When news of his arrest hit the papers, it was a different time. It was only about three months ago, but a lot has happened during those three months. And Phoenix criminal defense lawyer David DeCosta, those were probably the longest three of his life.
Matt Brown was the first to post about DeCosta’s arrest for bringing drugs into the prison, allegedly to give them to his “Mexican Mafia” client. As we now know, they like using descriptions like “Mexican Mafia” around Maricopa County. It makes them sound particularly evil and menacing. And foreign. The Mexican part is more damning than the Mafia part.
Matt, a young but tough criminal defense lawyer, got ripped by fellow criminal defense lawyers for posting about DeCosta’s arrest. He was slammed hard for not writing about how DeCosta was innocent, how the allegations were lies, how he relied on a report from the Arizona Republic rather than investigate all the facts on his own. Mind you, none of his detractors provided comments showing the merit of their claims. Their only purpose was to go after Matt for commenting on a story in the paper, one that was quite similar to another criminal defense lawyer, Jason Keller, who had pleaded guilty to the crime.
But the poor showing by the locals in their attacks on Matt opened another door, one that spread nearly viral across the internet, about how the rest of us didn’t grasp just how bad Sheriff Joe Arpaio was. While we knew about Crazy Joe, they were right. We didn’t grasp the depth of the problem. On the other hand, they didn’t grasp the depth of their misdirected anger. Without this level of anger, however, there’s a good chance that the situation in Maricopa County would not have had the staying power to grab and hold the attention of so many blawgers and others across the country. Silver lining to the cloud.
After that, there’s been the Adam Stoddard debacle. The Judge Donahoe indictment. The lawyer rally and the federal grand jury investigation of Crazy Joe and more. It’s been a very busy few months in Maricopa County.
And now the Arizona Republic reports that charges against Phoenix criminal defense lawyer, David DeCosta, have been dismissed.
Charges were dropped Monday against a defense attorney accused of trying to smuggle drugs to a jail inmate believed to be affiliated with the Mexican Mafia prison gang.Ignore the end of the last sentence, reflecting mere poor reporting and a dumb as dirt reporter who doesn’t understand that cases dismissed before jeopardy attaches are inherently “without prejudice,” not because there’s any expectation that new evidence might emerge. It was a gratuitous, and dopey, inclusion that marred an otherwise triumphant report.
David DeCosta, 43, was charged with promoting prison contraband, conspiracy to promote prison contraband, two drug counts and assisting a criminal street gang after a Maricopa County Sheriff’s deputy claimed he caught him trying to pass drugs stapled inside a legal pad to a client he was representing in a court hearing.
To avoid the appearance of conflict of interest, the case was prosecuted by the Pinal County Attorney’s Office before Navajo County Superior Court Judge Thomas Wing.
According to a spokesman for the Pinal County Attorney’s Office, the charges were dropped without prejudice for lack of evidence, which means they can be filed again if further evidence emerges.
Lack of evidence means that they can’t even manufacture a case against DeCosta. No doubt Maricopa County Attorney Andy Thomas would have done everything in his power to make sure that the charges stuck. It may have helped that the case was prosecuted by the Pinal County prosecutor, as the surrounding counties appear to have had enough of the Maricopa craziness. They aren’t inclined to be party to Crazy Joe and his pet Andy’s rampant impropriety these days.
The nightmare is over for David DeCosta. But dismissal isn’t enough. The charges smeared him, and it was wrong that his name should ever be associated with the crime for which he was accused. He committed no crime. He did nothing wrong, except maybe his job too well. In Maricopa County, defending those accused of crimes is an offense against Arpaio. Of these, DeCosta is guilty.
It would be foolish to suggest that things have righted themselves in Maricopa County. There’s still an enormous amount to do before anything close to that can be said. But one thing is now righted, and that’s the vindication of David DeCosta. While it’s small comfort to DeCosta, his arrest started a ball rolling that may lead to the end of Crazy Joe’s reign of terror on Maricopa County.
To the extent that the blawgosphere spread word of the false charges against DeCosta and contributed to the pain he endured, the very least I can do is spread the word of his innocence as clearly and loudly. Criminal defense lawyer David DeCosta is innocent of all charges and was wrongly accused. If this overstates the significance of dismissal, that’s fine with me. It’s far easier to allege a crime and wrongly smear someone than unsmear the innocent.