The lawyer for an embroiled Phoenix-area politician on Dec. 15 accused Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas of investigating his client for political and personal motives.
Colin Campbell, who represents Maricopa County Supervisor Mary Rose Wilcox, is questioning why Thomas’s office filed 36 charges against Wilcox, and said “there are elementary mistakes of fact in the allegations that suggest carelessness, rush to judgment, and improper motives.”
He also compared Thomas to the late U.S. Sen. Joe McCarthy, known for his hunt for communists in the 1950s.
“Many years ago, in a time when the country feared the menace of communism, a politician used his powers to intimidate others and to damage their reputations,” Campbell said at a news conference. “One courageous person finally stood up and asked this powerful senator, ‘Have you no sense of decency?’ At this time, in this county, we should be asking this question of the County Attorney.”
Barnett Lotstein, special assistant county attorney, said Campbell’s comparison is deplorable.
“He shouldn’t make those kinds of comparisons, and name-calling does not benefit his client nor does it advance justice,” he said, adding that Thomas has no personal or political motives behind charging Wilcox. “What we’ve done in this case is no different than any other case.”
The indictments of Wilcox and another county supervisor, Don Stapley, intensified a nasty dispute between county officials and Thomas and Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, the county’s top two law enforcement officials.
Thomas and Arpaio filed a federal racketeering lawsuit two weeks ago against a group of county judges, attorneys and administrators, including Wilcox. The two accuse the group of participating in a conspiracy to hinder an investigation into a new court building in Phoenix and the ongoing investigation of Stapley.
In a response to the lawsuit on Dec. 15, defense attorney Don Martin also quoted the question posed during the McCarthy hearings in 1954 and said the two lawmen have no evidence to support their claims.
“Plaintiffs’ complaint is riddled with fatal defects,” Martin wrote. “They appear to have devoted far more thought and attention to the press release they issued when they filed this action than they did to their pleading.”
He said the complaint should be dismissed with prejudice, meaning it can’t be refiled.
In the Wilcox criminal case, Thomas’ office accused her of voting on contracts involving the statewide nonprofit Chicanos por la Causa – which had given her loans for her restaurant – and never filing conflict-of-interest statements. She is charged with 36 counts, including conflict of interest, perjury and forgery.
Chicanos por la Causa is an affiliate of the National Council of La Raza and provides social and educational services for the local community. The group lent Wilcox’s Mexican restaurant, El Portal, $177,500 between November 2000 and October 2008.
Campbell said there was nothing improper about the loans Wilcox received and that she never voted on contracts involving Chicanos por la Causa, citing public documents available on the board of supervisors’ Web site.
Wilcox “applied for these loans on the same basis as any other restaurant or small business, and obtained the loans on the same terms and conditions as any other applicant, including their interest rates,” Campbell said.
Wilcox, who was at the news conference where Campbell spoke on her behalf, declined to comment.
Campbell said he plans to file a motion this week to dismiss all the charges against Wilcox and that the allegations are “very upsetting and stressful” to her.
“Although our Constitution and laws guarantee her the presumption of innocence, the court of public opinion is not so kind,” he said. “Now, her reputation has been damaged, her very liberty is threatened, and she will have to spend a significant amount of money to defend herself.”