A lawyer with a criminal record who also figured in a scandal involving the Fiesta Bowl has been selected to serve as a special prosecutor in two death-penalty homicide cases in Pinal County.
Originally charged with multiple felonies that were dismissed in a plea deal, Gary Husk in 2014 pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor conspiracy charge in a case that centered on illegal campaign contributions. An attorney discipline panel later said his conduct reflected adversely on his “honesty, trustworthiness or fitness as a lawyer.”
Husk at the time was both an attorney and a lobbyist, and his lobbying clients included the Fiesta Bowl. His conviction stemmed from an investigation that resulted in a separate but similar criminal case against bowl employees, six of whom pleaded guilty.
Husk and the official who recently appointed him as special prosecutor in the two homicide cases both said he’s qualified to prosecute the cases and that his criminal conviction and the discipline committee’s admonishment don’t prevent him from working as an attorney or serving as a prosecutor.
However, a legal ethics expert called the appointment of an attorney convicted of a crime involving dishonesty highly unusual.
“It is extremely unusual because the notion is that prosecutors are supposed to be government officials who are highly trustworthy,” said Ellen Yaroshefsky, a Hofstra University law professor who has held leadership posts in state and professional organizations’ ethics committees and commissions.
The Navajo County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday approved Navajo County Attorney Bradley Carlyon’s appointment of Husk as a special prosecutor in two Pinal County homicide cases for a flat fee of $160,000 to be paid by Pinal County.
Pinal County’s own prosecutors can’t handle the two cases because of ethical conflicts involving the recently elected county attorney, a former defense attorney.
Arizona county prosecutors often ask those in another county to handle cases that one county can’t handle because of conflicts.
Carlyon told the Navajo County board that his office didn’t have the personnel or funding to handle the Pinal County cases but that he had arranged for Husk to serve as special prosecutor at Pinal’s expense.
Carlyon said Friday he was aware of Husk’s background, including his criminal conviction and the Fiesta Bowl scandal (“It was all over the papers.”) Carlyon said he didn’t personally know Husk but was aware of his experience as a prosecutor.
He checked on Husk by calling other prosecutors, whom he declined to identify, Carlyon said.
“They gave me positive feedback on him,” Carlyon said. He also said he has faith that Husk will do his work honestly.
It helped that Husk was willing to do the work for a flat fee, something that Pinal County wanted for budgetary reasons, Carlyon said.
Husk, who said he now has a varied law practice that includes criminal defense work, worked 15 years as a federal, state and county prosecutor before being appointed Arizona’s chief regulator of tribal casinos in the 1990s.
Husk noted during an interview that he pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor, not a felony, and said he considered case’s outcome “completely irrelevant to my responsibilities and duties as an attorney.”
Also, the admonishment issued by a state attorney discipline committee is a mild punishment, reflecting that his conduct wasn’t deserving of anything more severe, he said.
Husk will prosecute a man charged with killing an Eloy man and a second man charged with killing a Maricopa married couple. “I am looking forward to representing the people of Pinal County in this matter and representing the interests of the victims’ families in these very serious cases,” Husk said.