About 350 lawyers and onlookers gathered Monday in front of a downtown Phoenix courthouse to protest Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas filing criminal charges against Judge Gary Donahoe.
Thomas Ryan, a lawyer who served as a master of ceremonies for the noon-hour rally, said Thomas can expect more than just a public gathering.
Ryan said the attorneys who organized the rally intend to campaign statewide against Thomas if he runs for Attorney General and work with the State Bar of Arizona if any action is brought against the prosecutor.
“This is not the end,” said Ryan, whose brother is Tim Ryan, the second-highest ranking judge in Maricopa County.
Thomas filed charges against Donahoe, Maricopa County’s top criminal court judge, Dec. 9, alleging he accepted bribes from county management, the board of supervisors and two lawyers representing the board to stop an investigation into County Supervisor Don Stapley and the construction of a $340 million court tower.
Thomas also filed a federal racketeering lawsuit Dec. 1 alleging other judges were also in on the alleged cover-up.
Barnett Lotstein, a spokesman for the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office, said it was no surprise defense attorneys would sound off about Thomas, who he said has a reputation of being tough on crime.
“I’d be more concerned if defense attorneys were singing his praises,” Lotstein said.
Thomas has been feuding with the board since 2006 when he filed suit against it in a dispute over retaining private attorneys to represent the county in civil matters.
The feud intensified in December 2008 when Thomas indicted Stapley on allegations he didn’t disclose financial information he was required to as an elected official.
The court, and in certain instances, Donahoe, has ruled against Thomas in various lawsuits and criminal matters.
Donahoe ruled that Thomas cannot participate in the court-tower investigation.
Thomas claimed in the federal racketeering lawsuit that those rulings were to shield Stapley and others from scrutiny in exchange for their building the court tower.
“When Judge Gary Donahoe got charged it struck me that we had gone from political self-interest to dangerousness,” said James Belanger, an attorney who organized the rally.
Belanger, who represents Judge Kenneth Fields in the racketeering suit, said the “unfounded attack on the judiciary” will erode public confidence in the justice system.
Fields ruled in September to dismiss almost half of the charges against Stapley.
The Yavapai County Attorney dismissed the rest of the counts and is appealing Fields’ ruling.
Stapley was indicted again on Dec. 7 on allegations he used campaign funds for his personal gain. Fellow County
Supervisor Mary Rose Wilcox was indicted the same day in a separate corruption case.
At Monday’s rally, attorneys read aloud in unison the state’s oath of admission for lawyers.
Certain passages were in bold to illustrate which parts of the oath Thomas has broken.
The rally ended with them singing “America the Beautiful.”