Two crime softies running for County Attorney against Andrew Thomas

Sonoran Alliance is trying to cover as many candidate debates and forums as our writers have time for. The following are some highlights from last Tuesday night’s forum with the Democrat candidates for County Attorney, put on by the League of Women Voters.

Democrat County Attorney candidates Tim Nelson, a partisan hack for Governor Napolitano who worked for the ACLU, and Gerald Richard, nicknamed “Amnesty Gerry” because he will not enforce the human smuggling law against illegal immigrants, participated in a forum last Tuesday night put on by the League of Women Voters. The major impression viewers got from watching the forum: crime rates have finally began decreasing again over the last few years in Maricopa County, after years of steadily increasing. If you want to see crime rates go back up again, vote for one of them.

Both were asked questions submitted by audience members, which focused on issues like illegal immigration, tough plea policies, and conviction rates. It became clear that the main difference between the two Democrats and current Republican County Attorney Andrew Thomas was on illegal immigration. Both candidates repeatedly said that they do not believe it should be a priority, and disagreed with Sheriff Joe’s enforcement of illegal immigration laws. Nelson and Richard criticized Thomas for prosecuting illegal immigrants for conspiring to smuggle themselves. Nelson said that Thomas gave Arpaio bad advice when he told him his crime suppression sweeps are legal.

Richard said he would not arrest any illegal immigrants for conspiring to smuggle themselves. Nelson said he might arrest some, but it would be put on the back burner. Richard said he would save the office $60 million by not prosecuting illegal immigrants for smuggling themselves. He didn’t say anything about the costs that are being saved under the current policy by sending illegal immigrants back to Mexico. The illegal immigrant population in Arizona has decreased by 18% over the last year, due primarily to the tough stance the legislature, Thomas and Sheriff Arpaio have taken on it (illegal immigrants have decreased by only 11% nationwide). That’s a lot fewer illegal immigrants using our taxpayer-funded hospital emergency rooms, public schools, and welfare benefits.

Nelson was asked if he agreed with his former boss Governor Napolitano in opposing a tough plea bargain policy of Thomas that sends felony repeat offenders to prison. Nelson stammered and said that couldn’t be true, and said he supported it. He was wrong about Napolitano. “Thomas enforced this policy even over the strong objections of Napolitano, who didn’t want to pay the extra prison costs.”

Nelson was all over the board on whether we need to put more criminals behind bars. At one point, he said we are locking up too many juvenile offenders. He said only the violent offenders should be locked up. This is disturbing. What about juvenile sex offenders, should they go free to molest again? Or habitual thieves, Nelson would just give them a slap on the wrist and some counseling?

Richard criticized Sheriff Arpaio for housing inmates in tents to save money. Richard said just because it’s legal doesn’t mean it’s right. This is a naïve view. Major cities in Maricopa County have seen their crime rates decrease over the past couple of years, in part because inmates don’t want to go back to Tent City. The ones that can’t control their criminal behavior leave the state to commit crimes elsewhere, where they’ll be coddled in jail.

Nelson claimed that he will improve the conviction rate at the county attorney’s office. He gave yet some more conflicting conviction rates (click here for other numbers he’s thrown around) He said that MCAO lost 1 in 5 jury trials in 2005, 1 in 4 in 2006 and almost 1 in 3 in 2007. This extreme statistic has been refuted by the Arizona Republic, which reported that the office wins 80% of trials with an overall conviction rate of 93% – it has not decreased since Thomas took office.

Nelson said that Thomas “doesn’t allow plea bargains.” This was yet another bizarre accusation. Thomas has toughened up plea policies, not discontinued them. Around 80% of defendants take the plea offered to them. Nelson sounded silly exaggerating.

Nelson accused Thomas of spending “millions of RICO dollars to promote himself.” If that is true, why hasn’t your average Maricopa County resident heard of Thomas? Educating the public about crime is required by the state RICO statute. Unlike Governor Napolitano, Thomas doesn’t put his photograph on billboards. Unlike Attorney General Terry Goddard, Thomas doesn’t put his photograph on the front of almost every single publication from his office (and there are a lot of them). Governor Napolitano has said that RICO funds should be used in the fight against illegal immigration. It was very unclear how Nelson would spend RICO funds instead.

Both candidates said they would bring back Briefbank sharing, allowing other county attorneys around the state to access briefs drafted by Maricopa County attorneys. Nelson said it was “unconscionable” of Thomas not to share the database. But neither candidate bothered to mention the reason why Thomas discontinued sharing the database – it was expensive and all county agencies had been asked to find ways to cut back expenses.

Nelson said he wants to create a new domestic violence court that will only hear domestic violence cases. This is a dumb idea. Not only are domestic violence crimes already prosecutable under regular assault laws, but singling this kind of violence out sends a message to women that they are victims and should look to the government to help them. By turning domestic violence into a cause, women become less likely to stand up for themselves and leave a bad situation. Plus with the current budget problems, the county can’t afford another court. Nelson didn’t give any reasons why domestic violence crimes should be in a separate court. Why should domestic violence be singled out, but not, say, robbery or arson? It’s a feel-good politically correct idea that does nothing but increase the victim mentality and raise costs.

Richard said he wants to focus on domestic violence within the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender community. This just shows how far out of the mainstream he is.

In his closing statement, Nelson bragged that he was the only candidate running who’s led teams of lawyers to victory in high pressure situations. That didn’t make any sense. As County Attorney, that characterization could fit Thomas as well.

Richard said his #1 issue if elected would be the outstanding felony warrants. Governor Napolitano has used the number of outstanding felony warrants as a reason to criticize Sheriff Arpaio for his crime suppression roundups of illegal immigrants, claiming that Arpaio is neglecting warrants in favor of rounding up illegal immigrants. This is funny considering Phoenix Police, where Richard worked the past 16 years, has the most outstanding felony warrants of any law enforcement agency in Maricopa County, not the Sheriff’s Office. 12,000 are from Phoenix. Only 1,572 are from the Sheriff’s Office. If Richard let so many felony warrants sit when he was with Phoenix PD, why should we expect him to do any better as County Attorney?

Both candidates were disappointing, advocating a soft approach to crime and denying the link between illegal immigration and crime. If either one was elected, we can fully expect to see crime rates go back up. Fortunately, Thomas’s approval ratings are almost as high as Governor Napolitano’s. Maricopa County voters want a county attorney who reduces crime, not someone who tries to take a politically correct approach to crime that doesn’t work.



    Well said. Don’t forget though Goddard’s war on Western Union and the cartels. You cannot praise heroes like Arpaio and Thomas without giving him grudging respect for his efforts on that front.

  2. You have mis-stated Gerald Richard’s position on “arresting illegal immigrants for conspiring to smuggle themselves.” Richard said he would not prosecute immigrants apprehended in drop houses and elsewhere, but would instead have them immediately turned over to ICE for deportation.

    With little fanfare, Phoenix Police have done just that with some 6,000 immigrants in the past two years. Other Valley police have turned over thousands more to ICE for deportation.

    Richard’s complaint with the Thomas policy of prosecuting immigrants for “self-smuggling” is that each one costs taxpayers an estimated $13,500 for the courts, prosecutors, public defenders and jail. The total cost for the 750 immigrants prosecuted so far by Thomas is $5-million and climbing.

    And after that, guess what? The immigrants are turned over to ICE for deportation. The end result is exactly the same, except Thomas gets a lot of publicity and the taxpayers pick up the tab.

    Richard would use the limited resources of the County Attorney’s Office to go after the truly dangerous criminals who threaten the safety of our neighborhoods…represented by the 40-thousand-plus outstanding felony warrants in the county.

  3. This post was 20 percent information and 80 percent diatribe. It was unreadable, nonsensical and so laden with value-based descriptions that any credibility it had in making counter arguments was lost in the fog. Go back to debate school and organize your arguments.

  4. SonoranSam says

    “The major impression viewers got from watching the forum: crime rates have finally began decreasing again over the last few years in Maricopa County, after years of steadily increasing.”

    Unless you live in the UNINCORPORATED areas of Maricopa County, where crimes has gone up while Sheriff Joe has been making urban streets safe from corn vendors and Hispanics with broken tail-lights.

    If you want crime to decrease in unincorporate areas, vote for Dan Saban.

    He’s no Joe – and that’s a good thing.

  5. “Both candidates said they would bring back Briefbank sharing, allowing other county attorneys around the state to access briefs drafted by Maricopa County attorneys. Nelson said it was “unconscionable” of Thomas not to share the database. But neither candidate bothered to mention the reason why Thomas discontinued sharing the database – it was expensive and all county agencies had been asked to find ways to cut back expenses. ”

    I’m sorry but that argument is ridiculous. It costs nothing for MCAO to share the brief bank with other agencies. They are paying attorneys in the office to create the briefs and put them on the office website anyway. Sharing them only means that they give other county attorneys a password to access the site.

  6. Jack,

    I’m not sure what you mean. This post was as objective as anything you’d read in the Republic. That said, let’s remember that the Republic presents itself as a NEWSpaper; Sonoran Alliance does not.

    Is there actually a school just for debating?

  7. I'm In Trouble Now says

    When ICE merely deports, there’s no crime charged. That means the next time they’re caught…nothing happens. Thomas is convicting them of felonies. That means they’ll never be able to come back, and if the do they’ll end up in state prison.

    He’s closing the revolving door at the border, 750 convictions as a time.

    And if you’ve ever smelled the inside of a jail, you’d beg to be outside in a tent no matter how hot it was.

  8. Kralmajales says

    BARB is right. Ask even conservative judges about what prosecuting illegal immigrants, when the will be deported soon after anyway, does to our system and for the rest of the enforcement of crime.

    Im in Trouble,

    Do you have any idea of how long they stay in jail for a simple offense of crossign the border illegally? Long enough that big numbers of them cost society a ton of taxpayer dollars…my taxes…and yours. But not long enough to matter or punish anymore than deportation does.

  9. Appleblossom says

    The puzzling thing for me about this post is the claim that Tent City has been a reason for the reduced crime rate, however, Tent City was first opened in 1993. So how could it be a factor in dropping crime rates since that has only happened recently?


  1. […] Nelson and Richard think they are going to tell the police and sheriff what to do? As noted in a prior blog post, where was Richard when Phoenix PD was accumulating all these outstanding felony warrants? (Richard […]

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