Tom Liddy was Andrew Kunasek's Deep Throat; County Supervisor Describes Tip on Arpaio/Thomas Plot to Overthrow Board
|Tom Liddy, a Maricopa deputy county attorney and son of G. Gordon Liddy, tipped off County Supervisor Andy Kunasek to a plot to "destabilize" county government, Kunasek testified yesterday.|
Tom Liddy, a deputy prosecutor who also happens to be son of infamous Watergate villain G. Gordon Liddy, played Deep Throat for a county supervisor under siege by corrupt lawmen.
The setting of the crucial tip-off, described at the Andrew Thomas discipline hearings yesterday by Andy Kunasek, chair of the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors, was on January 29, 2010, at a Roosevelt Lake boat dock.
Thomas, the former county attorney, is fighting for his career along with ex-underlings Lisa Aubuchon and Rachel Alexander at State Bar disciplinary proceedings this month. If the charges of unethical behavior against them are upheld, Thomas and Aubuchon could be disbarred. Alexander faces suspension of her law license.
The supervisor, an outdoorsman who owns a fishing skiff, recalled how Liddy warned him about a plot "to destabilize the Board" that Liddy said had been conveyed to him by Sheriff Joe Arpaio's then-Chief Deputy Dave Hendershott.
By that time, Don Stapley and Mary Rose Wilcox had already been indicted, (on cooked-up charges that would later be dropped). The plan by Hendershott, Aubuchon, Arpaio and Thomas, as Liddy reportedly told Kunasek, was to get a third county supervisor under indictment. That would have prevented the five-member Board from obtaining a voting quorum, zapping its power to fight the sheriff and county attorney.
The third Supervisor, Kunasek says he was told, would be him.
To make the scheme work, of course, the corrupt law officers needed a crime with which to accuse Kunasek. As the evidence shows, they concocted the ridiculous allegation that by authorizing county offices to be swept for listening devices believed to have been illegally planted by the sheriff's office, Kunasek had "stolen" $14,600 in public funds -- the cost of the two sweeps.
Hendershott announced the accusation in a news conference, failing to tell the media that the case had already been rejected by Yavapai County Attorney Sheila Polk -- who said that no actual crime had occurred -- and later by a grand jury.
Kunasek was never indicted, and the effort to railroad him has come back to bite Thomas and Aubuchon in dramatic fashion.
Arpaio and Hendershott, not being lawyers, aren't targets of the disciplinary proceedings; Arpaio is, however, slated to testify at some point in the coming days. Their alleged role -- and that of Thomas and others -- in the apparent abuses of power is still under investigation by the U.S. Justice Department.
(The scuttlebutt on that investigation, based on the allegation that the lawmen abused their power, is that the untimely departure of Dennis Burke as U.S. Attorney in Arizona due his role in the Fast and Furious gunwalking scandal might not have set things back too much. After all, Burke has clearly been preoccupied in recent months with his own problems, so maybe a new U.S. Attorney without as much political baggage will move the investigation along. Time -- hopefully not too much -- will tell.)
Liddy, a deputy county attorney and former congressional candidate featured in a New Times' profile back in 2000, actually has two other connections to what we call the "county craziness" of the last few years:
* He served as legal counsel for Adam Stoddard, the sticky-fingered detention officer jailed in 2009 for refusing to apologize to a defense attorney whose papers he'd improperly read and confiscated. The judge who ordered Stoddard's jailing, Gary Donahoe, had clashed with Arpaio and Thomas on several occasions -- and soon became a target of a bogus criminal investigation that helped put Thomas in the hot seat.
* Liddy's name also surfaced in the state Attorney General's criminal investigation of Arpaio's stalwart deputy, Captain Joel Fox, and the SCA campaign finance scandal. In an incident not dissimilar from the one Kunsaek described yesterday, Liddy reportedly told Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon that Hendershott had asked him for county attorney's office records on former Arpaio political opponent Dan Saban.
During a phone call about various issues, talk between Gordon and Liddy turned to the "problems" between county officials, according to a write-up of an interview of Gordon by state investigator Mike Edwards. Liddy told the mayor that he'd advised people at Thomas' office not to work with Hendershott on the Saban records, which Hendershott made clear would be used to do opposition research for the sheriff's 2008 campaign. But "up the chain" overruled Liddy's advice and gave the records to Hendershott, Gordon told the investigator.
We asked Liddy about this in April, while researching a comprehensive article on the SCA investigation, and he flat-out denied that Hendershott had made the request, or that he'd told Gordon about it.
"You can bet your ass that never happened," he said.
We left Liddy a voice mail this morning, but haven't yet heard from him.
Kunasek said he's friendly with Liddy, and that's likely one reason the deputy prosecutor called last year to warn him of the plot.
After receiving the call on the boat dock from Liddy, Kunasek testified, he called his lawyer, David Derickson. That Monday, Kunasek talked to Liddy again, this time recording the call.
|Image: James King|
|Detention Officer Adam Stoddard with Liddy in a shot from December 2009, after Stoddard's release from jail on a contempt order.|
Under questioning from the lawyers for Thomas and Aubuchon, Kunasek detailed how Liddy told him he'd just had coffee or tea with Hendershott, and that the former chief deputy had talked about the problem of replacing Thomas, who was planning to quit his office so he could run for state Attorney General. With only two of five members, the board would not be able to fill the position with an ally, enabling Thomas and Arpaio to somehow gain the upper hand.
Kunasek speculated yesterday, after the hearing, that had the plan to indict him had succeeded, Thomas may have been able to obtain a court waiver to stay in his post even as he ran for higher office.
Last year, Kunasek shared with New Times a partial transcript from a recording he made in a meeting between him, his lawyer and Aubuchon. In the transcript, Aubuchon appears to be using the pending criminal investigation as a crowbar to get Kunasek to do her masters' bidding in regards to the selection of a new county attorney.
The bug-sweep investigation has since been exposed as one of the most egregious abuses committed by Thomas, Arpaio and those working for them. Hendershott apparently kick-started the probe personally after learning of the sweeps from an article in the Arizona Republic.
Seeing the bug sweeps as a means to several ends, Hendershott ordered staff of Arpaio and Thomas' now-disgraced Maricopa Anti-Corruption Enforcement team to draw up a warrant to search county offices.
Investigators from Pinal County who later interviewed Hendershott wrote that they were "astounded" by Hendershott's illogical statements on the matter. He'd told them that the search warrant was intended, in part, to find evidence that county officials had found and deactivated listening devices placed by the sheriff's office -- even though Hendershott knew his office hadn't placed any.
The MACE team balked at the outlandish request for such a broad search warrant, but Hendershott was adamant, reportedly asking aloud where he could find some "loyal guys" to do the dirty work. Lieutenant Rich Burden would later tell investigators that Hendershott threatened to "machine-gun" the staff if he didn't have the warrant on his desk in the morning. The warrant was never issued.
The case also reportedly spurred Hendershott and deputy chief Paul Chagolla, who still works for Arpaio, to threaten Republic reporter Yvonne Wingett Sanchez.
|Image: Court pool photography|
|County Supervisors Don Stapley and Mary Rose Wilcox took the stand last week in the State Bar's disciplinary proceeding against former County Attorney Andrew Thomas and two of his ex-employees.|
Chagolla, by the way, told the Pinal County investigators that Arpaio was never "out of the loop" when it came to Hendershott's actions. It'll be interesting to see if the sheriff is asked about this when he's called before the State Bar panel.
The Tom Liddy connection and the story of the plot to overthrow the Board of Supervisors certainly doesn't seem to lend weight to Andrew Thomas' defense, yet it was brought out in questions by Thomas and Aubuchon's lawyers, Terry Wood and Ed Moriarity. So far in the disciplinary hearings, those two seem to be doing their clients more harm than good.