Grand jury indicts 2 Maricopa County supervisors
Published: December 10, 2009 at 7:12 am
A grand jury has indicted two Maricopa County supervisors on criminal charges in separate cases, a move that intensifies a nasty dispute between county officials and the county’s two top law enforcement officials.
Supervisor Don Stapley is accused of getting mortgage loans under fraudulent pretenses and allegedly misusing campaign funds he raised to run for president of a national association of county officials. Prosecutors say Stapley spent some of the campaign money on hair implants, tickets to Broadway plays, massages and vacations.
Supervisor Mary Rose Wilcox is accused of voting on contracts involving a Hispanic advocacy group that had given her loans, and never filing conflict-of-interest statements.
The indictments mark the latest chapter in a dispute between county officials and Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas and Sheriff Joe Arpaio.
The two lawmen sought an earlier indictment against Stapley, alleging omissions and misstatements on his financial disclosure documents. Those charges were dismissed after it was discovered that the county never properly put in place rules on financial disclosure. Prosecutors won a second indictment against Stapley on Friday. The indictment was made public Dec. 8.
A week ago, Thomas and Arpaio filed a federal racketeering lawsuit against a group of county administrators, judges and attorneys, accusing them of participating in a conspiracy to hinder an investigation into a $341 million court building under construction in Phoenix and the ongoing investigation of Stapley.
At a news conference Dec. 8, Thomas dismissed suggestions that he has a vendetta against county officials.
“I think there’s a perception that they are trying to generate so they can beat the rap, but it’s not going to work,” Thomas said. “Nobody is above the law in this county.”
Paul Charlton, an attorney for Stapley, said the county official will plead not guilty to the charges and that the second indictment against his client is a reflection of a “fruitful imagination.”
“The indictment has the same tenor and substance as the other,” Charlton said. “We expect these charges to go the same way that the other charges went.”
Stapley faces 27 criminal charges, including fraudulent schemes, theft and perjury.
Wilcox is charged with 36 counts, including conflict of interest, perjury and forgery. Calls to her office weren’t immediately returned late Tuesday afternoon.
Even though he sent the first Stapley case to a neighboring county to prosecute after being accused of a conflict of interest, Thomas said his office has opted to prosecute the second Stapley case and that he doesn’t face a conflict of interest. The Board of Supervisors previously refused to ratify an earlier attempt by Thomas to appoint special prosecutors.
Thomas said he believes a judge from another county will be needed to hear the new case against Stapley, because the prosecutor has alleged that a top Maricopa County judge is steering cases to biased colleagues.
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