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Top Sheriff Joe Arpaio Sidekick/Attorney Disbarred For Ethical Violations

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Breaking news from Phoenix:

Former Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas and his onetime deputy, Lisa Aubuchon, were stripped of their law licenses today as a disciplinary panel handed down the toughest sanctions possible for ethical violations in a case that attracted national interest.

The panel also suspended Rachel Alexander, another Thomas deputy, from practicing law for six months and one day for her role in filing a federal civil racketeering lawsuit against judges and county officials.

The disbarment of Thomas and Aubuchon had been widely discussed as a possibility by members of the legal community. But the length of Alexander’s suspension came as a surprise because the independent Bar counsel had recommended a shorter suspension.

Did we mention Sheriff Joe is facing his own investigation by the Department of Justice?

Some background on the Thomas-Arpaio connection — including some of the actions that led to the disbarment of Thomas — from Talking Points Memo:

Two years later, he won the race for Maricopa County attorney, putting him in charge of felony prosecutions and other legal matters of a community of more than 3.5 million people. It set him on equal footing with Arpaio and a team was born.

As a duo, they frequently butted heads with other local officials. They went to battle over their budgets with the Republican-controlled county Board of Supervisors. They often vocally disagreed with judges who ruled against them.

Then things really got ugly.

Just weeks after both 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.

Thomas and Arpaio filed a major lawsuit against the group, accusing them of corruption and racketeering. Thomas also charged three of them with crimes, warning charges may be coming for the rest. “No one is above the law,” he said at the time.

Soon, however, the cases began to crumble. In some instances, the evidence that was promised by Thomas and Arpaio never materialized. In other instances, independent judges ruled that Thomas’ office filed charges on allegations that were well past the statute of limitations.

Also, check out an America’s Voice report: The Notorious Record of Maricopa County, AZ’s Sheriff Joe Arpaio. Thomas features prominently in that report, too.