BY LINDA BENTLEY | SEPTEMBER 5, 2012
PHOENIX – At 4:59 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 31, just before the Labor Day weekend, the U.S. Attorney’s Office sent out a press release announcing it had closed its criminal investigation of the Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio (l) and former Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas.
Deputy U.S. Attorney Ann Birmingham Scheel provided no explanation in her press release and only commended the joint investigative efforts of the prosecutors and the FBI special agents that conducted the investigation.
Because U.S. Attorney John S. Leonardo recused himself from the case, Scheel, acting on behalf of the United States, said her office was closing its investigation into allegations of criminal conduct by current and former members of the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office and the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office, while under leadership of former County Attorney Andrew Thomas.
Scheel advised Mongomery late Friday of its decision not to pursue state criminal charges related to the investigation, while outlining the allegations reviewed by the U.S. Department of Justice for misuse of county credit cards, misspending of Jail Facilities Excise Tax funds, and “other matters,” which included Thomas’ and Deputy County Attorney Lisa Aubuchon’s conduct with respect to filing charges against Superior Court Judge Gary Donohoe and whether it was “perjurious.”
Scheel stated, “While Judge Donahoe suffered severe turmoil resulting from the criminal charges, as evidenced by the record in the bar proceedings, we don't believe there is sufficient evidence to meet our burden that he suffered the sort of complete job deprivation contemplated by existing precedent. Further, Judge Donahoe is a state judge. While there is authority to support charges in appropriate cases for depriving a federal official of the right to hold office, we cannot prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Judge Donahoe had a federally guaranteed right to do his state job.”
Scheel concluded in her letter to Montgomery, “In sum, and to reiterate, if there is one lesson to be drawn from the arrests, investigations and lawsuits of the past few years, it is that prosecutors, in seeking justice, must exercise their charging discretion with great care. The state bar's disciplinary inquiry concluded that certain prosecutors failed to heed that lesson; but criminal prosecutions have the highest standard of proof. Based on our careful review of the facts and the law, we have decided to decline prosecution in these matters.”
Arpaio, who first heard about the investigation being closed as he stepped off the plane returning from the Republican National Committee event in Tampa, Fla., was pleased to hear the news.