Grand jurors ended corruption probe of officials
Published: August 13, 2010 at 8:47 am
Court records made public Thursday show that a grand jury ended its investigation of a judge, county officials and one of their lawyers on corruption allegations, but the reason for concluding the probe is a subject of dispute.
Interim Maricopa County Attorney Rick Romley, who won a court order to release transcripts of the grand jury’s investigations, said grand jurors ended the probe by his predecessor, Andrew Thomas, and Sheriff Joe Arpaio because the case had no merit.
Thomas, who resigned his county post in April to run for attorney general, disputed Romley’s conclusion, saying grand jurors had asked for a draft indictment — which was never formally handed down — but that his prosecutors asked them to end the probe before charges could be filed. The sheriff’s office issued a statement echoing Thomas on this point.
Thomas said his prosecutors asked the grand jury to end the probe so his office could send the case to an outside prosecutor.
The investigation centered on an allegation that county officials, a judge and attorney conspired to hinder a probe into the construction of a court building. The grand jury also was looking into the decision by county officials to sweep their offices for possible listening devices.
Thomas and Arpaio have been accused of waging a political feud against the county’s Board of Supervisors and Superior Court judges. Thomas and Arpaio have said they couldn’t ignore credible allegations of corruption.
A judge dismissed a criminal case against one county supervisor after finding Thomas had a conflict of interest in prosecuting the official. The ruling prompted Thomas to drop criminal charges against a judge and another county supervisor.
In speaking to grand jurors, a prosecutor in the probe of the court building and listening-device sweep said ending the inquiry meant that the case was so bad that it shouldn’t go further and that doing so was akin to clearing the targets of the investigation.
The transcript also shows that grand jurors had asked for a draft copy of the indictment. Although no such indictment was ever formally handed down by the grand jury, Thomas said this was a sign that they thought there was something to the allegations.
In any case, the transcript shows that a prosecutor conducting the investigation said that grand jurors ask for draft indictments because they contain the law that applies to the case.
Romley, who was appointed to his post by some of the officials under investigation, said Thomas and the sheriff’s office kept pressing the investigation even after Thomas was disqualified from the case.
“These blatant abuses of power that have gone unchecked in the past will not — I repeat — will not be tolerated,” said Romley, who is running for the county attorney’s post.
Thomas said Romley is attacking him in hopes of improving his chances in the election and as payback to the county officials who were being investigated and appointed him to the post.
“He is lying about what actually happened,” Thomas said.
Romley, who sent the grand jury records to federal authorities investigating abuse of power allegations against the sheriff’s office, said politics never entered the picture and that the abuses by Thomas and the sheriff’s office had to be made public.
Romley’s office won a court order allowing the release of otherwise secret grand jury materials. Greenlee County Superior Court Judge Monica Stauffer said releasing the documents furthered the interests of justice.
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