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Ethics complaint filed against Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery

Posted at 3:19 PM, Sep 03, 2019
and last updated 2019-09-04 12:22:50-04

An ethics complaint filed Tuesday against Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery claims he violated State Bar of Arizona rules by failing to properly supervise embattled prosecutor Juan Martinez.

Martinez is a long-time prosecutor in the county attorney's office. He has been assigned to some of the county's most heinous murder cases, and he is nationally known for the Jodi Arias murder trial in 2013.

Martinez has faced several ethics complaints over the past five years. He is awaiting a disciplinary hearing on the most recent complaint, detailing conduct while he was prosecuting Jodi Arias and a pattern of sexual harassment of female staff within the county attorney's office.

The ethics complaint entails four ethics allegations against Bill Montgomery, who was first elected as county attorney in 2010.

It states that Montgomery violated ethics rules by allowing Martinez to write a book about the Jodi Arias case before her case was fully adjudicated. Arias' appeal is still pending.

The complaint says Montgomery failed to supervise Martinez as he allowed bloggers after-hours access to nonpublic areas of the county attorney's office. It also states that Montgomery, without legal basis, shielded MCAO's internal investigation of Martinez from the public, including failing to fulfill official public records requests for documents relating to the investigation.

Finally, while Martinez was engaging in a "pervasive pattern of misconduct," Montgomery improperly gave Martinez accolades, glowing performance evaluations, and raises over the past nine years, according to the complaint.

The complaint against Montgomery was filed by attorney Karen Clark, who represents Jodi Arias. Clark also filed an additional ethics complaint against Martinez Tuesday about additional alleged improprieties in publishing his book about the Arias case.

Montgomery is currently a finalist for appointment as an Arizona Supreme Court Justice.

According to the State Bar of Arizona website, bar counsel will "review the ethical allegations to determine whether an investigation is appropriate." If bar counsel decides to investigate, the lawyer will get a written notice and will be asked to submit a written response.

If the charge against a lawyer is found to violate the Rules of Professional Conduct, according to the bar's website, the lawyer may have to pay restitution, pay costs, receive an admonition, or receive probation, reprimand, a suspension, or disbarment.

The bar’s review of the accusations against Juan Martinez has been kept out of the public eye. County Attorney Montgomery asked for Martinez’s internal investigation file to be sealed by the judge presiding over the disciplinary case. According to a MCAO spokesperson, the office can not release those documents, even redacted, and once they are releasable they will do so.

It is unprecedented for a high profile case involving a public official to be conducted secretly. In 2012, when former County Attorney Andrew Thomas was disbarred by a three-judge panel of the Arizona Supreme Court, the entire procedure was televised. Local media organizations including ABC15 have been actively working to open the process in the Martinez case.

The State Bar of Arizona confirmed receipt of the complaint but declined to comment further.

Montgomery issued the following statement Tuesday night:

"Political agendas and special interests should not be allowed to have a place when it comes to the ethical responsibilities of a prosecutor. I await a full and timely review of these inaccurate claims that have been previously reviewed and found to be without merit."

Former Sen. Jon Kyl, R-AZ, also released a statement Tuesday in defense of Montgomery:

Bill Montgomery has spent his life serving this state and our nation honorably: a West Point graduate, a decorated gulf war Veteran, and a tireless advocate for the constitution and our justice system. I've worked with a lot of public servants over my 30-plus years in politics, and few have demonstrated the character and stature in public service that Bill has. Some say the timing of this complaint is suspicious, given that Bill is a candidate for the Arizona Supreme Court. I've been a supporter of his for that position, and still am. He would make an excellent addition to the Court.