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Thomas declares himself fall guy in corrupt legal system

Former Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas (AP file photo)

Speaking above catcalls, insults and shoving among supporters and critics, disbarred former Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas today compared his plight to historical martyrs.

Thomas, who spoke a day after his disbarment in a raucous press conference, said he was the fall guy in a system where politicians, the State Bar of Arizona and judiciary are corrupt, comparing it to Mexico.

He said he is going to stand firm in his principles if the federal government investigates him in connection with his disbarment findings.

“Other men far greater than I have gone to jail in defense of principles they believed in and so that they would not kowtow to a corrupt order,” Thomas said. “People like Ghandi, people like Dr. King, people like (Aleksandr) Solzhenitsyn, people like Thomas Moore. And I will tell you there are some things worth fighting for and someone has to clean up this town.”

Thomas, who a disciplinary panel said was unscrupulous during a three-year campaign to get revenge on his political enemies, said he hasn’t been contacted by federal investigators looking into abuse of power allegations against the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office, with whom he was closely aligned.

Thomas said the panel was wrong in finding that he conspired with his former deputy, Lisa Aubuchon, Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio and Arpaio’s former chief deputy, David Hendershott, to commit perjury in filing false criminal charges against retired Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Gary Donahoe.

A 247-page report accompanying Thomas’ disbarment order said that those four came up with the idea to charge Donahoe with crimes as a way to prevent him from holding a scheduled hearing the next day where the judge was expected to put the clamps on investigations by Thomas and Arpaio.

“Everybody in that room ultimately concluded there was enough probable cause to charge him, that’s what we do in law enforcement, discuss whether or not to charge,” Thomas said. “So a meeting of law enforcement professionals to decide whether or not to charge somebody with a crime is a conspiracy, then there are 40,000 conspiracies a year in this county because there are 40,000 felony cases.”

The three-member panel, which included Presiding Disciplinary Judge William O’Neil, found Thomas and Aubuchon committed 26 ethical violations each in connection with a series of disputes with county officials and failed prosecutions and lawsuits against them. The panel also disbarred Aubuchon and placed former deputy county attorney Rachel Alexander on suspension for six months and a day.

Thomas said he hasn’t decided whether he will appeal the disbarment, but Aubuchon said she will. Alexander’s attorney, Scott Zwillinger, said Tuesday his client will likely appeal.

Thomas said the decision is going to have a chilling effect on prosecutors who undertake public corruption investigations.

He said he is going to lead an effort at a ballot measure to fight corruption, but he wouldn’t go into detail.

The press conference was held in front of the Orpheum Theatre, 203 W. Adams St., in downtown Phoenix and was attended by a small group of Thomas supporters who carried signs. A small group of critics, including Randy Parraz of Citizens for a Better Arizona, also attended. The two groups clashed by trying to shout over each other while Thomas spoke and they jostled with each other for position in front of the television cameras.

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