News about Andrew Thomas, the Maricopa County attorney disbarred this week for being Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s corrupt partner in crime is really getting pickup. We’ve written about the disbarring, but not the reason for the disbar.
Talking Points Memo sums up the story of Thomas and Arpaio, the nightmare-team duo who used their positions of power to discredit anyone who got in their way. The two went after “judges, attorneys and government officials who crossed them, using criminal investigations as a weapon”:
In six years as the top prosecutor in Maricopa County, he stood side-by-side with Sheriff Joe Arpaio and earned a reputation as an aggressive and ambitious politician. A pair of conservative warriors in a Republican stronghold, the two teamed up to push for tougher treatment of illegal immigrants and to pursue what they saw as widespread corruption by local government officials.
But somewhere in the process, according to ethics investigators who scrutinized his actions in recent years, Thomas became obsessed with his political enemies. With Arpaio’s help, he targeted them with criminal investigations, had some of them arrested and some charged with crimes. The evidence he and Arpaio used in the process was often questionable. The charges rarely stuck…
Just weeks after both [Thomas and Arpaio] were reelected in 2008, the two men began using their offices to target many of the same officials they had battled with in the years prior.
During the next year or so, Thomas and Arpaio announced criminal investigations against at least 14 officials, including all five members of the Board of Supervisors, four judges, the county’s top two appointed officials, a high-ranking attorney for the county and two private lawyers…
Ethics investigators have since said Thomas and Aubuchon knew those charges were bogus but filed them anyway to ruin the reputations of the accused. The investigators described this as perjury.
Stephen Lemons of the Phoenix New Times slams both Thomas and Arpaio for their perceptions of persecuted righteousness—the idea that only their political enemies could possibly be guilty of corruption, never them:
Behind the flimsy fabric of their rationalizations raged apparent unfettered passions that were fueled by a darkness of purpose, blessed by a self-righteous self-centeredness and draped in a disguise of hypocritical indignation. They used a deadly combination of trusting in their ability to sell the vividness of their own imaginations combined with a resolute refusal to look a fact in the face.
Thomas didn’t accept his disbarment quietly, either. Amazingly, he tried to paint himself as a martyr for corruption as he left. From Think Progress:
Other men, far greater than I, have gone to jail in defense of principles they believed in and so they would not kowtow to a corrupt ruler,” Thomas said at one point. “People like Gandhi, people like Dr. King, people like Solzhenitsyn, people like Thomas More, people who stood for something….and I’m going to stand firm.”
“Gandhi?” wondered one onlooker in amazement.
More from Think Progress, setting the record straight:
Gandhi freed a nation from colonial oppression through a campaign of non-violence. Dr. King stared down angry mobs and jailers to bring out Constitution’s promise of equality to all Americans. Solzhenitsyn was imprisoned in a Soviet labor camp for daring to criticize Josef Stalin. Thomas More was executed by decapitation because he refused to abandon his religious beliefs. Andrew Thomas abused his power for personal political gain.
Arpaio opponents have watched the results of this week closely and want the Sheriff to know that they’re coming for him, as well.
“Sheriff Arpaio is the next big step,” Mary Rose Wilcox, a Maricopa County official, told the Associated Press this week. “He will fall.”
“Those who know that Joe Arpaio was the investigative muscle behind much of what Thomas did will take note that Arpaio is tinged,” Antonio Bustamante, a Phoenix civil rights attorney, told the Huffington Post.
Arpaio’s reckoning is coming ever closer. With all he’s done, it can’t come soon enough.