Mary Rose Wilcox Case: "Utter Lack of Motive or Evidence" of Crimes, Gila County Attorney Concludes

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Daisy Flores: Charges aren't warranted against Maricopa County Supervisor Mary Rose Wilcox

Mary Rose Wilcox, one of five members of the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors, didn't disclose her business interests to the public like she should have, that much is clear.

But multiple felonies? No way, says Gila County Attorney Daisy Flores.

"With the utter lack of motive or evidence of any unlawful economic or political benefit
from the financial disclosure omissions, a reasonable juror would conclude that these omissions were an oversight, rather than conduct knowingly perpetrated to deceive the public," Flores wrote in the letter we blogged about earlier today.

Flores' conclusions make it clear that while Wilcox should have disclosed more on the forms, her accusers had failed to show evidence of any criminal intent.

It's more evidence that Sheriff Joe Arpaio's former chief deputy, David Hendershott, and former County Attorney Andrew Thomas were blinded by their ambition -- gleefully twisting the facts just enough to obtain grand jury indictments and headlines, yet never coming up with a strong case.

The weakness of the case against Wilcox compared to the zeal that Thomas and Arpaio showed for it lends support to accusations that the law enforcers were simply out to nail their political enemies.

After the heavy-handed indictment of Don Stapley on failure-to-disclose charges in December of 2008, it became clear to many in the county that Arpaio, Hendershott and Thomas intended to use their police powers for political purposes. Predictions abounded that Wilcox would be the next target of the ironically named Mace Anti Corruption Enforcement task force, since Wilcox had long opposed the anti-illegal-immigrant policies of Thomas and Arpaio. Sure enough, in December of 2009, Wilcox was indicted on multiple felony charges.

Like the Stapley case, the offices of Arpaio and Thomas wanted the public to believe that they'd received a "tip" about misdeeds by Wilcox. In this case, the alleged tip was about a Phoenix magazine article about Wilcox's failure to disclose business loans on county forms.

We're pretty confident that the part in the sheriff's office report about a tip is bullshit. It seems far more likely that Hendershott and Lisa Aubuchon, Thomas' political attack-dog, cooked up the criminal case themselves after reading the Phoenix Mag article. Thomas and Arpaio also claimed both criminal cases against Stapley were started with tips, but evidence shows Aubuchon had worked on the Stapley case long before the preparation of any official report.

Both the first and second grand jury indicted Wilcox on having a conflict of interest because she voted on funding for Chicanos Por La Causa while also taking out hundreds of thousands of dollars in loans from the non-profit company's loan division, Prestamos. The indictments also charged her with perjury, forgery and false swearing in regard to her financial disclosure forms.

Thomas, as prosecutor, ran into trouble with his Stapley case in April of 2009, having been told by the Arizona Supreme Court that he had a conflict of interest. (Namely, that he couldn't be both a lawyer for Stapley, the County Supervisor, and prosecutor of Stapley, the alleged criminal.) Thomas sent both the Stapley and Wilcox cases to Yavapai County Attorney Sheila Polk.

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Earl and Mary Rose Wilcox, with their lawyer, former Superior Court Judge Colin Campbell

Polk famously rained on the lawmen's parade with a public chastisement, claiming that Thomas and Arpaio were abusing their power to go after Stapley and Wilcox. The lawmen and their minions wanted Polk to issue subpoenas in the Wilcox case, but Polk told them she didn't have enough evidence to warrant a "fishing expedition" with subpoenas.

Ticked off and apparently wanting to please Arpaio, Thomas took the cases back. Then, in February of last year, a Pima County judge tossed the cases against Wilcox and Stapley because of that nagging conflict of interest Thomas had. After flouncing around for a few weeks, trying to hire ultra-expensive hotshot lawyers from Washington D.C. as special prosecutors, Thomas sent Flores the Stapley and Wilcox cases last March.

Flores' January 18 letter says she was aware of all the "tangential issues" related to the Wilcox case, but focused soley on the facts as they were presented to her. She and three of her most experience prosecutors reviewed more than 10,000 pages of investigative reports and other documents.

Her letter destroys the idea that Wilcox was in cahoots with Chicano Por La Causa to obtain loans in exchange for county funding. Flores agrees with our own analysis of the case last year: Wilcox was among the Supervisors who voted unanimously to allow federal funding to pass through the county to about 30 agencies, including Chicanos. At the same time, business loans for her restaurants were obtained in the same manner, and on the same terms, as any other business owner. In fact, she paid a slightly higher interest rate than she could have obtained if she'd used a typical bank, the Gila County review determined.

In other words, the facts of the loans and the votes had nothing to do with each other, and no evidence ever surfaced that Wilcox was trying to give special help to Chicanos Por La Causa, or that it was offering her any special deal. Since Wilcox had no substantial interest in the decision to award the pass-through funds to Chicanos, she had no duty to make known her interest in the public record, Flores states.

"The undertone (of the counts) is that Wilcox obtained the loans as a quid pro quo for voting funds to CPLC. There is no evidence to even suggest such a thing occurred," Flores writes.

Wilcox also didn't need to report some of her business loans on disclosure forms because they weren't personal loans, despite what Arpaio's office claims in its investigative report.

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Andrew Thomas quit his job as Maricopa County Attorney, ran for state Attorney General -- and lost. Now he faces possible disbarment.

Wilcox and her husband had personally guaranteed the loans, but that doesn't mean they weren't business loans. They were -- a situation that "significantly impacts the analysis" of Wilcox's reporting obligations, the letter reads.

It's clear that Wilcox didn't disclose all of her business interests in some years. For instance, she failed to disclose a 2005 $450,000 loan from the Community Bank of Nevada on her 2006 financial form. She should have disclosed that, as well as others -- a fact made obvious by an amended disclosure form she filed after her indictment which included the missing info.

"However, there is no evidence that she somehow unlawfully benefited economically or politically" by not disclosing it, Flores writes.

Since a successful prosecution requires proof that Wilcox knowingly tried to defraud or deceive the public, something that can't be shown by existing evidence, it's "unlikely" the state could obtain a conviction, she writes.

Based on the insufficient evidence, Flores writes that she won't go forward with the case.

Wilcox is free at last. (And probably going to win a wrongful prosecution claim.)

We checked in with Stapley's office this morning. Stapley didn't get a nice letter from Flores today, which means he's not out of the cholla forest yet.

As for Thomas -- he's going to have to answer for his actions before the disciplinary judge for the State Bar. A new indictment of Wilcox might have helped his case. Now he's down one more thread on the rope he's holding onto.

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9 comments
Charles Ward
Charles Ward

Cops do love their anonymous tips. Next to the alleged odor of pot, one of the better ways to get around pesky things like probable cause, search warrants, all of those annoying legal technicalities that keep them from just doing whatever the hell they want.

Pit Boss
Pit Boss

Do citizens of Arizona have the legal ability to bring a class action suit against these scumbags? If so, I think we need to seriously consider it. All of this taxpayer revenue is thrown away because Thomas, Arpaio and Aubuchon needed to wag their flaccids and flex some legal muscle. This kind of thing sickens me, especially when we're the last in the country in education and the first in people getting the fuck out of here.

XSoldier
XSoldier

I wonder what the Stapley letter said?

Also, I wonder if Mr. and Mrs. Wilcox are going to up the amount of their claim. Mr. Campbell has been put in a good position legally for a victory.

A note to Joe, Hendy, and Candy: When you have 7 lawyers and a grand jury reject you because you don't have a case, YOU DON'T HAVE A CASE!!!!

Tommy Collins
Tommy Collins

Well, XS, as thomas is wont to say, "but that is just their opinions and they are conspiring against me". His typical response to anything to do with jurists who read law the way most folks do...

Ray Stern
Ray Stern

Apparently, there's no letter from Flores to Stapley yet.

Gerry_C
Gerry_C

The only value this whole investigation had is that Hendershott got to see his junk for the first time in 10 years. He just looked into the reflection on Aubuchon's forehead.

Tommy Collins
Tommy Collins

Ouch, Gerry. That was really good.

Gerry_C
Gerry_C

Sometimes, I have to spout off with what I really think Tommy. It is clear that Lisa would do anything that Hendershott requested, like charging Donahoe, etc.

WhoKnows
WhoKnows

Speaking of which, I wonder when the investigation of Jumbo, Fox, and Black will be complete.

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