Right-Wing Bloggers Jump Into County Fray -- and Facts Be Damned

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Right-wing slant? No problem. Right-wing "facts" that aren't really facts? Problem.
The public can be forgiven for not fully understanding the ongoing mess of Maricopa County politics, and why a former county attorney stands to lose his law license.

But, dang it, people who publish articles on the subject ought to come close to showing they understand it -- or at least seem to care about getting their facts right.

That's too much to ask, apparently.

In the last two months, the actions of former County Attorney Andrew Thomas and two of his former underlings have been under scrutiny by a State Bar disciplinary panel. Deconstructing the events, actions, statements, and general history that led up to the hearings (which concluded yesterday) for a general-interest article is a challenge -- and we should know, since we've written a couple of hundred articles on the subject. The Arizona Republic's done a good job at helping the public understand what's going on. So have some of the local TV stations.

The same can't be said for Internet writers Dave Tombers, John Hawkins, and Selwyn Duke.

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Dave Tombers admitted to New Times he never read Thomas and Arpaio's racketeering complaint before writing an article about it.
hese guys have each published online articles in recent weeks that attempt to outline why Thomas, et al, are getting a raw deal. As the saying goes, they're entitled to their opinions on that -- but not their own facts.

We'll start with Tombers' October 28 article. Its headline reads: Case against power brokers rebounds against county prosecutor: Even harshest critics call bar association case 'gross overcharging.'

The headline refers to a December 8, 2010 column by Arizona Republic writer Robert Robb, which does indeed conclude with the statement, "Unfortunately, the gross overcharging in the bar allegations gives credence to Thomas' claim that he is the victim of a witch hunt."

However, Tombers' readers would do well to follow the link to Robb's story and read what Robb says about that "overcharging" -- namely, that it's awful because it's exactly the kind of thing Thomas did.

The same column notes that Thomas had "no evidence" of the county conspiracy that he and Sheriff Joe Arpaio alleged and that Thomas and Arpaio assaulted the state's judiciary and threatened the rule of law.

Tombers repeats the nonsense that devious county officials planned to add "penthouse quarters" for judges in the new court tower under construction. The idea that the judges were getting fancy digs was crucial to Thomas' conspiracy theory, because it added a possible motive for why county leaders and judges didn't want the court-tower construction project investigated.

In fact, as County Supervisor Fulton Brock wrote in a newspaper column two years ago, the new building wasn't marble-lined and "judges' offices will be shared."

Although Tombers is correct that $347 million project had come at a time "when county employees were being laid off," that's true of a lot of capital projects around town. Look at Arizona State University, for example, where new buildings still went up despite the economic downturn.

The county attorney and sheriff never had any evidence that the court-tower construction process was corrupt. But they sure didn't like how their budgets were getting cut while the new building moved forward.

Before hitting "publish," Tombers should have educated himself by reading Sarah Fenske's  2009 article about the court-tower conspiracy. There, he would have learned that the investigation into the court tower by Thomas and Arpaio coincidentally began a few days after the county supervisors hired lawyer Tom Irvine to review whether Thomas had a conflict of interest in attempting to prosecute Supervisor Don Stapley for alleged financial-disclosure violations. And he would have learned that the County Attorney's Office had been intimately involved in the court tower's planning.

Then Tombers relates that Thomas was "forced" to turn over his federal racketeering lawsuit against county leaders to the U.S. Justice Department. That was certainly news to us -- we attended the news conference in which Thomas and Arpaio said they were dropping the case because they had achieved "victory." The lawmen told reporters that their new lawyer from Washington D.C., Robert Driscoll, had gotten the Justice Department's Public Integrity Section to agree to review the case.

The head of the Public Integrity Section, Raymond Hulser, wrote to Thomas and Arpaio the next day that his office had done nothing of the kind. Further, he wrote:

 

"In these circumstances ... I was dismayed to learn that your mere referral of information to the Public Integrity Section was cited and relied upon in a pleading in federal court [the now-ended Arpaio/Thomas civil RICO lawsuit] and then used as a platform for a press conference."

Tombers, a former cop and real-estate agent who lives near Minneapolis, tells New Times that an editor at the right-wing site World Net Daily assigned the story to him and that he got much of his info from one of Thomas' lawyers. He admits he never read the racketeering complaint or the complaint against retired Judge Gary Donahoe -- if he'd done either, we're quite sure, he'd wonder along with us about the lack of strong evidence (or any, as with the bribery charge against Donahoe) for corrupt or criminal behavior.

An even more troublesome article appeared a few weeks earlier by Right Wing News writer John Hawkins.

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John Hawkins says he's "happy" to publish an "alternative" view of the Andrew Thomas case.

Hawkins states incorrectly that Thomas turned over the racketeering suit to the Justice Department because he was "vastly understaffed."

He claims erroneously that Judges Kenneth Fields and Gary Donahoe threw out all the indictments against Stapley and County Supervisor Mary Rose Wilcox.

The reality: Fields threw out half of the charges related to Stapley's lack of financial disclosures, and a prosecutor moved to dismiss the other half. Later, the Arizona Court of Appeals (without the help of Fields or Donahoe) refused to reinstate the charges. Wilcox's charges were dismissed by Pima County Superior Court Judge John Leonardo. Wilcox received further vindication when Gila County Attorney Daisy Flores refused to move forward with the case, which involved allegations of conflicts of interest, perjury, and false swearing, because of lack of evidence that a crime had occurred.

Hawkins notes that "well-respected" attorneys took out an ad in the Arizona State Bar magazine to protest the bar complaints against Andrew Thomas -- but Hawkins doesn't seem to realize that he's referring to an earlier set of complaints that were dismissed, not the ones about that Thomas and Aubuchon have had to answer in the recent hearings.

Hawkins says that Donahoe was "forced to resign in disgrace in June of this year" and concludes by implying that the State Bar's disciplinary panelists are "cockroaches."

Rachel Alexander, former deputy county attorney under Thomas who helped work on the racketeering case, caught hell during the disciplinary hearings for publishing Hawkins' piece on her own blog and touting it on her Twitter site.

The Arizona Republic talked to Hawkins about the Donahoe quip for an October 9 article:

Donahoe had in fact postponed his retirement for several months before finally resigning because of the stress of getting prosecuted criminally and sued in civil court by Thomas and his associates. Those cases were later withdrawn.

John Hawkins ... told the Republic that there were "a couple of articles that I think I looked over in reference to Donahoe" before making the statement in the story posted on Alexander's website. The two articles he referred to were, in fact, the same article, written for another ultraconservative website.


We e-mailed Hawkins about these issues and asked whether he planned to correct or clarify his errors. Here's how he responded:

"These State Bar proceedings are nothing but pure politics pursued by other means. Moreover, from what I've seen, most of the press in Maricopa Country, yourself included, have taken such a slanted view of the case that you might as well be paid by the Democratic Party. Somebody needed to get out the alternative view and since the mainstream press seems to be starting with the presumption that the people involved are guilty because they're Republicans, I'm happy that I was able to fill that role.


We're "slanted"? Funny, coming from a fact-challenged propagandist like Hawkins. He "might as well be paid" by the Tea Party. (Hmmm?)

Finally, we should mention Selwyn Duke, who took Hawkins' ball and ran with it in an October 12 article on the American Thinker site. Duke repeats some of Hawkins' errors, then feathers this nest with tough-sounding talk comparing Thomas' woes to the Tiananmen Square massacre. Thomas is suffering a beat-down because of his opposition to illegal immigration, Duke claims.

Rubbish.

He's getting beaten down because the facts aren't on his side.


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38 comments
Jason
Jason

Typical Republinut bullshit. Spew lies when you know the truth will hurt you.

Alexander knew that Donahoe was planning to retire from the bench in '09. He merely waited out the county Civil War, all the while taking the abuse from Candy Andy and the Flaccid Fool.

Fields was smart in dismissing the criminal charges against Stapley. I read somewhere that he just accepted a $100K taxpayer-funded cash settlement to resolve his $3 million lawsuit against Nazicopa County.

I'm hoping that Judge O'Neil & Co. recommend disbarment for all three mentally sick miscreants. The people need and deserve better than what we have.

Stignazzy
Stignazzy

Ha ha funny. You should comb over some Phoenix New Times articles for truth and accuracy sometime liberal.

Gerry_C
Gerry_C

Here is my OpEd piece:

"Andrew Thomas chose to commit career suicide."

The end

GC

Chris Ar
Chris Ar

I eagerly wait for the author of this article to deconstruct similarly truth-bending articles coming not just from the left wing blogosphere, but allegedly "respected" blogs attached to mainstream media outlets.

As for the Hawkins article, nothing is radically wrong with it. I've seen more obfuscation of the truth (that being what you want your readers to infer from your words) every day on the front page of the NY Times.

I'm done with Mr. Stern.

WhoKnows
WhoKnows

I read Hawkins crap on Alexander's site after she got called out in court for posting it.  This woman is TRULY clueless.  Not only was the story wrong in so many ways, it was a direct attack on the hearing and the panel in the middle of the hearing!

Yesterday in the hearing, she claimed that she did it because a country employee (who she called out by name) said "mean stuff about her" on a New Times blog!

teknik1200
teknik1200

"I'm happy that I was able to fill that role."

you mean the role where you spit lies to distort the truth and negate the findings of the press?

Not surprised
Not surprised

Wow, so now an "alternative view," rather than fact or truth, is the objective for these quasi writers?  Pathetic. 

Ray Stern
Ray Stern

I invite you to comb over mine, Stig.

Former Republican
Former Republican

Thomas is too narcissist and arrogant to recognize he was committing career suicide. He's been playing God with peoples' lives for so long, after he destroyed the lives of the  "ordinary" 200,000 people, he moved up to the judges, county officials, lawyers et al. Aubuchon, the chief charging prosecutor had no gate, no checks and balances and pushed the "easy" convictions recklessly forward. Alexander, Thomas personal deputy county attorney blogger made sure they got their "media convictions" -- done and over with, until now. Now, the three should be disbarred and sent to prison. The MCAO and the MCSO need their offices cleaned out and cases reopened for possible wrongful convictions and over-sentenced defendants. Who is going to do their jobs in cleaning up the "troika's" destruction?

Jason
Jason

You call yourself "TheLastBrainLeft."  Sounds to me like your brain left your empty head somewhere between the womb and delivery.

Ray Stern
Ray Stern

I won't miss you, anonymous person.

Guest
Guest

Nothing wrong?

He claimed a judge resigned in shame when in fact he finally took a long-planned, long-deferred retirement.

HE LIED!

And to you that's not wrong?

Tells us a lot about you!

Jason
Jason

Judge O'Neil in particular was not a happy camper with Alexander or Hawkins when that article was published. I also heard that Judge Donahoe was considering suing Alexander in her personal capacity over the article.

WhoKnows
WhoKnows

BTW Rachael and her family.  Like she said on the stand yesterday, people here think she really stupid.  The fat part is unknown, as she's always seated when he's in the bar hearings!

Ray Stern
Ray Stern

I won't pull a Hawkins. If you find something untruthful and/or inaccurate, please let me know so I can correct it.

Chris Ar
Chris Ar

Left said/right said. Seems like you want to believe something is fact when it's just one person's word.

Liberals seem to think anyone who says something that they don't like is a liar.

shadeaux14
shadeaux14

Say what you want about liberals but the UNDISPUTED fact is The corruption and incompetence running rampant in Az government is 100% conservative.

Guest
Guest

It's not he said/she said.

It's one documented retirement plan, backed up by a public witness versus -- what -- vapor.

He simply made up, from whole cloth, the claim that the judge was forced to resign.

No witnesses, no paperwork, nothing.

The judges retirement plan wasn't a secret. Lots of people around the courthouse knew it was in the works.

Not a single person, however, substantiates the resigning lie.

That is the essence of reporting - you get sources other than the voices in your head.

Conservatives like to think that just because someone disagrees with them it must be for some other reason than the simple, obvious fact that the conservative is wrong.

WhoKnows
WhoKnows

Seems you didn't watch the sworn testimony by MANY during the Thomas disbarment hearings!   Going through life stupid isn't good for you!

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