thomas and Arpaio, who surely would have considered any other decision as more evidence of the supposed conspiracy....

Mundell moved the Donahoe case that was filed today to the state Supreme Court, which assigned it to Judge William O'Neil of the Pinal Superior Court. She moved the Stapley and Wilcox cases directly to Jan Kearney, the presiding judge of the Pima Superior Court...

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Mary Rose Wilcox's Indictment: The Truth Behind Those 36 "Felonies"


Prosecutors working for Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas persuaded a grand jury to indict Mary Rose Wilcox, the lone Democrat on the county Board of Supervisors, on 36 felony counts. But they should have a much harder time getting those charges to stick in court.

That's because this indictment is even sloppier than the one they issued against Supervisor Don Stapley last December.

Wilcox is accused of voting on a series of contracts (and contract amendments) that the supervisors awarded to the local nonprofit agency Chicanos Por La Causa, or CPLC. At the same time, the indictment alleges, Wilcox had received a loan from CPLC's subsidiary, Prestamos, which offers loans to small businesses.

Wilcox never reported the Prestamos loan on the personal-financial-disclosure forms she filed with the county. Nor did she abstain from voting.

That's shady behavior. But a little analysis raises serious questions about whether it's actually criminal -- much less whether this set of charges will hold up under a defense attorney's scrutiny...

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Maricopa County Supervisors Don Stapley and Mary Rose Wilcox (left) were served with indictments this morning that accuse them of committing a long list of crimes....

donahoe gary judge.jpg...This being Maricopa County, the story has an extra twist:

The new indictments come one day before Judge Gary Donahoe, the Superior Court's presiding judge (you know, the judge from the detention-officer-swipes-papers debacle), is to hold a hearing on a lawsuit filed by the County Supervisors last month that reportedly blocks Thomas from using a grand jury to indict them.

Our source tells us that the timing of these new indictments is tied to this hearing to put pressure on Donahoe, who's also named as a co-conspirator in the racketeering lawsuit filed against county leaders last week. This seems like sound reasoning by our source: If Donahoe rules in the county's favor, the sheriff and county attorney will claim that's proof of his wrongdoing....

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Thomas and Arpaio Talk Tough on County "Corruption," Deflect Questions About Their Own Credibility

Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas and Sheriff Joe Arpaio vowed on Tuesday to get to the bottom of what they call a serious corruption problem among county leaders and judges.

Their afternoon news conference followed the announcement earlier today that County Supervisors Don Stapley and Mary Rose Wilcox have been indicted under dozens of criminal counts by grand juries. But the Q&A naturally delved into the accusations swirling around county judges, the other three County Supervisors, the planned court tower building, and Thomas and Arpaio themselves.


arpaio thomas 120809.jpg

Here are the highlights:

*County leaders are corrupt, according to Thomas and Arpaio. See our post about the racketeering lawsuit filed by the sheriff and county attorney last week. Thomas ramped up the rhetoric after reading his news releases about the new indictments.

*The indictments this week and racketeering lawsuit last week were "absolutely not" timed to pre-empt a hearing by Superior Court Judge Gary Donahoe on a lawsuit notice filed by the county that aims to limit Thomas' ability to convene a grand jury in investigations of county employees. (The notice may only involve grand jury investigations that involve pricey special prosecutors -- we're not sure if it will retroactively affect the new Stapley and Wilcox cases).

*"We're going to need an out-of-county judge," Thomas said. That makes sense if he's right about the "corruption." If he's wrong, then he's judge-shopping.

*Thomas finds it "interesting" that Colin Campbell, the retired presiding judge of the Superior Court, is reported to be Wilcox's attorney in her new criminal case. Arpaio and Thomas now want deputies to question Campbell, apparently to find out if he's part of the alleged conspiracy. (We called Campbell earlier today but haven't heard back).

*Arpaio still claims his financial disclosure forms are accurate -- a claim our research shows isn't true.

*Thomas listed some of the items Stapley allegedly bought with money he raised while campaigning as an officer for the National Association of Counties (NACo). We covered these in our feature story last month on Stapley, as well as many other aspects of the investigation.

*Thomas says his office referred a complaint from the county elections department about the shady Sheriff's Command Association to the state Attorney General's office, which already had an investigation running. The SCA case, as our readers well know, involves a secret slush fund for top sheriff's commanders and fat cats that was illegally donated to the Republican Party

*Thomas and Arpaio denied any credibility problems on their end regarding the county investigations. When asked about the possible motives of County Supervisors Fulton Brock, Andrew Kunasek and Max Wilson for engaging in a criminal conspiracy, as Thomas alleges, Thomas turned the tables and suggested New Times dig further into that subject. Both Thomas and Arpaio bristled at questions that implied they may be tainted. Arpaio, who seemed a bit off-kilter today, fondly recalled the days when prosecutors were seen as heroes and not questioned about their motives.

*Though a judge ruled that the county never properly passed rules requiring public officials to fill out financial disclosure forms, Wilcox's indictment accuses her of failing to accurately fill out her financial disclosure forms. Thomas says the decision in the Stapley case by Judge Kenneth Fields, (who Thomas think is a biased) was not a precedent-setter for other cases. In other words, Thomas is hoping for a different decision on the necessity of completing these forms.

*Arpaio says the lawyer for jailed detention officer Adam Stoddard is working on an appeal of Judge Donahoe's contempt order, and that the appeal would be filed soon.

(Peg's interjection: This is the pathetic "officer of the court" who lifted documents from a defense attorney's briefcase, whose jailing resulted in a bomb threat at the courthouse, a candlelight vigil for him outside the jail, and 20 co-workers calling in sick the next day. Arpaio, of course, called him a "political prisoner." He's free pending appeal of Donahoe's ruling, of course. The poor MCSO are so persecuted...)

Quick analysis:

The deep conflicts and interconnected webs in county politics makes it tough to take Arpaio and Thomas seriously, despite the serious-sounding allegations against Stapley and Wilcox.

These new grand jury indictments were filed in the same Superior Court -- the same one whose chief judges are allegedly corrupt. Thomas apparently expects the public to believe that whatever decision the court makes in these new cases will be the correct one -- unless he doesn't like the decision. In that case, he'll obviously consider the decision to be part of the conspiracy...

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Now, check this out: this is from way back in March. Think there's a problem with Thomas' attempt to prosecute Judge Donahoe? He's one of the few judges I've ever heard is fair and can't be bought. I guess that's why they have to criminalize him, too...
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"Appearance of Evil" Requires Personal Sanctions Against County Attorney Andrew Thomas, Say County Supervisors

A conflict of interest between Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas and the county Board of Supervisors over the investigation of a planned court tower creates the "appearance of evil," a judge has ruled.


The background:


In the midst of a feud with the County Supervisors, Thomas and Sheriff Joe Arpaio began investigating alleged crimes by county officials related to the planning of the proposed $340 million court tower. Neither politician has said publicly what those crimes might be, but in December, Thomas obtained a grand jury subpoena for county records relating to the court tower.

The problem for Thomas is that his office had provided legal assistance to the county during the preparation of the court tower proposal. That fact spurred the county to file motions to kick Thomas off the investigation entirely and quash the grand jury subpoena.

In court proceedings that were unsealed Friday evening, Judge Gary Donahoe's decision to thwart Thomas was revealed.

Donahoe agreed with the county in all matters and removed Thomas from the case, saying an "appearance of evil" exists in the conflict:

"It strikes this Court that any rationally thinking person would likely conclude that it appears improper for adversaries in a court proceeding to have the same lawyer."









Andrew Thomas (the appearance of evil)








The development is tough one for Thomas, who has been arguing for months that it's not a conflict of interest for him to prosecute County Supervisor Don Stapley for alleged campaign finance form violations. That argument appears as thin as a paper straw at this point...

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The other decent judge out here who comes to mind is Justice of the Peace Armando Gandarilla - he doesn't do so well tolerating the Fonz' "fuck the police" shirts, but he ruled against the MCSO and Thomas' office a few times this past year when they tried to prosecute Arpaio's protesters for silliness like trespassing on public property while exercising their constitutional right to defy him. Gandarilla even dismissed at least two of the cases "with prejudice", chastizing the prosecuting attorney and hitting the MCSO with the defendant's legal fees and a sanction at the one I witnessed. Below are clips and links (there's a video there, too) to two of those trials:
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Joe Arpaio, Andrew Thomas Lose, Part 2: Dennis Gilman's Video on the ACORN Arrests, and Eventual Victory

Here's a cool new video by activist Dennis Gilman regarding news I recently blogged concerning a legal victory obtained by two ACORN members last Friday in Phoenix. That's when bogus charges of trespassing against ACORN organizers Monica Sandschafer and Kristy Theilen were tossed by Justice of the Peace Armando Gandarilla. The charges were dismissed with prejudice, meaning the County Attorney cannot refile the case....
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My bet is that Gandarilla is next on their hit list. Here's another clip and link, this one to the People's Wolrd Blog referring back to the New Times:
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Wednesday, August 5, 2009


Court Challenges of Arpaio in Maricopa County, AZ‏

The public gallery at the Maricopa County Superior Court with Judge Armando Gandarilla will be filled again this Friday, August 7. Last week in a similar case, nearly 50 viewed the Evidentiary Hearing of activist Orlando Arenas who had charges of criminal trespassing dismissed with prejudice and monetary sanctions imposed on the Sheriff Joe Arpaio.

The trial on Friday is the "criminal trespass" charge from September 29 of last year against lead organizer of the Maricopa Citizens for Safety and Accountability (MCSA), Randy Parraz. Randy was grabbed by Maricopa County Sheriff Office (MCSO) deputies for standing in a public area outside the County Board of Supervisors building. Randy was singled out of a small crowd of people standing next to him, but only he was accused of trespassing -- little more than political retribution for Randy's tireless criticism of the MCSO.

The incident calls to mind the arrest of the ACLU of Arizona's legal director Dan Pochoda on a bogus trespassing charge last year. Pochoda recently beat that rap, and is suing the County for $400K. So far, every one arrested on bogus charges has beaten the MCSO combined with the County Attorney regime in the courts. Guess who pays when someone is wrongfully arrested by the MCSO? Taxpayers.


See the link:
http://blogs.phoenixnewtimes.com/bastard/2008/09/county_supes_critic_randy_parr.php

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The above are just a few examples. Those who have been victims of these men's incompetence don't fare much better than those who are intentionally targeted by their vindictiveness. We have to let Thomas and Arpaio know this isn't acceptable behavior before they hurt more people. Thomas should be spending his time re-opening the innocence claims on his desk if he really plans to seek higher office - if he doesn't, he just proves himself again to be an arrogant coward who is unable to admit his own mistakes...


Finally: the arrest of the Phx New Times' founders for defending readers' constitutional rights from the MCSO's attempts to view all their internet traffic records (including our IPs and sites we hit right before going there). Sounds like the criminal profiling of people based on their political leanings (the Phx New Times is distinctively Left)...

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New Times files a prelude to a lawsuit against Sheriff Joe Arpaio, County Attorney Andy Thomas and a discredited ex-special prosecutor on behalf of its readers and the Constitution


By Stephen Lemons

Published on February 19, 2008 at 6:38pm

New Times submitted a formal Notice of Claim on Wednesday, February 20, against the public officials responsible for a fiasco in October that saw the attempted trampling of the First Amendment rights of this newspaper and its readers, and culminated in the jailing of its founders, Michael Lacey and Jim Larkin.

The notice, required under Arizona law before government officials can be sued, paints a political landscape gone awry, with public servants turning taxpayer-supported institutions on end in defiance of the U.S. Constitution, due process, and the right of a free press to operate without intimidation.

"This is not a decision undertaken lightly," said Michael Lacey, executive editor of Village Voice Media, which owns New Times, and who, along with CEO Larkin, founded the paper. "We are not an organization, and Larkin and I are not individuals, that sue people. It's just not what we do. But I feel like if we don't do something, it's an invitation for this kind of behavior to continue."

The "behavior" to which Lacey referred was particularly chilling: a special prosecutor running amok, issuing overbroad and unconstitutional subpoenas aimed at the reading and browsing habits of citizens; a vendetta by Sheriff Joe Arpaio against New Times and its staff, the arrests of the paper's executives on petty charges in the middle of the night by members of the sheriff's clandestine Selective Enforcement Unit.

"What emerges is one of the most nakedly oppressive, conscience-shocking assaults on a free press by police and prosecutors in U.S. history," observes New Times lawyer Michael Manning in the Notice of Claim...

(finish at the New Times...)

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