Legal battles caused ‘bizarre and unprecedented state of affairs’ - Ahwatukee Foothills News: Localnews

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Legal battles caused ‘bizarre and unprecedented state of affairs’

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Posted: Tuesday, March 9, 2010 12:00 am

The ongoing dust-up between Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas and the Maricopa County Superior Court judges, over a proposed new court building in downtown Phoenix, may expand thanks to the defense attorney for an Ahwatukee Foothills man.

Last week Michael Terribile told a visiting judge that Thomas had attempted to influence judges as far back as 2005, long before the county attorney began filing lawsuits against judges and the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors, alleging a conspiracy to hinder his investigation and prosecution involving the new court building.

Terribile is the attorney defending Jeffrey Martinson, 43, accused of the first-degree murder of his son, Joshua, during a weekend visitation in 2004.

A motion filed last year by Terribile and other attorneys, on behalf of 50 defendants, argued that Thomas’ actions have intimidated judges to the point where a fair hearing is impossible.

“Any judge who disagrees with Mr. Thomas faces threats,” Terribile told Cochise County Superior Court Judge Wallace Hoggatt March 2 during a hearing to disqualify Thomas and his office from prosecuting Martinson and others.

An assistant to Thomas has called the motions nonsense, but Hoggatt, in a Feb. 22 ruling, said the motions weren’t simply made to harass the prosecution.

“They were filed to address a bizarre and unprecedented state of affairs in Maricopa County. If Mr. Thomas is the kind of person his detractors make him out to be, he has no one to blame but himself for the flood of disqualification motions. Even if he ultimately proves not to be the kind of person described in the motions, one thing would nonetheless remain true: the present defendants and their attorneys did not create the current circumstances,” Hoggatt wrote last month.

Last week Terribile requested to add some last-minute witnesses to the hearing, including Associate Presiding Criminal Judge Timothy Ryan, who allegedly was the target of intimidation in 2005 because of what Thomas perceived as leniency towards illegal immigrants.

“He has the smoking gun, and we can back it up,” Terribile told Hoggatt, showing proof that there is a pattern of judicial intimidation going back years.

Hoggatt denied the motion to have Ryan testify and all the attorneys, lead by Terribile, pulled their requests to disqualify the county attorney’s office so they can refile later, with additional witnesses, including Ryan.

The issue of if Thomas and the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office has intimidated judges and is obstructing justice will be back in court.

“This needs to be resolved as soon as possible,” Hoggatt said last week.

If the defense attorneys are successful in their request to have county prosecutors replaced, the judicial system in Maricopa County could come to a halt as prosecutors from out of the county are brought in to prosecute cases.

But if Hoggatt denies the motion, and there is even the appearance of intimidation of judges, defense attorneys will demand new trials, arguing their clients were unfairly targeted by judges afraid to appear lenient and incur the wrath of Thomas.

Either way, the judicial system in Maricopa County could end up shaken and the murder case against Martinson could languish.

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