Interim Maricopa County Attorney Rick Romley on Thursday released hundreds of pages of grand-jury testimony and other documents showing failed attempts by Sheriff Joe Arpaio and former County Attorney Andrew Thomas to obtain criminal charges against county officials.
Grand-jury proceedings are secret, but a Superior Court judge unsealed the records “in the furtherance of justice.”
Hendershott letter to county risk manager
Thomas’ draft indictment against county officials
Request to unseal Grand Jury records
January 4, 2010, Grand Jury transcript
January 6, 2010, Grand Jury transcript
March 3, 2010, Grand Jury transcript
The documents say that the grand jury and an out-of-county prosecutor told Maricopa County prosecutors that prosecutors had no case against the county officials involving a sweep for illegal wiretaps and the construction of a downtown Phoenix court tower. Another prosecutor refused to hear the case.
Although they were turned away or denied several times, sheriff’s top officials and Thomas still say publicly that criminal investigations continue. They allege serious misconduct by county officials.
Romley said he released the documents because the “abuse has to stop.”
“These allegations of criminal misconduct have to stop if there’s no evidence,” Romley told The Republic. “Reputations should not be soiled and be able to be laid out there, inferring that people have committed certain types of crimes. When there’s such a miscarriage of justice, the public has the right to know.”
The Republic is attempting to obtain comments from Arpaio and Thomas.
The documents show sheriff’s detectives and prosecutors sought criminal charges in two areas:
For more than a year, detectives and prosecutors have been investigating county officials for hiring a firm to sweep county offices for illegal listening devices.
Detectives and prosecutors accuse a judge of misconduct for terminating an investigation into the county’s court-tower project.
Prosecutors initially took the cases to Yavapai County Attorney Sheila Polk, who refused to take them, saying there was insufficient evidence in one of them, and that no crime had been committed in another.
Still, they lodged criminal charges against the judge. The County Attorney’s Office then empaneled a Maricopa County grand jury to review the cases.
After weeks of meeting, the jury came back with a decision to “end the inquiry,” a judgment one prosecutor had explained to the jury meant “the case is so bad, there’s no further evidence that could be brought to you folks.” One top official in Romley’s office called the move extraordinary, saying the grand-jury case was the “worst presentation I’ve ever seen.”
In the meantime, Maricopa County Superior Judge Gary Donahoe had ruled that the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office had a conflict of interest in matters involving the court tower.
When the county grand jury met, the jury pointedly asked why prosecutors are pursuing charges despite the apparent conflicts of interest.
Deputy County Attorney Lisa Aubuchon, the prosecutor in all of the high-profile corruption cases against county officials, sought charges of tampering with a public record and misuse of public monies for the listening-device sweeps; and conspiracy, hindering prosecution, obstructing justice, bribery and participating in a criminal syndicate based on the court-tower investigation, according to the documents released to The Republic.
The defendants named in a draft indictment were Superior Court Judge Gary Donahoe, County Supervisor Andy Kunasek, County Manager David Smith, Deputy County Manager Sandi Wilson, Office of Enterprise Technology Director Stephen Wetzel and private attorney Tom Irvine, who works for the board.
When the grand jury met on March 3, Aubuchon asked jurors to return the case to her office, in hopes prosecutors could bring the case back to a different grand jury.
The jurors refused. Instead they voted to end the investigation.
“In the rare case that a jury does this, it means not only does the grand jury want prosecutors to stop, but it wants prosecutors to stop investigating this person,” said Arizona State University law professor Paul Bender. “The grand jury is not in sympathy with the case.”
But, the grand jury’s decision didn’t stop investigators and prosecutors from continuing to pursue the case. Instead, they took it to yet another prosecutor Gila County Attorney Daisy Flores, who refused to hear the cases. And finally, they sent the cases to the U.S. Department of Justice.
The county prosecutor never disclosed to Flores or the justice department that the county grand jury had issued its “end of inquiry” decision.
On June 15, a chief deputy for Romley petitioned the court to release the county grand-jury transcripts to the U.S. Attorneys Office to use in its abuse-of-power, grand-jury investigation into Arpaio and others.
The federal grand-jury proceedings began in the fall of 2008 and was sparked by a separate confrontation between the Sheriff’s Office and Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon – not Maricopa County supervisors.
After Hendershott threatened to release material from the county’s grand jury to the public on July 10, Romley’s office petitioned the court to unseal the documents for the general public. The judge ordered the release Aug. 5.
In a rare move, Greenlee County Superior Court Judge Monica Stauffer agreed to the release, saying it would be “in the furtherance of justice” to unseal the grand-jury proceedings.
The indictments that investigators and prosecutors sought over the wire-tap sweeps and court tower are the most recent to come to light.
The sheriff and county attorney had been locked in a battle with the supervisors and county management over money and power for more than a year.
Thomas had filed a federal civil-racketeering suit against the supervisors and county officials, which accused them of attempting to deprive him of his livelihood, hindering criminal investigations and depriving the sheriff and the county attorney of resources.
Supervisors Don Stapley and Mary Rose Wilcox were indicted by county grand juries in 2008 and 2009, respectively.
Wilcox was charged with 42 counts of perjury, conflict of interest and false swearing that stem from allegations that she voted to grant funds to advocacy group Chicanos Por La Causa while contracting for business loans from one of the group’s subsidiaries.
Stapley was indicted on a separate matter. He faced 22 felony counts related to suspected misuse of campaign funds.
An earlier case against Stapley is on appeal. Wilcox’s case and the campaign-fund allegations against Stapley were passed to Flores and is still ongoing.
County Supervisor Andy Kunasek, who was scheduled to review the documents today, said the investigations have been “an assault on the rule of law.”
by Michael Kiefer on Aug. 12, 2010, under Arizona Republic News
Among the extensive Maricopa County Sheriff’s investigative records released Thursday and obtained earlier in the week by The Arizona Republic were reports that mentioned two Republic reporters covering the county and Sheriff’s Office.
Reporter Yvonne Wingett is described as tipping off county officials that they were under investigation for spending public money to have county offices swept for illegally placed listening devices.
On March 10, 2009, Wingett wrote a story detailing paranoia among county employees in the wake of sheriff’s investigations into county officials. Based on interviews she conducted, she wrote that county offices had been swept.
Sheriff’s Chief Deputy David Hendershott and a deputy who served as a public-information officer asked to meet with Wingett and reporter JJ Hensley, who covers the Sheriff’s Office. During an “on-the-record” conversation in Republic offices, Hendershott mentioned the investigation into the sweep.
Wingett followed up by calling county officials to confirm details. Hensley called Sheriff’s Deputy Paul Chagolla and asked for more information about the investigation.
But Hendershott later called Hensley to say that Wingett had tipped off county officials about the investigation.
According to the investigative report, “Wingett, upon learning that her story caused a criminal investigation to ensue regarding the illegal expenditure of taxpayer dollars, secretly and immediately telephoned Maricopa County senior officials and warned them that she had exposed the illegal expenditure (the Sheriff’s office learned of this call from Republic reporter JJ Hensley, who was present in the room when Wingett made the call). Wingett profusely apologized for getting senior county officials in trouble by exposing the county’s attempt to ascertain if law-enforcement listening devices were present.”
“In fact, I was doing my job,” Wingett said.
Hensley also denies that he was doing anything other than confirming details of the investigation. The county official could not immediately be reached Thursday morning to confirm either version of events.
Hensley noted that during the meeting with Hendershott, “Nothing was said about keeping it under wraps.”
“It’s been a horrible chapter for us personally, and for my family,” he said. “As horrible as this is, I believe this is just the tip of the iceberg.”