Very old proverb – “A man is known by the company he keeps.” Well, if that one is true, the decision Tuesday by an Arizona disciplinary panel that former Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas should be disbarred for abuse of power as a prosecutor says a lot about his buddy Sheriff Joe Arpaio.
Thomas was Arpaio’s right hand for six years in his pursuit of persecuting political opponents. Thomas was elected County Attorney in 2004 and was re-elected in 2008. He resigned to run for State Attorney General in 2010 but lost in the Republican Primary. Thomas and Arpaio were often locked in battle with judges and local officials in their pursuit of power and control. It was those battles that led to Thomas being charged with ethics violations, and Arpaio has also been dealing with similar charges brought by the United States Department of Justice.
Thomas might appeal the decision, and he was certainly whining about how he is being persecuted. After the hearing, he said, “Today, corruption has won and justice as lost. The political witch hunt that’s just ended makes things worse by sending a chilling message to prosecutors: those who take on the powerful will lose their livelihood.” That’s not the way a lot of Arizonans view this. The reforms imposed by the DoJ on the Maricopa Sheriff’s Office and the disbarment of Thomas are cases of justice winning and corruption losing. No prosecutor or sheriff should be able to decide that a portion of the population does not deserve proper investigation of crimes or arrest of criminals while rounding up “suspects” based on racial profiling. No sheriff should be able to build his own personal Gitmo to hold thousands of wrongfully detained persons who are guilty of being the wrong race.
Arpaio, who will be 80 in June, is running for a sixth term as sheriff. The disbarment of Thomas may help convince Maricopa voters that it is past time for this power-crazed man to go.