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Wilcox awarded $975K in lawsuit vs Maricopa County

Mary Rose Wilcox, a Maricopa County Board of Supervisors member who had a criminal case brought against her by then-Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas, leaves the Arizona State Courts building after an ethics panel moved to disbar Thomas, Tuesday, April 10, 2012, in Phoenix. An Arizona ethics panel ruled to disbar Thomas, Maricopa County's former top prosecutor, for failed corruption investigations he and Sheriff Joe Arpaio, America's self-proclaimed toughest sheriff, conducted targeting officials with whom they were having political and legal disputes. The three-member disciplinary panel of the Arizona courts found that ex-County Attorney Andrew Thomas violated the professional rules of conduct for lawyers in bringing criminal charges against two county officials and a judge in December 2009. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

PHOENIX - A U.S. District Court judge awarded $975,000 dollars Friday to Maricopa County Supervisor Mary Rose Wilcox in her claim against Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio and former County Attorney Andrew Thomas.

The claim stems from allegations of abuse of power and prosecutions and lawsuits motivated more by politics than criminal behavior.

"This has been a long journey for Mary Rose [Wilcox]," said her attorney, Colin Campbell. "If you'll recall, she was indicted twice by the sheriff and by now-disbarred County Attorney Thomas. Both those indictments were dismissed. They charged her in a civil racketeering lawsuit. That action was dismissed."

Campbell said Wilcox believes she was targeted because she's opposed to Arpaio's immigration sweeps.

"It was always Mary Rose's position that these were retaliatory actions against her because she opposed the sheriff's immigration sweeps," he said. "She was maliciously prosecuted. The people who did it have been brought to justice and she received some compensation for the injuries she suffered."

The money will not come from Maricopa County's general budget, but a designated fund.

"Generally, when the county is sued or, you name it -- a car accident or someone's hurt somewhere or this kind of lawsuit -- it would be paid out of our risk management [fund]," said Carrie Gierchick with the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors. "It's not our general budget."

Former County Manager David Smith reached an agreement on the settlement amount last month based on legal and cost analysis by retired Judge Christopher Skelly.

Skelly acted as a mediator for the county and determined that Wilcox's settlement would be cheaper than litigating it in court.

A 2010 resolution approved by the supervisors gave Smith authority to negotiate settlements relating to legal claims in longstanding disputes between county officials and Arpaio and Thomas.

Arpaio and Thomas were also ordered to pay Wilcox's attorney fees.

Gierchick said five other county officials and employes who filed jointly in the same suit against the county are still awaiting a resolution.

Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.

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