Peter Spaw, Deputy County Attorney, Under State Bar "Inquiry" for Role in Discredited Racketeering Case; Also Named in New Lawsuits

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Peter Spaw, a deputy county attorney, is the subject of a "pre-screening inquiry" that could lead to State Bar investigation due to his role in a discredited federal racketeering complaint against county officials.

One major difference between the old and new lawsuits against Maricopa County by a retired judge and current County Supervisor is this name:

Peter Spaw.

Spaw, a deputy prosecutor with the Maricopa County Attorney's Office since 2000, was a key figure in the 2009 federal racketeering complaint against county officials that got former County Attorney Andrew Thomas in so much trouble. The complaint, now thoroughly discredited and dropped, was launched by Sheriff Joe Arpaio and Thomas as part of their attack on political enemies, and targeted the entire Board of Supervisors, judges, lawyers and county officials in a conspiracy theory unsupported by evidence.

Spaw helped -- and allegedly supervised -- former Thomas employee Rachel Alexander, a pro-Thomas blogger and relatively inexperienced prosecutor who was handed the complex case by Thomas after it was filed by Thomas' other go-to gal, Lisa Aubuchon.

While Thomas, Aubuchon and Alexander stood before the Arizona State Bar's disciplinary judge in hearings that concluded earlier this month, Spaw attended only as a witness.

But with the hearings now over, Spaw now finds himself named as a defendant in two of the amended complaints against the county, Arpaio and others.

Besides that problem, John Gleason, the independent counsel from Colorado who led the State Bar's case against the three former prosecutors, considers Spaw the "subject of a pre-screening inquiry," says a Bar spokesman.

The spokesman, Rick DeBruhl, says he couldn't comment on how long Gleason has been checking into Spaw's actions, but that the inquiry remained open.

"They've thrown his name out there as someone they want to look at," says Debruhl, adding that the inquiry could lead to a full-blown Bar investigation.

Spaw's involvement was mentioned on Day One of the Thomas hearings, when Alexander's lawyer, Scott Zwillinger, questioned why Alexander was there instead of her "supervisor," Spaw.

In his testimony, (click here, then scroll to about 3 hours, 10 minutes of the October 17 video), Spaw downplayed the idea that he acted as Alexander's supervisor. However, he goes on to describe actions that were arguably supervisory, such as meeting with Thomas directly to discuss the case and how Alexander should proceed.

Retired Superior Court Judge Gary Donahoe and Deputy County Manager Sandi Wilson call out Spaw for his role in the racketeering complaint in amended complaints filed this week.

The amended complaints refer to a memo Spaw had received that contained legal advice by Arpaio's lawyers about the racketeering case. The lawyers' advice: Not only does the case stink, but it may result in sanctions against the accusers for filing "unfounded, vexatiously motivated litigation." Spaw also reportedly told Thomas the complaint should have been written on toilet paper.

From Donahoe's amended complaint:

...Thomas was told by his Chief Deputy, Phil MacDonnell, that "[t]he idea of a civil RICO case based on current evidence is unfounded."Mr. MacDonnell also wrote, "Peter Spaw, our RICO expert, thinks [the RICO Lawsuit] makes no sense."


Spaw knew, from his own review of the materials in the RICO Lawsuit and from research provided to him from outside counsel, that the RICO Lawsuit lacked a factual or legal basis.

Upon information and belief, Spaw further knew, or reasonably should have known, that Thomas, Aubuchon, and Sheriff Arpaio were pursuing the RICO Lawsuit for the ulterior purpose of retaliating against Judge Donahoe for his judicial rulings and for exercising his constitutional rights.

Despite this knowledge,Spaw appeared as counsel in, and supervised, the prosecution of the RICO Lawsuit.

Thomas and Aubuchon face disbarment with the State Bar's discipline panel announces its decision on a punishment sometime this coming spring. Alexander faces suspension of her law license.

Who could blame Spaw for feeling a bit on edge?

We left a message for Spaw and his boss, current County Attorney Bill Montgomery, and we'll let you know if we hear back.

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I think Spaw is a decent guy in general.  However, he should have stayed totally out of the RICO mess and refused to supervise, oversee, or advise Rachel on it.  He should have counseled her about the ethics of what she was doing.  If he pushed the button under Rachel's account to file the mess, then he ought to be culpable.  None of this absolves Rachel from her idiotic actions, but Spaw may need to feel some heat.

The biggest MCAO culprit is Thomas because he sold our prosecutor's office to the MCSO and in doing so, totally corrupted the independence and balance the MCAO should have with other agencies.  Of course, the illegal and unethical acts are not forgotten either.


Pete Spaw is a decent guy, unlike Thomas and the others.  Nevertheless, if he had a choice to make between right and wrong, its OK to hold him accountable for choosing wrong.  He's an experienced lawyer, not an entry level clerk.  "Andy told me to do it" is not an excuse.

Walter Concrete
Walter Concrete

I don't understand the view of this article.   Are you saying that because he pointed out the misguided attempts by county officials to prosecute other county officials he could be disbarred?    Do you people just throw words up in the air and however they hit the floor that's how you write these articles?   That's what it looks like.   Maybe it would make more sense if you actually had an idea of what you wanted to express before you published it.


Being the in-house RICO expert who reviewed a deputy's RICO complaint is a whole lot different than being the politically-motivated zealots who tried to ram this through.  Spaw reviewed it, said it was a piece of shit, and explained why. That doesn't make him the "supervisor" who pushed an obviously deficient complaint against political enemies--nor should it put his law license in jeopardy.



Let me help you overcome your density.

He should be disbarred because he pointed out that the case was fatally flawed yet he pursued it just the same.

Read Donahoe's amended complaint, it is crystal clear.


You got the first part right, he said it was a piece of shit.

You got the second part wrong.  It wasn't his review that made him the supervisor, it was his supervisory acts as described in the Donahoe complaint and confirmed by the person he was supervising.


What I've been saying . . . . what is his job title?  What is his job description?  If he refused in any capacity would he have lost his career?  Why can't we ever figure out a way to get this right?  Why are we eating our own?  Why is it that we are so corrupt that even entry level secretaries face moral/ethical challenge just for low-wage job?  Is there a better way or do we all need to submit to chip implants to get there?  So sick of this . . . 

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