Andrew Thomas: Nobody is above the law in America

From an op-ed in the Arizona Republic

Recently, this editorial page has leveled allegations of bad faith on practically a daily basis against Sheriff Joe Arpaio and me for our efforts to combat public corruption.

While I will not comment on specific criminal cases and prosecutions, it would be improper to remain silent in the face of this relentless public assault on the integrity of county law-enforcement agencies.

On one thing all can agree: Events in Maricopa County of late have been extraordinary. But for reasons I’ll explain, they are momentous because of disturbing facts these critics have chosen to ignore or downplay.

It is surprising that in this season of faith, this newspaper shows so little faith in our system of justice. This system works.

Our constitutional government has many checks and balances to protect the rights of individuals yet provide for law and order. The Bill of Rights affords numerous important protections to those accused of a crime. For hundreds of years, these have ensured fair trials presided over by our judiciary.

Neither police nor prosecutors have the final say on whether a person is guilty of a crime. A jury of citizens does. Indeed, only after the county grand jury or the elected prosecutor finds probable cause to believe a crime has been committed can an individual be formally charged with a crime.

And yet, given the current climate of accusations, the following must be stressed: This same standard of probable cause applies to everyone alike. It cannot matter if the accused is a politician, judge or celebrity. Otherwise, we usher in a legal caste system whereby certain people enjoy special privileges or immunity from criminal prosecution because of their profession or status. That is un-American and most certainly is not the law.

For my own part, I went to great lengths to show fairness in handling criminal matters involving Maricopa County officials. I sought to hand these investigations and prosecutions to outside prosecutor’s offices and special prosecutors. I even asked the U.S. Department of Justice for assistance. All was to no avail. Ultimately, I was left with the duty to enforce the law when I concluded crimes had been committed.

Frankly, it’s not easy to prosecute politicians, judges and others who, unlike typical criminal defendants, have a constituency, access to the media and other such resources. But the alternative is worse, and apparently is what some prefer. The concerted efforts behind the scenes and in this newspaper to spur power brokers to protect favored defendants and shortcut the judicial system are wrong.

Maricopa County law-enforcement agencies are tackling deeply entrenched corruption at great personal and professional cost. While we do not ask for accolades, we must defend ourselves from repeated public attacks. These attacks, quite unlike our own actions, genuinely threaten the foundation of our government.

Over the past year, we in America’s fourth-most-populous county have seen our democracy tested in unique ways. We cannot allow the precedent to be set that when politicians are investigated or charged with a crime, they can enlist their colleagues, subordinate government employees, and connections in the judiciary and media to intimidate and thwart police and prosecutors.

If these events in Maricopa County are permitted to stand, soon such tactics will be followed everywhere, every time a politician is accused of a crime. Eventually, it will no longer be possible to prosecute politicians in the United States. Our nation will be permanently corrupted. And one of the main, shining distinctions that American citizenship provides – equal justice for all – will disappear. It is my somber duty to prevent this from happening. For this I gain nothing but the knowledge I’ve done my job.

Some may lack faith that our government can withstand such strains. I believe it can, and must.

Andrew Thomas is the Maricopa County attorney.


Comments

  1. I’ve said it once, and I’ll say it again. The two county supervisors Arpaio and Thomas are trying to prosecute are doing EVERYTHING THEY CAN to make people think they are being unjustly prosecuted.

    I’m sorry, but when you raise money for your campaign then go spend it on the personal items Supervisor Stapley spent them on, YOU DESERVE TO BE PROSECUTED! I think it is astonishing that the media (with the recent exception of Robert Robb – http://www.azcentral.com/arizonarepublic/viewpoints/articles/2009/12/19/20091219robbstapley20.html) continues to defend these slimebags from any accountability! As if their sleaziness is somehow Arpaio and Thomas’s fault. Let me remind Sonoran Alliance readers:

    Stapley allegedly spent $6000 of these funds at Bang and Olufson electronics, along with $1300 for hair implants, $400 for candle holders and $10,000 for furniture for his home. He also spent these funds, solicited as campaign money, to buy tickets to Broadway plays and movie theatres, flowers, grocery store bills, massages, department stores and trips for his family to Sundance, Utah to ski, a trip for his son and friends to Florida and a three-week vacation in Hawaii for his entire family at a beach house costing approximately $11,000.

  2. Sorry Candy. After the New Times debacle. I just don’t believe you.

  3. Conservative says

    The other Supervisor, Democrat Mary Rose Wilcox, is equally culpable. This woman has a history of crooked dealings that everyone who’s followed politics in the Valley the last 20 years knows about. But everyone has turned a blind eye to. She is being prosecuted by Thomas and Arpaio for giving thousands of dollars in county grants to the radical left wing organization Chicanos por la Causa which promotes illegal immigrants, while at the same time taking hundreds of thousands of dollars in loans from them. Of course they’re going to give her extra special favorable terms she would never have received had she not been a supervisor voting to give them money. She never bothered to recuse herself from voting as Supervisor on those loans, as required by county ethics rules. But the newspapers just turn the other way because this is the way she has operated for years. You scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours. Never mind that your tax dollars are being given away in grants to this far left organization, which in return gives her special loans. You and I would never receive extra special treatment like this, but boy we’re going to pay for it as taxpayers. http://www.ahwatukee.com/news/stapley-8368-counts-fraudulent.html

  4. Melissa, are you referring to the New Times subpoenas and arrests of the publishers? Regardless of what you think of that, the arrests were ordered by Hendershott, not Thomas. You can’t discredit Thomas with that, please come up with something else.

  5. HOW PIAS AND SANCTAMONIOUS. HE DOING IT FOR THE BETTERMENT OF ALL HUMANITY. WOW. I CAN SEE ANDY’S HALO FROM HERE.

  6. Andy and Arpaio are not only above the law, they think they are the law. All others are subject to their interpretation of it.

  7. I see Candy is preparing his defense already.
    Do you think he will do something way out of the norm for him and actually step into the courtroom? You know defending himself? Or will he have one of the bloggers, er I mean attorneys in his office represent him? Wait, they’ll probably be busy with their own defense. I guess that is out of the question.

    on a side note, In between the lines he does make some great points about how and why he is going down though.

  8. I’m surprised he can type out an editorial and simultaneously nail himself to a cross at the same time.

  9. Whiskey Jack says

    I’m glad someone has the cajones to go after these corrupt public officials, Arpaio and Thomas deserve our support for that.

    Obviously we are seeing a lot of circling the wagons to protect corrupt government officials, but that’s what always happens…The public sees that, the weak-minded do not.

  10. I think Klute’s crucifixion metaphor is entirely appropriate here, though it may not be what he intended.

  11. Whiskey Jack, take a look at the facts. I don’t think you realize just how extraordinary these events are.

    Let me give you three examples. First, public corruption cases by themselves are nothing new. We’ve even had them here in Arizona. Thomas and Arpaio, however, are prosecuting their political enemies. Doesn’t that make you even the least bit suspicious? Any sensible prosecutor would send these cases out to another agency to avoid any appearance that the prosecutions are politically motivated. Thomas tried to send these cases to Yavapai County, but the Republican prosecutor there got fed up with Arpaio’s tactics and sent them back. Now Dave Hendershott claims she’s in on the conspiracy. Really? If their accusations are so strong, why can’t their get another county attorney to take them? Seems odd to me.

    Second, Thomas elected to avoid the grand jury in the criminal indictment of Judge Donahoe. He just typed up his greviencses and filed a complaint. That is extremely unusual. Why didn’t Mr. Thomas take his case to an independent panel and present evidence? I mean it’s not like getting an indictment is all that hard. Judge Wachtler once said a good prosecutor could get a grand jury to indict a ham sandwhich. So, Mr. Thomas’ case against Judge Donahoe is weaker than claims against lunch? Ask anyone involved in the criminal justice system. This is a bad sign.

    Third, do yourself a favor,read the probable cause statement on the criminal complaint against Judge Donahoe and try to explain the bribery claim to me. It’s unintelligble. At best it says Judge Donahoe blocked multiple criminal prosecutions so he could get a nicer office for a year or two. Even Mr. Thomas couldn’t explain this allegation.

    Robert Robb has it spot on. The “evidence” so far on the claims against Donahoe is non-existent. Either there are serious, compelling facts in this prosecution that haven’t seen the light of day or Mr. Thomas and Mr. Arpaio are engaging is a gross abuse of power. Prosecutors always lead with their best evidence. That they currently lack any is frightening.

    The weak-minded, Whiskey Jack, are those who take what Arpaio and Thomas say at face value without critical analysis. Look how many of the bloggers (like Conservative) immediately jump to their defense because Arpaio and Thomas talk tough on illegal immigration–even though none of these cases have anything to do with immigration. You know, it is possible Thomas and Arpaio could be on the right side of the immigration question and on the wrong side on these other issues. That fact seems to escape much of the “strong-minded” public.

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