Bill Montgomery Wants Peter Spaw, a Disgraced, High-Ranking Deputy County Attorney Who Admits to Severe Violation of Legal Duties, to Get Off Easy

spaw peter crop.jpg
Peter Spaw could get off easier than the subordinate he supervised in the Maricopa County scandal that also led to the disbarment of former County Attorney Andrew Thomas.
Bill Montgomery, Maricopa County Attorney, is showing his preference for Andrew Thomas-style ethics by pushing for a lenient punishment for Peter Spaw, one of his high-ranking deputy attorneys.

Spaw admitted yesterday in an agreement with the state Supreme Court that he committed "conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice," filing a case that had no merit, incompetent lawyering and neglecting his duties as a supervisor.

Montgomery, through his spokesman Jerry Cobb, refused comment to the Phoenix New Times on Friday about the admission of responsibility by Spaw, the head of Montgomery's Asset Recovery Bureau. Montgomery preferred instead to give a short statement to Michelle Ye Hee Lee of the Arizona Republic, saying he thought Spaw's desire to avoid suspension of his law license in the proposal was "appropriate."

Really, there's nothing "appropriate" about the proposal, which would put Spaw's law license on probation for two years.

If approved, it would mean essentially no discipline for Spaw for the unethical acts that last year brought severe legal punishment down on his subordinate, Rachel Alexander.

See also: Peter Spaw, High-Ranking Deputy County Attorney, Admits He Violated Legal Duties in Bogus Racketeering Suit; Bill Montgomery Isn't Saying a Word

Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery -- does he believe Rachel Alexander got a raw deal?
It would seem that Montgomery either doesn't believe Alexander deserved her punishment, or that supervisors should get off easier than their subordinates when they commit the same violations.

Logically, William O'Neil, the state Supreme Court's Disciplinary Judge, should reject Spaw's proposal -- and Montgomery's desire -- to let Spaw get off easy.

As part of Spaw's newly filed admission and proposal to get two years' probation of his law license and pay a fine of $17.059.55, Spaw confesses that he was derelict in his duties to supervise Alexander, the acolyte of former County Attorney Andrew Thomas.

Last April, a three-member disciplinary panel of the state's High Court, which included O'Neil, ordered Alexander's law license suspended for six months and a day, a punishment from which it's difficult to ever recover. Alexander has since moved to Washington state, where we caught her begging for change from readers of her conservative blog in order to pay her veterinary bills.

Thomas, the reckless prosecutor who teamed up with Sheriff Joe Arpaio to abuse the rights of county officials, judges and lawyers, was disbarred. Lisa Aubuchon, his go-to partner in the scheme -- which involved violating statute of limitations rules, perjury and filing criminal and civil cases with no probable cause -- was also disbarred. Aubuchon's appealing the decision.

oneil william crop 1.JPG
William O'Neil, Arizona Supreme Court Disciplinary Judge, still has to approve the agreement between Spaw and the Arizona State Bar. O'Neil's the same judge who decided Spaw's subordinate, Rachel Alexander, deserved suspension of her law license for essentially the same things of which Spaw's accused.
Back in late 2009, Arpaio and Thomas held a news conference that we attended in which they announced a racketeering lawsuit against all five members of the Board of Supervisors, several county judges, county officials and some local lawyers. As we flipped through it, we were nearly overwhelmed by the stench of politics, bad logic, vague conspiratorial allegations and an absolute lack of any clear evidence of potential wrongdoing.

When we and other members of the news media asked Thomas to explain several aspects of the lawsuit, Thomas lied, saying it was self-explanatory.

Aubuchon was handling the case originally for Thomas. He had her hand it off to Alexander in a half-assed attempt to hide his office's glaring conflict of interest; Thomas was also pursuing, with Aubuchon's help, criminal cases against some of the same subjects in the civil racketeering case.

Alexander, who apparently spent much of her time at the county attorney's office writing pro-Thomas blog posts, pursued the bogus case with vigor and tailored an amended complaint -- with Spaw's help and supervision.

Spaw admits now that he helped with the case despite knowing it was garbage.


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40 comments
MaskedMagician1967
MaskedMagician1967 topcommenter

So let's see...

MontyPug refused to say anything when the MCSO shurf ignored 432 sex crimes against children.

Then he remains silent when one of his lawyers admits to violating his ethics despite knowing his predecessor was disbarred for the same thing.

But MontyPug enforces Prop. 100, which gives him the appearance of racially biased against Hispanics/Latinos.

I wonder what MontyPug's legacy is gonna be when he decides not to run for public office again? That he ignored crime victims in order to further his political career?

Eric Marshall
Eric Marshall

so, we have a prosecutor who admits he helped fabricate charges against judges still employed at MCAO..and we are supposed to trust he wont do something as bad or worse in the future?? yea, i have faith in our justice system here in Phx..pft

david_saint01
david_saint01

once again Monty shows hes a joke and a shame to West Point. "i wont be some lap dog"..lol yea, youve done a bang up job of convincing us of that thus far Monty

robert_graham
robert_graham

hey just shutup!  Let's talk about Eric Holder, how despicable he is. he is one of the biggest racists alive today but did I hear any outrage over him? Holder has violated eevry one of his legal duties.

eric.nelson745
eric.nelson745 topcommenter

Let him get off easy? Oh, hell no. If he was an instigator along with Thomas and Aubuchon, he deserves similar punishment. He admitted that he was a part of the conspiracy. He's not a good guy. He is clearly a bad guy.

lancechendrickson
lancechendrickson

There might be another possibility.  Maybe Spaw ratted, maybe all the players know it, and maybe probation was the agreed-upon non-sanction that keeps the Arpaioistas from knowing who really blew the whistle (or, at least one important whistle)?  Just wondering...

Cozz
Cozz

The Power Of The Prosecutor

By Radley Balko

The death of Internet activist Aaron Swartz has generated a lot of discussion about the power of prosecutors -- particularly federal prosecutors. This is a good thing. The conversation is long overdue. But the discussion needs to go well beyond Swartz and the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act.

Prosecutors have enormous power. Even investigations that don't result in any charges can ruin lives, ruin reputations, and drive their targets into bankruptcy. It has become an overtly political position -- in general, but particularly at the federal level. If a prosecutor wants to ruin your life, he or she can. Even if you've done nothing wrong, there isn't a whole lot you can do about it.

There are a number of factors that got us here, and it's worth looking at them in turn.

We have too many laws.

There have been a number of projects that attempted to count the total number of federal criminal laws. They usually give up. The federal criminal code is just too complex, too convoluted, and too weighted down with duplications, overlapping laws, and other complications to come to a definite number. But by most estimates, there are at least 4,000 separate criminal laws at the federal level, with another 10,000 to 300,000 regulations that can be enforced criminally. Just this year 400 new federal laws took effect, as did 29,000 new state laws. The civil libertarian and defense attorney Harvey Silverglate has argued that most Americans now unknowingly now commit about three felonies per day.

But you, citizen, are expected to know and comply with all of these laws. That isn't possible, of course. It would probably take you most of the year to understand them all, at which point you'd have the next year's batch of new laws to learn. You'd probably also need to hire a team of attorneys to help you translate the laws into terms you can understand. After the McCain-Feingold legislation passed in 2003, for example, both parties held weekly, three-hour classes just to educate members of Congress on how to comply with the bill they had just passed. This is a bill they wrote that applied to themselves, and they still had to bring in high-paid lawyers explain to them how not to break it.

Most of us don't have that option. And it's absurd that someone should have to hire an attorney or tax accountant merely to pay their taxes, run a business, run for office, or start a political organization without fear of getting hit with exorbitant fines, or going to jail.

Worse, while we citizens can go to prison for unwittingly breaking laws of which we weren't aware, prosecutors and law enforcement officers who wrongly arrest, charge, and try citizens based on a misunderstanding of the law generally face no sanction or repercussions. Under the doctrine of qualified immunity, a police officer who illegally arrests someone because he wasn't aware of the law can only be held liable if the law in question was "clearly established" at the time he violated it. Prosecutors are protected by absolute immunity, which basically shields them from liability no matter how egregious their mistakes.

We need to move away from the idea that every act we find immoral, repugnant, or unsavory needs to be criminalized. Every new criminal law gives prosecutors more power. Once we have so many laws that it's likely we're all breaking at least one of them, the prosecutor's job is no longer about enforcing the laws, but about choosing which laws to enforce. It's then a short slide to the next step: Choosing what people need to be made into criminals, then simply picking the laws necessary to make that happen.

Cozz
Cozz

Continued:

The laws are too vaguely and broadly written.

Federal laws on matters like conspiracy, racketeering, wiretapping, mail fraud, and money laundering gives prosecutors enormous discretion and leeway. Likewise for many of the post-9/11 laws that address giving aid to designated terrorist organizations, the notoriously awful Honest Services Fraud law (which the Supreme Court narrowed in 2009), and of course the CFAA.

There has also been a trend over the last 20 years or so toward laws that don't require prosecutors to show criminal intent. This means you can be prosecuted for crimes you had no idea you were breaking -- even laws you actively tried not to break. A 2010 study co-authored by the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers and the Heritage Foundation found that in its rush to criminalize more and more behavior, Congress has been passing poorly-drafted laws that increasingly lack any requirement at all to show intent. Even when intent is included, the study found, it tends to be vague and open to interpretation (which also means open to abuse) by prosecutors.

At the state and local level, laws against "public nuisance," "disorderly conduct," and "keeping a disorderly house" also typically give law enforcement and prosecutors wide discretion.

Take all of that with the massive total number of laws, and you get a system ripe for abuse. If a prosecutor has it out for you, he can probably find a law he can plausibly argue you've broken. Even if you're acquitted -- in fact, even if the charge is dropped, or if you're investigated but never charged -- you don't get compensated for the time, stress, and expense the whole affair cost you. In federal cases you're supposed to at least be reimbursed for you legal expenses, but that doesn't appear to happen much, either.

Prosecutors have perverse incentives.

At the state level, prosecutors are reelected, move on to higher office, or win prestigious jobs at high-powered law firms for racking up large numbers of convictions -- and for getting high-profile convictions. They're rarely publicly praised or rewarded for declining to prosecute someone in the interest of justice. I'm sure it happens. But it isn't the sort of thing even a well-intentioned prosecutor is going to boast about in a press release.

USA Today recently found that federal prosecutors who commit misconduct en route to wrongful convictions are rarely if ever sanctioned. Other studies have come to similar conclusions about state prosecutors. Often, prosecutors aren't even named in appeals court decisions that overturn convictions due to misconduct. And there's of course the aforementioned absolute immunity, an absurd bubble of protection afforded only to prosecutors and judges that the Supreme Court basically cooked up from scratch.

It isn't difficult to see how we might get unjust outcomes when incentive points toward building an impressive volume of convictions, and seeking out high-profile, publicity-seeking cases that tend to me more driven by politics than justice, while there's rarely penalty for breaking the rules or going too far.


Protections have morphed into weapons.

Grand juries, intended and once used to protect people from the excesses of prosecutors, are today used by prosecutors to harass and intimidate. I wrote about one example a few years ago when Assistant U.S. Attorney used a grand jury investigation to silence pain patient advocate Siobhan Reynolds, who had been criticizing the office's prosecution of doctors. Plea bargaining is often seen as a tool that lets guilty people get off with less punishment than they deserve by pleading to lesser crimes. But too often, it too is used as a weapon. Thanks to the overlapping and duplicitous laws, prosecutors can stack charges to build enormously long potential sentences. This happened with Swartz. The threat of decades in prison can then make pleading to a lesser charge and lesser time enticing, even to an innocent person. This is an everyday thing, but the problem was put on wide display during the scandals in Tulia and Hearne, Texas, where dozens of people pleaded guilty to crimes they didn't commit.

Bringing the hammer down.

The federal government in particular seems to be getting less tolerant of challenges to its authority, and more willing to use more force and more serious charges to make an example of people who defy the law. You see this with the ridiculously disproportionate SWAT raids on medical marijuana dispensaries. No one seriously believes the people running these businesses are a threat to federal law enforcement officers. Sending the SWAT team is about sending a message. The government is sending a similar message when it conducts heavy handed raids on farmers and co-ops that sell raw dairy products, or when it sends paramilitary teams to raid the offices of doctors suspected of over-prescribing prescription painkillers. You see it when the feds throw the book at suspected copyright violators, or at the executives of online poker sites, threatening decades in prison. The goal in these cases isn't to stop and punish someone who is a serious threat to other people. It's to send a message to the rest of us: Defy the government as this person did, and here is what will happen to you.

Cozz
Cozz

Continued:

The politicization of criminality.

When everyone is breaking the law, it becomes rather easy to use the law as a political weapon. We saw this during the Bush administration with a number of targeted prosecutions aimed at prominent members of the other party, or at "sending a message" of some kind. And of course the law and order instinct toward more power for cops and prosecutors has long been more associated with conservatives.

But the left is guilty, too. The rush to publicly convict George Zimmerman for killing Trayvon Martin resulted in an indictment that most defense attorneys have since characterized as absurdly overreaching and aggressive. Yet outside of legal commentators and pundits, most on the left seemed to be okay with it. There have also been credible accusations of prosecutorial misconduct that have received little coverage outside the conservative media (which itself seems suddenly interested in protecting the rights of the accused). When Elliott Spitzer was trouncing the constitution with aggressive tactics in his pursuit of corporate bigwigs, he was largely cheered by progressives and editorial boards who are traditionally more supportive of the rights of the accused. When the Heritage Foundation first undertook its overcriminalization project, the progressive organization Media Matters actually mocked the conservative think tank for being soft on crime.

Too often, criticism of prosecutorial excesses isn't framed as this should never happen, but why isn't this happening to the people I don't like? Until that changes -- until partisans are willing to condemn abuses even by their own, or committed against their political opponents or people they personally find unsavory -- the problem is only going to get worse.


I'd suggest all of these factors (and probably a few I haven't thought of) have increasingly made us a nation ruled not by laws, but by politics (and by aspiring politicians). And once criminality is influenced primarily by politics, we're all just potential criminals.

MaskedMagician1967
MaskedMagician1967 topcommenter

I can't wait to see how this latest round of bullshit factors in to all the lawsuits that were filed against these miscreants.

Cozz
Cozz

I read shit like this and it just makes me puke, LOL

Here's a guy who works for the Maricopa County Attorneys office, goes after people and knows he has no proof, cost the people he went after hundred's of thousands of dollars to defend themselves, tarnished reputations, stress and all kinds of anxiety…Not to mention what it cost the Maricopa County tax payers to defend this bullshit…

…and Montgomery thinks 2 years probation by the Arizona Bar is to much on his law license. Are you fucking serious Montgomery ?...you fucking puke !

I accidentally discharged a firearm during the course of saving someone's life and I am a felon, and trying to get the assholes in Robes to set it aside is totally ridiculous, and my situation was deemed non dangerous by the courts.

This is so in your face corrupt its sickening. Arizona Justice, BULLSHIT !

There's not such thing as honor in the Arizona justice system. Not with these slimballs anyway.

Cozz
Cozz

Like I've said before, the Maricopa County Attorney's office are bigger criminals than most of those they put in jail.

Total scumbags that are suppose to represent the law and are the first ones to break it over and over again with immunity.

Nothing but slimeballs representing the justice system.

MaskedMagician1967
MaskedMagician1967 topcommenter

MontyPug does owe the county an explanation for this latest round of MCAO bullshit.

MaskedMagician1967
MaskedMagician1967 topcommenter

lol Spaw should have been one of the defendants during the Thomas/Aubuchon/Alexander ethics trial.

Alexander should use this admission in her 'appeal'. It proves she was right.

david_saint01
david_saint01

@JoeArpaioFan for someone that claims to support the law so much, you sure do spend quite a bit of time defending people that break it...

sliperymike
sliperymike

@JoeArpaioFan go back to standing in line for your welfare check, like most other unemployed/disabled teabaggers!!!

maybe learning a trade that will make you money,so you don't have to prostitute yerself in this manner.giddy-up!

MaskedMagician1967
MaskedMagician1967 topcommenter

@JoeArpaioFan

Jaffy, we're not talking about Holder. We're discussing MontyPug, the MCAO under MontyPug, and this latest round of MCAO bullshit. Feel free to join us when you resume taking your meds.

MaskedMagician1967
MaskedMagician1967 topcommenter

@Cozz

I'm reminded of this quote by the Reverend Martin Luther King: "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere."

Dr. King must be rolling over in his mausoleum at this latest round of MCAO bullshit.

Cozz
Cozz

Oh, and what do they do 12 years later to continue to fuck with me, they make my case "Historically Significant:...LOL.


There is no such thing as conscience with these assholes.

They drive you to the point of hate.

May they rot in Hell !

Cozz
Cozz

@truthseekeraz  

Nobody would ever believe the corruption that is allowed to happen here.

MaskedMagician1967
MaskedMagician1967 topcommenter

@truthseekeraz @Cozz

I thought MontyPug would be different than Candy Andy. I was wrong.

Cozz
Cozz

@truthseekeraz

I am a victim of their bullshit and it sucks. There is no justice here, just bullshit riddled with politics that in they're wrapped mind they call justice that reward the corrupt and fuck the rest.

MaskedMagician1967
MaskedMagician1967 topcommenter

@truthseekeraz @MaskedMagician1967

Sadly you're right. I still think MontyPug owes the county a full explanation and I think MontyPug should be the next recall target.

Cozz
Cozz

@truthseekeraz

Yea, and it's time they do. Badges, Titles and Black Robes sure don't make them honorable.

MaskedMagician1967
MaskedMagician1967 topcommenter

@Cozz @MaskedMagician1967

No surprise there. Jaffy proves that each and every time he opens his mouth and spews his delusional rants and bullshit.

MaskedMagician1967
MaskedMagician1967 topcommenter

@Cozz @MaskedMagician1967

The last honorable politician was TR in 1901. I considered running for the state House. I just didn't wanna be a puke like the fools we have "representing" us.

Cozz
Cozz

@MaskedMagician1967  

Trust me, when I look back on all the things I could have done in life, becoming a politician and  committing all the crimes I want with immunity may have been a great option...


But then I would have had to be a dishonorable puke like the rest of them.

MaskedMagician1967
MaskedMagician1967 topcommenter

@Cozz @sliperymike

Cozz, you would control how much money the jails and prisons get. Plus you'd have legislative immunity...

Cozz
Cozz

@sliperymike

I couldn't deal with these corrupt assholes on a daily basis, I'd go to jail for sure for assault.

Cozz
Cozz

@truthseekeraz  

I totally agree. They use the law to hide behind the corruption they represent and if that isn't enough, they have as you say, absolute immunity. They can fuck anyone they want, anytime they want and never be held accountable and they call it justice.


Total bullshit that isn't hard to see.

MaskedMagician1967
MaskedMagician1967 topcommenter

@Cozz @MaskedMagician1967

MontyPug should be recalled. Then booted from office.

Cozz
Cozz

@MaskedMagician1967  

I knew MontePug was no better than Thomas as soon as Bozo Joe endorsed him. I knew right then all we had was another Thomas.

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