First County Attorney debate on domestic violence: 24% more offenders jailed under Thomas


Thanks to the Thomas campaign for this photo, which was taken outside the Viad building downtown – click to enlarge

Last night the Maricopa County Attorney candidates squared off on domestic violence at the Men’s Anti-Violence Network forum. Prior to the debate, Democrat challenger ACLU Tim Nelson’s campaign held a rally with a few scraggly protesters outside the building, next to small side road where they went virtually unnoticed. A Thomas supporter stood with a huge Thomas sign next to them, dwarfing their tiny signs.

The debate began with opening statements. Andrew Thomas said that under his tenure, there has been a 24% increase in domestic violence convictions, and the filing rate is up as well. He noted that he’s the only candidate who has actually prosecuted domestic violence crimes. He fought for a spousal rape law in the legislature and said that a leader in the Sexual Assault area said that the law would not have passed if it hadn’t been for his intervention. Thomas took a jab at Nelson’s proposal to start domestic violence “therapeutic” courts, saying they would be akin to giving “group hugs.”

Libertarian Michael Kielsky emphasized the constitutional libertarian principles of focusing on prosecuting crimes that affect life, liberty or property, not things that consenting adults do. He noted that domestic violence prosecutions have been abused, unfortunately now the police come out and arrest everybody. He related an example of a client he had represented who called the police on her live-in boyfriend for domestic violence, and the police ended up arresting her.

For his opening statement, ACLU Tim said there was a woman in the audience whose boyfriend was killed by her ex-boyfriend. He said that it was the County Attorney’s fault for not bringing the charges for four months. He didn’t say why it took that long – whether there were problems getting statements, the police had delayed submitting the case, or some other reason. He accused Thomas of not lobbying for a bill that would make a second domestic violence offense a felony. Nelson admitted his only experience with domestic violence consisted of helping Governor Napolitano draft an executive order creating a Domestic Violence Commission. Then he rambled on about drafting executive orders for Napolitano sending the National Guard to the border to assist with supplies in a non-law enforcement role, and drafting an executive order about drop houses. Not sure what those had to do with domestic violence.

The first question asked of the candidates was what are the sources of domestic violence and how should they be addressed. Kielsky said domestic violence shouldn’t be treated as political football where everything is labeled domestic violence.

Nelson repeated what he said in his opening statement, said that the problem is that repeat occurrences haven’t been made a felony, which is Thomas’s fault for not lobbying for that bill in the legislature.

Thomas said that we need to send a clear tough message to offenders with a tough plea policy, which Nelson wants to repeal. Leaving sentencing up to individual prosecutors or the judges – many who were appointed by Nelson’s boss Napolitano and are soft on crime – doesn’t send a message to offenders that we are taking DV seriously. Under Thomas, the County Attorney’s Office has been forced to prosecute DV crimes as misdemeanors and take them to Justice Court instead of Superior Court, since Superior Court is so stacked with soft-on-crime Napolitano judicial appointees it’s almost impossible to get any jail sentences from them. This is why Mike Tyson, an accused rapist, received only 1 day in jail. Thomas ended the policy of allowing even the county attorney personally to negotiate sentences. Under Nelson, who has received a record number of campaign contributions from criminal defense attorneys, this practice would be back in place. Criminal defense attorneys would be calling him personally asking for sweetheart deals.

Next the candidates were asked how they would increase satisfaction for victims and prosecutors. Nelson repeated his story about the victim present whose ex-boyfriend killed her boyfriend, claiming it was because the County Attorney’s Office failed to bring charges speedily. He accused Thomas of missing meetings with the Governor’s Domestic Violence Council.

Thomas shot back that the Governor’s Office has also missed several meetings themselves – why didn’t Nelson attend for the Governor’s Office? He explained that the office’s representative had missed a few meetings due to the fact she was prosecuting the Goudeau rape/murder trial. Thomas pointed out that his two challengers have represented domestic violence batterers, they haven’t prosecuted them. In regards to the victim present, Thomas said that the office handles 40,000 cases per year and occasionally something may not be done perfectly. However, permitting individual plea deals is still a bad idea and would result in worse situations.

Kielsky said that prosecutors aren’t there to be happy, they’re there to do justice. If they’re not happy, they should find another job.

The candidates were asked whether they thought Arizona’s domestic violence law should include people who are just dating. Thomas went over his work lobbying the legislature the past years to toughen up laws on all crimes. If you’re a criminal it’s not a good time right now for you. Thomas responded to Nelson’s accusation that he hadn’t lobbied on the bill making a second DV offense a felony, saying that the County Attorney is the only law enforcement agency that bothers lobbying. DPS and the Governor’s Office don’t bother lobbying on these bills. Yet they’re given a free pass by the press. The Governor doesn’t take a position on a bill until it hits her desk and she’s forced to. That’s not leadership. Thomas on the other hand has the guts to stand up for a tough bill from the beginning, because we need to send offenders to prison the first time and teach them a lesson. His office lobbies on a lot of bills, and is not able to get to every single one.

Kielsky disagreed with including dating in the domestic violence law, saying a couple must be living together. Nelson dodged the question, saying the devil is in the details. He responded to Thomas, saying no one should be criticizing the leadership of Napolitano on domestic violence, and brought up the Domestic Violence Council she created again (and has apparently missed attending a few times). He couldn’t come up with anything else she has done on domestic violence. He then launched into a tirade about the 40,000 unserved felony warrants in the county and blamed Thomas for them.

The candidates were asked how they would create better accountability. Kielsky said we need to stop putting fancy labels on things. Nelson repeated for the third time that the problem is delay in prosecution (even though he could not name any instance involving delay other then the one involving woman present at the debate). He talked about creating his therapeutic domestic violence felony courts, and how he would set up a system to charge DV offenders higher fines to pay for Orders of Protection to be served faster. He accused Thomas of wasting time going to trial with prosecutors unable to obtain convictions because of his plead to the lead policy.

Thomas said that wasn’t true, his conviction rate is 93%, which has remained the same while he’s been in office. Thomas noted that Nelson hasn’t done anything in the area of domestic violence until now, other than a couple of small things for the governor. As for the unserved felony warrants, he said that the office has 45 detectives – they can’t possibly be responsible for serving all of them, although they are trying to help the police agencies with them. Thomas said it is hard to listen to sermons on domestic violence from someone who misrepresented his record on defending Jose Cerjas on death row, a murderer who threatened his wife from death row. Someone like that is the last person we want in the County Attorney’s Office.

Next the candidates were asked about what they would do for victims. Nelson said he would start attending the Domestic Violence Council meetings. (Thomas pointed at Nelson as he said this and said YOU! implying that Nelson also hasn’t been attending the meetings) Nelson tried to deflect the accusation that he’d represented Cejas, saying he only represented him the last two weeks before his execution, and didn’t do any oral argument or write any briefs. It gave him a “richer understanding” of the death penalty. Claimed he does think the death penalty is warranted in certain circumstances.

Thomas said he would help victims by increasing awareness, such as through public service announcements, which his opponent criticizes and says he’d end. Thomas currently runs public service announcements on drugs, drinking and driving, and drophouses, paid for by RICO funds (money seized from criminal profiteering), not tax dollars. Thomas accused Nelson of misrepresenting his role representing Cejas again, pointing out that Nelson had said in a press release recently that he DID write a brief in the Cejas case, unlike his assertion tonight. Thomas said that unlike Nelson, his principles aren’t for sale in order to reach partner, he wouldn’t sign his name on a brief to attain that status.

Kielsky said, “Thank goodness I’m here in the middle or there would be a bloodbath.” He said he supports the death penalty theoretically, but practically it would probably be a very exceptional case.

The candidates ended with closing statements. Nelson said it’s all about giving good advice, and blamed Thomas for the Sheriff’s Office arresting the New Times editors. He also blamed Thomas for a report that just came out saying the jails are risking being discredited for not providing high levels of healthcare to inmates. (not real clear what the correlation is between the County Attorney’s Office and jails, which are not under the County Attorney’s jurisdiction) He attacked Thomas for using outside counsel to handle certain cases. He said that he’d been a partner when he handled the Cejas case, implying that when he worked for a big firm, he made partner unlike Thomas who was only an associate.

In his closing statement, Thomas noted that Nelson had just told another lie, saying that he was a partner now, when he’d previously said he was only an associate when he handled the Cejas case. We don’t need a soft on crime ACLU liberal in the County Attorney’s Office. And we need the death penalty for murderers who really need it, not just wait for some terrorists to strike and then it will be appropriate.

Kielsky ended by saying “Thanks for letting me go last, now we can bring down the tension in the room. Or I could let these two really go at it and I would end up being the County Attorney!”


Comments

  1. kralmajales says

    “Andrew Thomas said that under his tenure, there has been a 24% increase in domestic violence convictions, and the filing rate is up as well.”

    Uh…this could also be perceived as domestic violence increasing on his watch. Yeah, you get to convict more if more filings go up. But if filings are going up, it can also mean that there are more cases of domestic violence.

    Oh…and on therapeutic courts…well I know a bit about them. Thomas either knows what he is talking about and LIED…or he doesn’t know what he is talking about.

    There are reams of research that shows that thereapeutic courts are much tougher than jailing a person for a few days. It gives more power to the court to monitor offenders and the needs of the victims too. Our current system gives quite a bit MORE probation for domestic violence violations and short, at best, stints in jail.

    The average therapeutic court entails supervision of person by the court for 28 weeks or more…with intensive monitoring…jail and more for those who reoffend or even drink, and treatment help with becoming reformed for those who follow the law and the will of the court.

    Again, Thomas either LIED or he doesn’t know what he is talking about.

  2. kralmajales says

    OH and one more thing. Did you all know that there are felony domestic violence charges and misdemeanor ones? On some, especially repeat offenders, you jail them and jail them for as long as the law will allow.

    Did you know that it is state law…state law folks…that part of the punishment of a first time domestic violence offender is 28 weeks of treatment…anyway???

    Therapeutic courts are NOT a group hug. They put real teeth into the process of this so called treatment that just doesn’t work…and provides real monitoring to protect families and even restore some people to normal again.

    How can any of you possibly oppose this? I can’t imagine that any of you do. It is a real shame that Thomas either lied or just doesn’t know this.

  3. Prosecutor says

    That’s not true. Domestic violence therapeutic courts result in batterers receiving more lenient sentences – more likely to receive “counseling” instead of jailtime. Here’s a quote from an article about it – “Many cases will be resolved by having a condition of the batterer entering into a batterers program, rather than jail time.” http://www.westchesternow.org/su02idvcourt.html

  4. kralmajales says

    Prosecutor,

    Not true. First of all, you posted an article about an Integrated Family Court, which is by no means the same animal. They have their own benefits, but the author of this piece (from NOW) is not by any stretch a legitimate source on this subject.

    Domestic violence courts do indeed lead to a chance (generaly for first time offenders to recieve monitoring, counseling, drug tests, alcohol tests, and when they screw up, jail. Do you have any idea what the amount of jail time for domestic violence is for a first time offender?

    Most get none…zero…none. Those that do, get days.

    It is far far more rigorous a punishment to be monitored, told what to do by the court, and essentially told to report to court for months and months.

    Even getting a few days in jail…when that even occurs…is getting off light in comparison.

    Let me see if I can find you some sources that are pretty safe and not so political.

  5. Prosecutor,

    You need to understand that Kralmajales is SA’s resident liberal Democrat. I am sure he probably wants to give a lot of criminals therapy. It’s generally what their party is all about.

  6. kralmajales says

    Mike, typical. You can’t admit that I might know more about this than you, then prosecutor, and than Thomas does.

    CAll me a liberal and make it all done, but I can assure you…I can assure you. I know a LOT about this, and Andrew Thomas is either wrong….or a LIAR.

  7. Iris Lynch says

    Gee Kral. You sure think we are all dumb as a brick. You only said ‘Thomas didn’t know or lied’ four times. Do you think we finally got it after just four times or do you just have a penchant for hypnosis?

  8. Pat – in the past I have been critical of your posting style. But this recap was well done. You toned down the ad hominem’s and grade school nicknames and adjectives. I’m not looking for fair and balanced here, just a readable point of view on political events and happenings, and you delivered it this time. Thank you.

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