The former chief prosecutor for Arizona’s largest county, who has been disbarred for bringing baseless lawsuits and prosecutions against political enemies of the county’s high-profile sheriff, is not entitled to absolute immunity from a civil rights suit by one of his targets, the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Friday.
If the allegations of Donald Stapley Jr.’s complaint are true, Judge William Fletcher wrote, the civil suit filed by Andrew Thomas against Stapley under the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act “was not ‘analogous’ to a criminal prosecution,” but “was essentially a harassing public-relations ploy.”
Thomas was the elected Maricopa County attorney from 2005 to 2010, when he resigned to run for state attorney general. He lost that race, and last year was disbarred by the state Supreme Court for having “outrageously exploited power, flagrantly fostered fear, and disgracefully misused the law” by bringing unfounded and malicious criminal and civil charges against political opponents, including judges and county supervisors.
He announced months ago that he is going to run for governor next year.
Thomas is a longtime ally of Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, the self-proclaimed “Toughest Sheriff in America.”
Stapley is a former county supervisor, who criticized Arpaio and Thomas on numerous occasions regarding what he said was extravagant and unnecessary spending. Among other things, he criticized Thomas’ repeated use of expensive outside counsel, including Thomas’ former law firm.
In seeking damages under 42 U.S.C. Sec. 1983 and Arizona law, Stapley claims that the 2009 RICO suit was brought to retaliate for that criticism, as well as for cuts to Arpaio’s and Thomas’ budgets.
The RICO suit named Arpaio and Thomas as plaintiffs and Thomas and Lisa Aubuchon—a former deputy county attorney who was disbarred along with Thomas—as counsel. They named 14 defendants, among them county board members and state court judges.
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In an almost unprecedented turn of events and somewhat ironically, a local official in the State of California who represents the government in the prosecution of criminal offenses is now accused of criminal conduct.
Shown above is Mr. Jeff Reisig — an alleged “accomplice” to both a criminal and civil conspiracy who cooperated, jointly and severally, in the commission of two or more RICO activities (image: courtesy photo)
Court documents filed with the United States District Court for the District of Columbia reveal that the highly controversial District Attorney of Yolo County Jeff Reisig is accused of violating the Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act.
RICO is a federal law that authorizes a civil cause of action for acts performed as part of an ongoing criminal organization. RICO focuses specifically on racketeering, and it allows for the leaders of a syndicate to be held civilly liable for the crimes that they ordered others to commit or which they assisted in committing.
The lawsuit, filed as a civil-racketeering action by Marina Del Rey-based legal scholar Daniel Dydzak, alleges that Jeff Reisig and his deputies/investigators engaged in an “unlawful search and seizure” and that Mr. Reisig and State Bar of California employee Tom Layton (who according to sources is part of an ongoing “ambulance chasing” scheme the Girardi Syndicate operates in San Bernardino County vis-a-vis a satellite office located in San Bernardino and managed by Thomas Girardi’s son-in-law, David Lira) shared with third parties materials obtained during the search.
The suit further alleges that Reisig conspired to participate in a RICO enterprise, as well as participated in the commission of two or more racketeering activities acting as “accomplice.”