Russell Pearce: The Savior of Andrew Thomas?

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Dennis Wilenchik

By Sarah Fenske

Last fall, when special prosecutor Dennis Wilenchik wasn't yet "disgraced former special prosecutor Dennis Wilenchik" and was coming after New Times like a paid assassin, Wilenchik had a quick retort for anyone complaining about his activities.

"If there is prosecutorial misconduct in the proceedings, petitioners have remedies for that," Wilenchik wrote blithely. "Just ask Mike Nifong, the Duke lacrosse players' prosecutor" -- who famously lost his law license after botching a false rape claim.

But those hoping that Wilenchik and County Attorney Andrew Thomas might suffer a similar fate to Nifong, or even just a slap on the wrist, have another think coming. That's because Russell Pearce is riding to the rescue of bad prosecutors everywhere.

Today, Pearce introduced a strike-all amendment that would prevent the Arizona Bar from disciplining, investigating, or even inquiring about anything that prosecutors do in their official capacity. (No, I'm not making this up.) And the amendment doesn't just protect top dawgs like Thomas; it would include "any public officer or employee of a public agency."

So, if this thing passes, prosecutors can do whatever the hell they want, without fear of reprisal? Pretty much.

The plan should prove repulsive to the conservatives who are supposedly Pearce's base -- you simply cannot believe in limited government and, at the same time, give prosecutors absolute power. We'll see whether they rise up when the amendment comes up for a vote Wednesday.

Buried in this ridiculous plan, though, is a chestnut of good news. After all, the Arizona Bar opened investigations into Wilenchik and Thomas last year. The fact that we're now getting this proposal from one of their allies can't be a coincidence. Perhaps, somewhere out there, someone is getting a leetle bit nervous?


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