August 20, 2010

Ah, there's nothing like watching Bill O'Reilly bloviate on Fox News to get daily lessons in journalistic ethics -- lessons, that is, in how to rather nakedly discard ethics altogether.

On Wednesday, O'Reilly featured a segment on the Justice Department's threat to sue Sheriff Joe Arpaio over his refusal to cooperate with its investigation of his racial-profiling practices. (Naturally, the feds have so far punked out.)

To do this, he brought on a guest named Rachel Alexander, identified as a "former deputy attorney for Maricopa County, AZ" -- and that was it. Alexander then proceeded to assure O'Reilly that the DOJ's threats, as well as its investigation, were purely "political" -- though all she could point to was some coincidental timing around the SB1070 matter, which in fact only arose well after the DOJ began investigating Arpaio.

But what is unmentioned is that Alexander, when she worked for Maricopa County, was a well-known operative and shill for the DA, Andrew Thomas -- one of Arpaio's most prominent allies. (When Thomas stepped down to run for Arizona Attorney General, he left Arpaio exposed to potential investigation, but Alexander departed with him shortly. Nowadays she identifies herself as the "Director of Social Media" for the J.D. Hayworth campaign.)1

What is also unmentioned is that Alexander is under investigation, along with Thomas, for ethical violations while working for Maricopa County:

In March, Berch ordered an inquiry into Thomas' behavior after a Superior Court judge ruled that Thomas acted unethically in his prosecution of Maricopa County Supervisor Mary Rose Wilcox. The inquiry was prompted in part by the State Bar of Arizona, the semi-governmental agency that licenses and polices lawyers in the state.

The Bar asked that an outside investigator be appointed, and the court appointed Colorado attorney John Gleason.

The Arizona Supreme Court also appointed former Supreme Court Chief Justice Charles Jones as the "probable cause panelist," a judge of sorts.

Since then, several other complaints have been lodged against Thomas with the state Bar, including one by an association of defense attorneys.

Two of Thomas' former top prosecutors, Rachel Alexander and Lisa Aubuchon, also are under investigation. Alexander has since left the office, and Aubuchon is suspended with pay pending an internal investigation at the County Attorney's Office.

Thomas, Alexander and Aubuchon asked Jones to dismiss the complaints. Jones refused. On July 1, they filed their petitions for special action.

Some of this may have to do with Alexander's penchant for political cheerleading on the taxpayers' dime:

Rachel Alexander, the deputy county attorney now handling the Maricopa County Attorney's racketeering lawsuit against a host of county officials, was working out of Thomas' executive office as recently as mid-December, county records show.

Indeed, Alexander -- a conservative blogger and longtime Thomas supporter -- wasn't transferred to the MCAO's Major Crimes Unit until December 14. That's just one week before she became the attorney of record on the extremely complicated racketeering suit, in which Thomas accuses the county supervisors, some judges, and other elected officials, of being part of an elaborate criminal conspiracy.

The timing on that transfer is interesting because it confirms our theory -- posited on this blog yesterday -- that Alexander is an odd choice to be handling the RICO litigation. Thomas has basically staked his reputation on the idea that the county officials who oppose him are engaged in a massive (and bizarre) coverup so they can build their pet project. (According to the suit, the elected officials allegedly conspired to build a new county courthouse and thwart the county attorney from investigating it.)

But the lawsuit itself is a bizarre melange of unsubstantiated allegations and details that don't quite add up to anything. A veteran prosecutor would have a hell of a time advancing this case; a prosecutor with one week's experience in major crime is likely doomed.

We also learned another interesting thing about Alexander: She's supposed to be nonpolitical.

As we pointed out in our previous post, the blogger/neophyte crime fighter recently tweeted on behalf of her boss, county attorney Thomas, saying that he needed volunteers for his campaign for attorney general.

Interestingly, Alexander's most important role while working for Thomas was handling the aborted prosecutions of various county officials that eventually led the FBI's investigation of Arpaio for abuse of power -- a matter, as Alexander notes, entirely separate from the racial-profiling probe. Since she probably plays a significant role in the FBI investigation, it's pretty remarkable that she would even dare to publicly comment on it -- let alone castiage the Justice Department. But, considering that she's probably involved, it is entirely unsurprising.

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