A Tempe judge’s e-mail has landed him on a list of people the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office believes have credibility problems in court.
Tempe West Justice of the Peace Victor "Mike" Wilkins made the "Brady List" last year after the state’s judicial watchdog commission secretly sanctioned him for the email, mistreating a Tempe police officer and his unwillingness to read a search warrant before signing it, according to records obtained by the Tribune.
In the November 2002 email, Wilkins told a Tempe police commander after signing a search warrant that "I can’t find probable cause and don’t know even what crime is being investigated."
Probable cause is the standard of proof required to search someone’s property.
The e-mail compromised the warrant’s validity, prompting the county attorney to drop prosecution of two suspects in a major fraudulent-identification scheme, said Paul Ahler, chief deputy of the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office.
The Tempe Police Department, which pointed out the problem to the county attorney, quit using Wilkins for warrants for a while, but resumed mostly out of need and convenience, Sgt. Dan Masters said.
The county attorney’s office filed a complaint with the Commission on Judicial Conduct, which reprimanded Wilkins in April 2003.
The county attorney’s office also placed him on the Brady List. The list contains about 50 Valley police officers whose truthfulness, bias and traits are considered questionable. The name refers to a 1963 U.S. Supreme Court decision that requires the state to disclose any evidence that is favorable to the defendant.
Now, for criminal cases in which Wilkins signed a search warrant, prosecutors are required to analyze whether the issue will affect their cases and file extra paperwork with Superior Court judges.
From July 2003 until March, 177 warrants have been issued out of the West Tempe justice court, according to court records.
Wilkins did not respond to two interview requests left on his office voice mail. Wilkins’ lawyer, Rodney G. Johnson, said in written statements to the commission that it was not the judge’s intent to communicate to the police commander that the warrant was issued without probable cause.
E. Keith Stott, executive director of the commission, said a reprimand is given for conduct that is unacceptable or improper, but not serious enough to warrant removal proceedings.