Horizon, Host: Ted Simons

December 9, 2009


Host: Ted Simons

County Government Feud


  • Arizona Republic reporter JJ Hensley discusses the ongoing battle between public officials in Maricopa county including the latest grand jury indictments of county supervisors Mary Rose Wilcox and Don Stapley.
Guests:
  • JJ Hensley - Arizona Republic


View Transcript
Ted Simons:
Tonight on "Horizon," another day, another round of charges filed against county officials by the sheriff and the County Attorney. We will talk about it. Plus a new ASU research group is working toward protecting sensitive data. Coming up next on "Horizon." Good evening and welcome to "Horizon." I'm Ted Simons. In the news tonight sales of cars in Arizona down 34% a month after the cash for clunkers program ended. Arizona Department of Revenue figures $500 million worth of cars and trucks were sold during cash for clunkers. That figure dropped to $328 million after the stimulus program ended. Nearly 9,000 Arizonans took part and advantage of cash for clunkers. The war between county officials continues with a complaint filed today against Maricopa County superior judge Donahoe. Just yesterday the County Attorney and sheriff Joe Arpaio filed perjury and forgery charges against two commissioners. Here to talk about all this is J.J. Hensley of the "Arizona Republic." Good to have you on. Thanks for joining us tonight. Let's talk about today's activity. Criminal complaint against Judge Donahoe. What's going on here?

J.J. Hensley:
These sort of seem related to two cases simultaneously. It was pointed out this had nothing to do with money changing hands. That's one to consider, I suppose. The other two charges, hindrance of a criminal prosecution, has to do with the Stapley matter. They think that or they are alleging that Donahoe essentially interceded on the behalf of Stapley on attempts to prosecute him for theft, fraud, perjury, some of the many things he's been accused of by the County Attorney. In the other charges relate to the criminal court tower and Thomas's attempt to investigate that, and sense that Donahoe has managed to stand in the way of that.

Ted Simons:
And so underlying all of this as well is the idea of alleged bias on the part of judge Donahoe?

J.J. Hensley:
Yeah, I think that's a key piece here. Which, you will notice in the criminal complaint that was filed today, they go into a lot of other issues that don't, that aren't actually related to the charges including some that deal with the sheriff's office, like deputy Stoddard who otherwise -- or detention officer Stoddard who has been in the news lately. And Donahoe's interaction with him. None of that actually comes up in the criminal complaint but it goes to this theme of bias on the judiciary.

Ted Simons:
I want to get to the Stoddard matter in a moment, but first let's go back to yesterday, which was the big news until today, and that is the indictment of supervisor Stapley and Wilcox. Again, give us an overview of what's happen go here and what the charges maintain.

J.J. Hensley:
The charges for Stapley are kind of a distillation of the first two cases that were brought against him. The first round of indictments against Stapley came almost a year ago. Most of that was dismissed sometime over the summer. There are remaining elements of it that are on appeal right now. Then he was arrested again in September, though no charges were ever filed in that because no prosecutor ever picked it up. They said we will take time to review the sheriff's investigation and get to this. And the document that was filed yesterday contains most of that. I would suppose there are theft charges related to his attempt to or his campaign for president of the National Association of Counties surgery -- or perjury -- forgery and false swearing all of which were in there in some capacity before.

Ted Simons:
The similarity is there. Yet the County Attorney decided not to prosecute before, and moved it off to another venue, and that didn't work out, as you said, as well as the County Attorney apparently had hoped. Here we go again and this time he is prosecuting?

J.J. Hensley:
Yeah, that's what he said yesterday. And that has to do with kind of the way both of these cases have been handled so far. Stapley one and Stapley two is what they were calling them before the charges came up yesterday. And Stapley one, that was moved to Yavapai county. Thomas did that as he said a good faith effort to get past the impasse in Maricopa County. And when they transferred that to Yavapai county, they appointed Mel Bauers who is a former prosecute in Navarro county. Half of those charges ended up being dismissed because Maricopa County didn't have any policies in place that he could have violated the other half are on appeal right now. And Stapley two, the criminal complaint was never picked up by a prosecutor. Thomas tried to appoint two outside prosecutors and the board of supervisors has so far refused to fund them.

Ted Simons:
And supervisor Wilcox also hit with the indictments, this involves, you tell me. What does this involve?

J.J. Hensley:
That's a good question. They have said for a long time that they were investigating her for dealings at sky harbor airport around some of the land holdings around her restaurant, her role with the state boxing commission. But what came out yesterday was loans that she's received through an organization affiliated with Chicanos for CASA. They allege she had a conflict of interest. That's the bulk of the charges, 12 of them, that she had a conflict of interest because she was among the supervisors who voted to provide grant funding more organization and the arm of which she was also receiving a series of loans from. The organization says everything was aboveboard. Wilcox says I received counsel from county officials on during this time, and there should be no problems.

Ted Simons:
The phrase, conflict of interest, seems to pop up in a variety of ways, just in what we have talked about so far with the supervisors saying the County Attorney can't be representing us and prosecuting us at the same time and you have the Wilcox conflict of interest. It seems from a distance it has to be difficult, I mean, this is becoming so complicated I am wondering if people can even understand what is going on here. As far as -- OK. Let's get to the Stoddard case. Let's move ton yet another case in which Donahoe apparently was involved and yet the first judge, talk us to about this, the first judge in which the detention officer was seen in her courtroom removing the papers, et cetera, now she's experienced some problems. Correct?

J.J. Hensley:
Yeah, that's what came out yesterday and it was kind of lost in the shuffle of the Stapley-Wilcox indictments. And you need a road map I think to follow all this stuff. That first judge was presiding over sentencing hearing in October, Lisa Flores. And that was the case where Donahoe removed -- I'm sorry. See? There we go. Need a road map. Where Stoddard removed the documents from the defense attorney's files. She filed a minute entry yesterday because the hearing that was delayed when he removed those documents was supposed to come on Monday, December 14th. She filed a minute entry yesterday saying -- a court order saying for three days since Stoddard has been in the sheriff's custody, I haven't received any inmates in my courtroom, and on other days they have been at least an hour late. The implication is obviously that the sheriff's office or their detention officers or their deputies are exacting some sort of retribution on the Judge Flores who was simply presiding over the sentencing hearing where all of this took place.

Ted Simons:
So the presiding judge now claims there's a work slowdown from detention officers and deputies. The judge who sentenced Stoddard is now slapped with charges. Is anyone from a distance, have you heard of anyone investigating what the heck's going on down there?

J.J. Hensley:
Not yet. Not officially. You know, we reported at the "Republic" back in the spring that county officials were saying that they were being interviewed by federal agents as part of what they called -- or what would be called a color of law investigation into Arpaio. Those claims have come up a few times since then. Essentially that they were looking into whether he was abusing his power by exacting retribution on political opponents or other opponents. Nothing's come of that investigation yet. And obviously, the other federal investigations, the justice department investigation into Arpaio that's related to racial profiling, so that has no bearing on this.

Ted Simons:
I would think that, though, folks would say, you know, is there anyone from the attorney general's office making noise? Anyone from the U.S. Attorney for Arizona making noise? You just talked about what noise has been made regarding the feds but that seems to be focused on racial profiling. It sounds like there's a whole lot of stuff going on and no one is quite willing or at least ready yet to make their own set of noise.

J.J. Hensley:
Yeah, those other people you mentioned, the U.S. Attorney's office, the attorney general's office, they aren't saying much on this right now. In fact, as a reporter it's hard to get anyone who doesn't have a dog in this fight who's willing to weigh in on this topic. They haven't done anything to date. And, you know, I suppose in fairness to Thomas and Arpaio, if they are investigating legitimate crimes committed by these public officials, they should have the kind of the leeway to conduct those investigations. That gets us back to the whole obstruction and hindrance charges that have been raised against Donahoe.

Ted Simons:
It's interesting. When you talk about a sitting judge facing these kind of charges, when you talk about another sitting judge claiming that the sheriff is running a department in which people are not showing up on time and which inmates literally aren't being there, showing up three times in her courtroom and they are supposed to be there, these sorts of things, this is serious business. Do you sense that there is -- from where you sit, is it fractured to the point where these sides just simply are going to take time or some outside element to get back together? We look at this and we say, this makes no sense. And yet the infighting continues and goes on and on. And who knows, tomorrow we could see another charge and round of indictments tomorrow.

J.J. Hensley:
Well, sure. There are, you know, more than a dozen defendants named in a civil lawsuit that Thomas and Arpaio filed last week. Donahoe was one of those and he was named a criminal complaint today. So there's really no telling what's coming next. To answer your question, I don't think anyone really knows right now. I think definitely has the sense that relationships there are kind of fractured beyond repair. All of this kind of began with the budget as the, as they started cutting money from Thomas and Arpaio, and they had this money previously pigeonholed for their court tower project. The County Attorney and the sheriff both decided that there might be something there that they should look into. And so it's hard to say right now how this would be revolved.

Ted Simons:
We didn't get into that. The federal suit that you mentioned that was filed against just all sorts of county officials and judges. We had the county having to pay legal fees for protestors at one of a board of supervisors meetings that were against Arpaio and yet the judge and the presiding judge saying, wait a second, they weren't arrested when they were supporting the sheriff. And it sounds like the new chairman of the board of supervisors is going to be Don Stapley.

J.J. Hensley:
That's what we have heard.

Ted Simons:
Yeah. So it's going to go on and on.

J.J. Hensley:
It would seem that way.

Ted Simons:
What's next as far as court appearances? I guess Donahoe has something coming up here. Correct?

J.J. Hensley:
There is a court date. His preliminary hearing has been set for I believe January 11th. I heard on my way here tonight that they have got a judge for that that's in Pinal County. So he has a court date set. Nothing set right now that I know of on the civil side. And Stapley and Wilcox both have their attorneys. They have been indicted by a grand jury so something will move on that within the next month or so. But that I know of there hasn't been a definitive date set for those hearings. We were talking about Stoddard earlier.

Ted Simons:
Yes.

J.J. Hensley:
He today as of right now, is still in sheriff's custody. No one will say where or what type of custody he's in. There was a hearing this afternoon, telephonic hearing with an appeals court judge to see whether they would allow him to be released from custody pending the outcome of an appeal of Donahoe's order which was filed I believe yesterday.

Ted Simons:
With that, we will stop it right there. Thank you. Great work, by the way, and thank you for coming on and helping us make sense of a very convoluted story that gets more complicated as time goes by. We appreciated it.

J.J. Hensley:
Thank you.


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