by Bob Quasius
The 234 page disciplinary report about Andrew Thomas and two of his deputies is shocking in it’s description of the breadth of corruption and abuse of power by former County Attorney Andrew Thomas and Sheriff Joe Arpaio. Arpaio is not subject to discipline from the panel making the report, but it’s clear from the report that Arpaio is at least as guilty as Andrew Thomas. It’s especially galling that in a 30 minute time span, Joe Arpaio testified 27 times that he “didn’t recall” anything about the events in question, yet from the 234 page report it’s obvious he’s a central figure in this travesty of justice! This news report does a good job of explaining the scandal.
The disbarment case is especially compelling regarding Judge Donahoe, now retired, who was the top criminal court judge at the time and highly respected for his integrity. From the report (reformatted for easier reading) it’s obvious that Andrew Thomas and Joe Arpaio, along with their henchmen, cooked up a criminal case against Jodge Donahoe to intimidate him on another case. The fact that several police officers refused to swear a complaint against the judge despite intense pressure from higher-ups is especially noteworthy.
THE CORE FACTS REGARDINGTHE FILING OF CHARGES AGAINST JUDGE DONAHOE
Judge Donahoe had scheduled a hearing for the afternoon of December 9, 2009 regarding the Notice and Motion filed by Thomas Irvine and Edward Novak on behalf of the County. The motion filed for MCBOS by Irvine and Novak sought an order prohibiting special deputy county attorneys from appearing before a grand jury.
On December 9, 2009, under Mr. Thomas’s authority and with his approval, Ms. Aubuchon through MCSO detectives filed a criminal case against Judge Donahoe. Mr. Thomas made the decision to file a direct complaint against Judge Donahoe following a meeting with Ms. Aubuchon, Mr. Hendershott, and Sheriff Arpaio. Mr. Thomas and Ms. Aubuchon denied that they wanted to file the charges against Judge Donahoe to stop that hearing. However, as discussed below, the Hearing Panel concludes that the evidence is clear and convincing that Mr. Thomas, Ms. Aubuchon, Sheriff Arpaio and then-Deputy Chief Hendershott decided to file the charges against Judge Donahoe so that he would not hold the December 9, 2009 hearing.
Ms. Aubuchon and Detective Gabe Almanza signed the direct complaint. It charged the judge with hindering, obstruction and bribery. There was no investigation in this matter prior to the filing of the direct complaint. Only after the direct complaint was filed did MCSO create a report.
Ms. Aubuchon attempted to file the charges against Judge Donahoe a day earlier on December 8, 2009, after a meeting with Mr. Thomas, Sheriff Arpaio and Mr. Hendershott.
On the afternoon of December 8, 2009, Chief Deputy Hendershott of MCSO called Sgt. Rich Johnson about filing a case against Judge Donahoe. Chief Deputy Hendershott told Sgt. Johnson that they needed it done “now.” MCSO Sgt. Brandon Luth, Sgt. Johnson and Deputy Chief Young called Ms. Aubuchon on the afternoon of December 8, 2009, to ask her what was going on and what they needed to charge. Ms. Aubuchon stated they needed a Form 4, a DR (departmental report) and a probable cause statement. Ms. Aubuchon told the MCSO officers she wanted to charge bribery and related charges. Sgt. Luth did not know what to write. Sgt. Luth’s orders were to put the case together and accompany Detective Cooning to “walk it through” that evening.
Later in the afternoon of December 8, 2009, Ms. Aubuchon, Chief Young, Sgt. Luth, Sgt. Johnson and Chief Hendershott met. Chief Hendershott told them about the racketeering lawsuit, and that they thought Judge Donahoe was going to throw MCAO off all County investigations. Chief Hendershott said that he had met with Mr. Thomas, Ms. Aubuchon, and Sheriff Arpaio, and that Sheriff Arpaio came up with the idea of charging the judge. Chief Hendershott told Sgt. Luth to use as the material for the Form 4, or probable cause (“PC”) statement, a complaint that the Chief Deputy had submitted to the Commission on Judicial Conduct against Judge Donahoe. Chief Hendershott printed off his complaint and wrote the charges on it. At the hearing in this case, Mr. Hendershott was unable to describe any criminal conduct by Judge Donahoe.
Sgt. Luth drafted the PC statement using Chief Deputy Hendershott’s judicial complaint at Ms. Aubuchon’s direction.
Sgt. Johnson called MCSO’s dispatch unit and obtained a Departmental Report number for the case. At about 5:00 p.m., Sgt. Luth took the Donahoe charging documents to Ms. Aubuchon. She read them. She said that “it worked for her.” Ms. Aubuchon signed the complaint as Deputy County Attorney.
Ms. Aubuchon attempted to have an investigator from MCAO file the direct complaint in Superior Court in the late afternoon or early evening of December 8, 2009. Ms. Aubuchon assigned the task of filing the direct complaint to MCAO investigator Lt. Richard Hargus. Lt. Hargus then asked MCAO Detective Timothy Cooning to meet an MCAO clerk in front of the court at 5:30 p.m. Det. Cooning did so, and the clerk handed him the Donahoe file. Det. Cooning read the file, returned to his office, and informed Lt. Hargus that he felt uncomfortable swearing to the truthfulness of the complaint against Judge Donahoe because he had not investigated the case. Det. Cooning also was uncomfortable signing the probable cause statement because it was unclear what crimes had been committed and who had investigated them.
Lt. Hargus told his superior, Commander Stribling, that Lt. Hargus and Detective Cooning did not want to file the complaint because there was no probable cause to support it. Commander Stribling agreed that none of his detectives should be put in the position of walking through a complaint on a sitting Superior Court judge when he knew nothing about the investigation that led up to the filing of the complaint. The commissioner assigned to the evening court might ask the detective questions, and the detective would not know what to say.
Commander Stribling called Mr. Thomas. Commander Stribling informed Mr. Thomas that Ms. Aubuchon was asking Lt. Hargus and Det. Cooning to get the Donahoe complaint filed.
Commander Stribling told Mr. Thomas that based on what Lt. Hargus and Det. Cooning had told him, there was no probable cause to support the complaint. Commander Stribling told Mr. Thomas that he refused to have his detective walk through a complaint about which the detective had no knowledge. Mr. Thomas agreed, but insisted that the complaint be filed no later than the next morning.
Commander Stribling then called Ms. Aubuchon to explain his decision. The conversation was heated. Commander Stribling suggested that MCSO Sgt. Brandon Luth file the complaint, since he was with the MACE Unit. Eventually, Ms. Aubuchon acquiesced.
Because Commander Stribling had refused to have MCAO investigators “walk it through,” Ms. Aubuchon turned to the sheriff’s office to assist her in filing the Donahoe complaint. At Hargus’s instruction, at 6:00 that evening Det. Cooning met Sgt. Luth in front of Det. Cooning’s office and gave Sgt. Luth the direct complaint. Det. Cooning told Sgt. Luth he refused to swear to the complaint. Sgt. Luth called Ms. Aubuchon and handed the phone to Det. Cooning. Ms. Aubuchon told Det. Cooning she “can’t believe this” and “this is outrageous” and hung up on Det. Cooning. Det. Cooning then agreed to meet Sgt. Luth at the IA court a few minutes later, where Sgt. Luth was to file the complaint. Once there, however, Sgt. Luth refused to file the complaint.
Sgt. Luth did not want to file the complaint against Judge Donahoe because he did not want to answer questions by the court about the case when it was filed.He arranged for Det. Almanza and Det. Tennyson to meet with him the next morning.
On the morning of December 9, 2009, Sgt. Luth, Det. Almanza and Det. Tennyson met with Ms. Aubuchon. Ms. Aubuchon handed Sgt. Luth the complaint against Judge Donahoe, which she had drafted, with the probable cause statement attached.
Sgt. Luth asked Ms. Aubuchon whether she had enough evidence to charge Judge Donahoe. Ms. Aubuchon referred to past court filings and decisions and outlined for Sgt. Luth why she believed Judge Donahoe should be charged with crimes. This struck Det. Almanza as bizarre because Ms. Aubuchon was telling Sgt. Luth what the evidence was, rather than the usual procedure, in which the investigator informs the prosecutor of the evidence.
Sgt. Luth and the detectives left the meeting. Sgt. Luth took the complaint he had received from Ms. Aubuchon, along with documents Ms. Aubuchon had printed off of her computer.
The complaint was filed the same morning of December 9, 2009. Detective Gabriel Almanza signed it under oath. Sgt. Luth told Det. Almanza to sign it. Det. Almanza was not comfortable doing so, because he had not been involved in drafting the complaint and he had no knowledge as to the truth or falsity of it. Det. Almanza had never filed a complaint before. Sgt. Luth assured Det. Almanza that Ms. Aubuchon believed she had enough evidence to charge the judge. Det. Almanza signed it based on his reliance on Ms. Aubuchon’s good faith.
MCSO Detectives Almanza and Tennyson served the direct complaint on Judge Donahoe. They secretly recorded the service. After Judge Donahoe was served, Sgt. Luth was ordered to take a copy of the direct complaint to Ms. Aubuchon and Chief Deputy Hendershott. When Sgt. Luth gave the copy of the complaint to Ms. Aubuchon, she said she already received an email notifying her that Judge Donahoe had vacated the hearing that had been set for later that afternoon. She appeared pleased and happy. Sgt. Luth then gave the complaint to Chief Deputy Hendershott, explaining that the complaint had been served and that he had just met with Ms. Aubuchon. Chief Deputy Hendershott said, “checkmate.”