Ethics panel disbars ex-Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas

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By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland

PHOENIX (AP) -- An Arizona ethics panel has disbarred Maricopa County's former top prosecutor for failed corruption investigations he and America's self-proclaimed toughest sheriff conducted, targeting officials who crossed them. 

The panel concluded former County Attorney Andrew Thomas broke professional rules of conduct for lawyers in bringing unfounded criminal charges against two county officials and a judge in December 2009.

“Today, corruption has won and justice has lost," Thomas said in an email to media outlets minutes after the panel announced its decision. "I brought corruption cases in good faith involving powerful people, and the political and legal establishment blatantly covered up and retaliated by targeting my law license.

"Arizona has some of the worst corruption in America, according to a recent national survey," Thomas continued in his email. "The political witch hunt that’s just ended makes things worse by sending a chilling message to prosecutors: Those who take on the powerful will lose their livelihood."

Lawyers pressing the case against Thomas say he and Arpaio investigated officials they were in political and legal disputes with.

Thomas and Arpaio have said they were working to fight corruption.

Arpaio does not face any punishments in the disciplinary case, but investigations by his anti-public corruption squad took center stage at hearings in the case.