PHOENIX --Pima County Judge John Leonardo on Wednesday dismissed an indictment against Maricopa County Supervisor Mary Rose Wilcox and disqualified the Maricopa County Attorney's Office from further investigating or prosecuting the case.
The judge said the MCAO may appoint a special prosecutor if it chooses to "relinquish total control of the investigation and prosecution."
The 40-count indictment against Wilcox was handed up last month, and included charges of perjury, forgery, false swearing and conflict of interest.
According to an earlier indictment, to which the new charges were added, Wilcox allegedly obtained three known loans from Chicanos Por La Causa, an organization that assists the disadvantaged.
Wilcox also allegedly voted on numerous contracts or grants involving Chicanos Por La Causa as a member of the board of supervisors, but she never filed any type of conflict of interest notice with the clerk of the board.
Wilcox has all along denied any accusations of wrongdoing.
According to the seven-page ruling Leonardo issued Wednesday, Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas had a conflict of interest when it came to exercising his prosecutorial discretion. The ruling included references to "his effort to retaliate again members of the MCBS [Maricopa County Board of Supervisors], including the defendant," and "his attempts to gain political advantage by prosecuting those who oppose him politically," and "his political alliance with the Maricopa County Sheriff who misused the power of his office to target members of the MCBS for criminal investigations."
The ruling goes on to state: "In this case, the motion to disqualify does not appear to have been made for purposes of harassment, and the defendant will be damaged if the motion is not granted given the MCA's demonstrated conflict of interests relative to the criminal prosecution of the Defendant. No alternative other than disqualification will resolve the problem ...."
Sheriff Joe Arpaio said, "We have conducted professional criminal investigations. We agree with the decision by the County Attorney and look forward to working with the newly appointed special prosecutors on these matters."
The County Attorney's Office released this statement, "We disagree with the court’s conclusion that our office has a conflict of interest and we will appeal that decision. We are encouraged that the court’s ruling authorizes the Maricopa County Attorney to appoint independent special prosecutors.
In accordance with that ruling we shall appoint special prosecutors to assume responsibility for the investigation of all matters relating to members of the Board of Supervisors and the Judiciary. This is what we have been seeking since the start of this investigation. However, the Board of Supervisors denied our repeated attempts to do so. Had they facilitated the appointment of special prosecutors this protracted legal process would not have been necessary. We have also requested that the Board of Supervisors call a special meeting Friday to facilitate the appointment.
We are dismissing the criminal complaint against Judge Donahoe and the second Stapley indictment without prejudice pending the outcome of the appeal of the court’s decision and the appointment of special prosecutors."