The investigation into Maricopa County Supervisor Don Stapley is now in the hands of Washington, D.C., lawyers who have prosecuted assassins, spies and terrorists.
The law firm of diGenova and Toensing and local defense attorney David Eisenberg agreed Monday to serve as special independent deputy county attorneys to prosecute Stapley on the latest round of criminal allegations leveled against him.
The law firm, run by Joseph diGenova and his wife, Victoria Toensing, "will have total independence," said Barnett Lotstein, spokesman for the Maricopa County Attorney's Office.
"(The firm) comes in here with an absolutely clean slate," said Lotstein, referring to the conflict of interest allegations that have plagued a previous indictment of Stapley and subsequent investigations of him and the Board of Supervisors.
DiGenova was the U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia during the Reagan administration and supervised the prosecution of John W. Hinckley, the Colorado man who tried to kill President Ronald Reagan.
DiGenova also prosecuted former Washington, D.C., Mayor Marion Barry, and he oversaw the prosecution of Jonathan Pollard, who received a life sentence for selling military secrets to Israel while working as an intelligence analyst for the Navy.
Toensing served in the U.S. Department of Justice, established the Terrorism Unit and pursued terrorists responsible for airplane hijackings and the hijacking of the cruise ship Achille Lauro.
They will be paid $295 per hour for out-of-court fees and $475 per hour in court. They get $150 per hour in travel time.
Eisenberg is a Phoenix defense attorney with ties to the couple, Lotstein said.
He will be the attorney doing the work locally, and diGenova and Toensing will be the decision makers. Eisenberg will get $250 an hour.
Stapley's attorney, Paul Charlton, said the choice of the Washington law firm gave him pause, especially since it was his understanding from Yavapai County Attorney Sheila Polk that her office would handle the new allegations.
"I am concerned at how we arrived here," Charlton said.
Charlton defended Stapley against a 118-count indictment alleging he did not disclose financial information he was required to as an elected official.
Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas turned the prosecution of that case over to Yavapai County, which then hired a special prosecutor to handle it because it was too big for the office's limited resources.
Thomas, who also serves as the Board of Supervisors' civil attorney, said he turned over the case to Yavapai County to quell allegations that he had a conflict of interest in prosecuting a county supervisor.
A Maricopa County judge dismissed almost half of the allegations in August, and Melvin Bowers, the special prosecutor for Yavapai, dismissed the rest last month so he could appeal the judge's decision.
Three days after Bowers asked for the dismissal, the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office arrested Stapley again on suspicion of 100 new charges related to campaign finance, theft and fraud.
The Mesa Republican was released on his own recognizance, and criminal charges were put on hold until a prosecutor could be found to take the case.
Dennis McGrane, chief deputy Yavapai County attorney, said Monday his office was prepared to take over the new case, but the office was going to hire a special prosecutor to handle it, just like with the previous case.
Lotstein said he doesn't expect the new case to be a repeat of the last time the Maricopa County Attorney's Office hired a special prosecutor with total independence.
That case ended with the Phoenix New Times, a Valley weekly newspaper, suing the Maricopa County Attorney's Office over a botched investigation. Private attorney Dennis Wilenchik was hired for the sole purpose of investigating and possibly bringing criminal charges against New Times.
The Maricopa County Sheriff's Office arrested the paper's two executives after they published a story revealing that Wilenchik was conducting a secret grand jury investigation of the newspaper.
New Times had been accused of breaking an obscure state law by publishing Sheriff Joe Arpaio's home address on its Web site.
Thomas fired Wilenchik, saying the investigation "has gone in a direction that I would not have authorized."
Lotstein said the Washington lawyers are experienced in white collar crime and sensitive public corruption investigations, whereas Wilenchik wasn't.