Andrew Thomas creams ACLU Tim Nelson in 2nd debate on Horizon

It wasn’t even close. What ACLU Tim probably never realized, is that to get accepted into Harvard law school as a white male, like Thomas did, you have to be 10 times smarter than everyone else. In last night’s debate on Horizon, Thomas demonstrated that he was out of ACLU Tim’s league.

The debate began with opening statements. Thomas started his by asking Nelson which ones of the 100+ first degree murder cases he’s seeking the death penalty on would Nelson have not requested the death penalty. Nelson ducked the question. Nelson has represented murderer Jose Ceja on death row and argued that the death penalty was cruel punishment. Nelson does not appear to be in support of the death penalty, and has said he would not request it as often as Thomas has.

Nelson accused Thomas of spending resources prosecuting illegal immigration, instead of spending money prosecuting more serious crimes. He didn’t explain why he thought illegal immigration – a felony in Arizona – should not be prosecuted by the prosecutor’s office. Thomas responded and said that illegal immigration prosecutions account for only 1% of the office’s entire felony caseload. A few hundred more cases out of 40,000 cases prosecuted per year isn’t much of a burden.

Nelson kept repeating that he would focus on human smuggling crime rings, apparently ignoring illegal immigrants. It didn’t make much sense considering Thomas has focused extensively on human smuggling crime rings (Nelson must not read the news), and Nelson didn’t provide any reason or evidence why human smuggling rings need even more resources devoted to their prosecution than Thomas is already devoting.

Thomas said the reason he prosecutes illegal immigrants instead of just turning them over to ICE is because he has a “Thomas No Amnesty” program. Unlike Nelson, he said he’s not politically correct and scared of lawsuits by the ACLU, which Nelson has represented.

Nelson defended his representation of the ACLU, saying he had only represented them in one case, where he sued the City of Gilbert over a proclamation declaring Bible Week. But there’s more to it than that. ACLU attorneys are funding his campaign, such as Chad Belville, known as a top attorney for the adult porno industry who is trying to loosen up laws against porn (below).

Nelson attacked Thomas for outsourcing certain cases to outside private law firms, pointing out that those outside law firms had contributed to Thomas. Some of them have, but they also contributed in similar amounts to former county attorney Rick Romley prior to Thomas. There is nothing in the law prohibiting it. Regardless, ACLU Tim has received comparable amounts from criminal defense attorneys whose interests are directly opposed to that of the office, including the self-described #1 child pornography attorney in the Valley Jason Lamm. Only after Thomas asked Nelson to return Lamm’s contribution, did Nelson repudiate it. He hasn’t returned money from any other criminal defense attorneys.

Nelson claimed that Pima County spends a lot less money on outside counsel than does Maricopa County. Thomas retorted that by farming out lawsuits in specialized cases to outside private counsel who will take the time to fully litigate them, we’re ensuring that those kinds of cases don’t come up again, that a precedent is set so future parties can’t bring up the same issues again. Thanks to outside counsel, the Sheriff’s Office has won 11 judgments in a row, and those were decisions by judges, not juries, who tend to be tougher to convince. This practice has had a deterrent effect on frivolous lawsuits and big money verdicts.

Thomas asked Nelson about an opinion Nelson’s former boss Janet Napolitano wrote while she was Attorney General (and Nelson was one of her top assistants), saying that referring work to a spouse has the appearance of impropriety. While Nelson has worked for Napolitano at the governor’s office, his wife’s law firm has received over $300k in contracts from the governor’s office. Nelson sputtered and couldn’t really say anything.

When Thomas tried to confront Nelson about which death penalty cases he would not have brought, Nelson dodged the question again, saying the office doesn’t have the resources to ask for the death penalty in those cases. Thomas said that’s not true, the office does have the resources, and should not have to make budget decisions about the death penalty; first and foremost the office is responsible for seeking justice for victims.

Nelson responded by saying even if the victims are in favor of the death penalty, the death penalty doesn’t necessarily overall serve the interests of justice.

Next the debate focused on Thomas’s tough plea policies and Nelson’s promise to roll them back. Thomas held up statistics from the AZ Supreme Court showing that there has been a 23% increase in incarceration during his term as county attorney, and the conviction rate has stayed steady at 93%.

Nelson said Thomas’s plea policies have been an “absolute disaster” but didn’t offer any evidence why. He claimed that prosecutors are taking too many cases to trial that they can’t prove because of Thomas’s plead to the lead policy, which requires defendants to plead to the higher charge if there are multiple charges against them, or else take their chances at trial. Nelson agreed that having defendants plead to the higher charge is best. Thomas pointed out that Nelson was essentially praising his plead to the lead policy, and said the office has a deviation policy which permits it to make exceptions where a trial would be impossible to win, such as if a victim was not going to be available to testify.

Nelson kept insisting that the acquittal rate at trial is increasing, but offered no stats to prove so, and Thomas held up his chart from the Supreme Court which indicates otherwise.

Finally, the candidates were asked about the role of the judiciary v. the prosecutor’s office. Thomas said sometimes there will be disagreements between the two branches, but it’s his job to uphold the will of the people, such as when Thomas took on the courts for not upholding Prop. 100, no bail for illegal immigrants who commit serious crimes. His opponent is squeamish about nudging the courts on upholding Prop. 100. When asked by Horizon host Ted Simons about whether this was true, Nelson admitted it was, and rambled off some answer about how you have to work within the court’s structure or something.

Nelson accused Thomas of not working well with other law enforcement agencies. This isn’t true, considering Thomas has the endorsements of the three largest law enforcement organizations in the county, The Fraternal Order of Police, the National Border Patrol Council, and the Phoenix Law Enforcement Association. Not to mention Sheriff Joe Arpaio. Thomas doesn’t have a warm relationship with Democrat Attorney General Terry Goddard, but that’s because Goddard is a far left partisan Democrat who can’t even get along with Democrat Governor Napolitano.

In his closing speech, Nelson told yet another lie, accusing Thomas of going after the New Times for committing the crime of posting Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s home address on their website. In reality, Thomas had hired an outside private Special Prosecutor to handle the investigation independent of Thomas, and at the request of the Sheriff’s Office, the private Special Prosecutor’s office authorized the subpoena and arrests.

Due to time constraints, coverage of the the third candidate, Libertarian Michael Kielsky, will be added later today


  1. Wooden Teeth says

    This is not verbatim, just how I remembered it.

    Nelson: Thomas has a plea bargain policy that doesn’t allow for plea bargains.

    Thomas: We have 90% conviction rates.

    Nelson: That’s because you allow plea bargains.

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