Sheriff Joe Arpaio and County Attorney Andrew Thomas announced Tuesday they have filed a federal racketeering lawsuit against the Board of Supervisors, leading Superior Court judges, and a private law firm shared by the Board and Court, alleging the defendants have conspired illegally to block criminal investigations and prosecutions of themselves, particularly those related to the new $341 million Superior Court Tower and Supervisor Donald Stapley Jr.
PDF: Click here to see the full lawsuit The action, filed today in U.S. District Court in Phoenix, states that the Board of Supervisors and their employees, Superior Court judges handpicked by Presiding Judge Barbara Rodriguez Mundell, and private lawyers handling the Court Tower project have worked together to stymie investigations and prosecutions and illegally enrich the law firm of Polsinelli Shughart. The suit is brought under the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act.
Among the allegations against the Board of Supervisors and their employees: They hired a company with public funds for the corrupt purpose of conducting a “sweep” for law-enforcement surveillance devices to avoid potential detection of criminal conduct; unlawfully blocked the appointment of special prosecutors to prevent criminal investigation of their own conduct; and sought an order from the Superior Court to shut down any future investigations or prosecutions of themselves or any other county employee for any crime.
The suit states that Presiding Judge Mundell and other Superior Court judges violated their own court rules and practices, which require the random selection of judges, to handpick judges and take other steps to benefit Stapley, the Board of Supervisors, and the Polsinelli law firm. For the Stapley criminal case, Mundell took the case away from the randomly selected judge and gave it to retired Judge Kenneth Fields, a judge well known for his bias against Thomas and his office. A career employee of the Superior Court had reported Fields’ bias against Thomas to her superiors. Fields ultimately dismissed almost half of the criminal charges against Stapley, crippling the case and forcing prosecutors to dismiss the rest of it.
The lawsuit alleges another judge serving at Mundell’s pleasure violated Arizona statutes and rules of court by shutting down a joint investigation by the Sheriff and County Attorney of the $341 million new Court Tower. In doing so, the judge ruled in favor of himself (he and other Maricopa County Superior Court judges will be housed in that building), the Board of Supervisors, and their shared law firm, which represented both the Board and the Superior Court on the Court Tower project. Channel 15 investigators discovered this highly improper, three-way attorney-client relationship.
Another retired judge handpicked by Mundell allowed the Supervisors to retaliate against the County Attorney’s Office for the Stapley indictment by illegally taking over many of the office’s civil legal functions. That judge, Donald Daughton, upheld the Board’s actions by ruling Thomas had violated the rules of professional responsibility for lawyers. But in his written rulings, and when questioned repeatedly by lawyers in open court, Daughton could not even state what Thomas allegedly had done wrong.
As a result of these actions, Arpaio alleges he has been corruptly deprived of civil legal services from the County Attorney’s Office. In effect, the Sheriff has lost the County Attorney as his lawyer for litigation, despite the fact that the people of Maricopa County elected Thomas to represent Arpaio when he or the Sheriff’s Office is sued.
In a further effort to intimidate county prosecutors, County Manager David Smith recently filed a complaint with the State Bar citing these sham rulings by Mundell appointees in order to urge adverse action against Thomas and three deputies. Judges who work closely with Mundell, including Fields, previously tried to enlist the State Bar against Thomas to silence his criticism of judicial activism. They instigated some 13 frivolous Bar investigations intended to intimidate him and his office, all of which were eventually dismissed at great expense to the taxpayers. The lawsuit filed today alleges that these rulings corruptly benefit the Board of Supervisors and are also Mundell’s latest illicit tactic against Thomas and his deputies.
The suit asks the federal courts to intervene to ensure that Arpaio and Thomas can perform their lawenforcement duties without obstruction, the County Attorney’s Office can provide proper litigation services for the Sheriff’s Office, and county employees and prosecutors are protected from these illicit practices.
Sheriff Arpaio stated, “I took an oath to enforce all laws regardless of a person’s stature and position, powerful or not. I commend my Sheriff’s Office deputies for conducting professional investigations in spite of the pressures exerted by certain elected and appointed officials in powerful positions.”
Thomas stated, “Federal racketeering laws allow ordinary Americans to fight local corruption. There’s no better use for these laws than to make sure powerful politicians are not above the law.”
Thomas said he intended to mail a copy of the lawsuit to every member of the Arizona legislature and ask the legislature to enact appropriate reforms of the institutions implicated by these recent events.