He has practiced law in Arizona for 41 years. His public service includes three years with Arizona State Senate; time as special assistant to the mayor of Phoenix; chief assistant, chief deputy and special counsel for southern Arizona as part of the Arizona Attorney General’s Office; and has been the Pinal County attorney since 2007.
He is also a member of the Arizona Prosecuting Attorneys Advisory Council, the Board of the National District Attorneys Association and the Arizona Auto Theft Authority.
Mr. Voyles has a Bachelor of Arts degree in philosophy from Brigham Young University and a Juris Doctorate from William Mitchell College of Law. He was a major crimes prosecutor for Maricopa County until leaving to run for office after nine years. He also serves on the board of directors for the Maricopa Police Foundation.
Mr. Walsh thinks he’s already proven he’s the best man for the job.
“It’s all about being a leader and getting people to do what needs to be done,” he said. “I like this job very much, and I think that I’ve proved that I’m qualified to do it. I can’t say the same about my opponent.”
Mr. Walsh has been county attorney since 2007 when he was appointed after the county attorney at the time retired.
In his time in office, he has helped implement policies that have helped the people living in his county, Mr. Walsh said.
“ We’ve made some great strides in the past four or five years with the things we’ve been able to do. Sure, there are some areas we need to work on, but we’ve already made efforts to correct them,” he said.
One of these areas is taking unused prescription and novelty drugs off the streets.
Novelty drugs are sold as conventional products, but have intoxicating effects when consumed. These substances are often sold as bath salts and incenses. Mr. Walsh believes that while they may be labeled as one thing, their manufacturers know that they are being used as drugs.
Mr. Walsh is the chairman of the Pinal County Substance Abuse Council, and has helped the Arizona Criminal Justice Commission create a prescription drug initiative that should launch before the end of 2012, he said.
“ These things are poison as far as I’m concerned,” Mr. Walsh said. “My office has been working very closely with ACJA and other drug enforcement agencies. We’re ready to get into this entire prescription drug issue.” Mr. Walsh believes that Mr. Voyles lacks the experience to lead the county attorney’s office.
“My opponent brags about being a prosecutor and trying felony cases, but I’m sorry to tell him, that’s not what the job is. If that’s all you’ve done your entire career, then you’re going to be totally lost when you first walk into the office and try to lead 150 people to achieve our goals,” he said in a phone interview. “I don’t see anything about his background that shows he’s even supervised two people, much less an office as large as this one. Being a leader is not something everyone is born with. It takes a lot of on the job training. Luckily, I’ve had some great mentors along the way that have helped me.”
He said that what he’s done during his time as county attorney proves he is more qualified than Mr. Voyles.
“I’m a known leader. Not only was I a leader in the attorney general’s office, but during five years as county attorney, we’ve increased prosecution of serious crimes, provided good services to victims, and done a great job in collecting child support. These are all just part of what the office does. A good county attorney office needs to do many different things well,” he said. “It takes an ability to find a capacity within the office to do something, and do it better. But what you really need to do is be an inspiration to the people around you, so that they can go and do it. You may have to work a little hard and a little smarter to do these things, but in the end you’ll get a better result. And that’s something [the Attorney’s office] has been able to do with my leadership.”
On the other hand, Mr. Voyles thinks his time as a prosecutor makes him more than qualified for the job. In fact, he questioned if Mr. Walsh’s skills as a prosecutor are enough for the job if he never uses them, he said.
If Mr. Voyles wins the election, he will spend much of his time trying cases himself, he said. He believes this will keep his skills sharp, and will allow him to lead the rest of the office by example.
“ Why the person in that office is not trying to prosecute cases when 90 percent of his work is prosecution? That’s because he’s never prosecuted his own case load. He doesn’t have the understanding that if you implement a policy and set expectations but never show your employees how to reach those expectations, you’re never going to solve any kind of crime problem,” he said in a phone interview. “A leader needs to lead from the front, and James Walsh doesn’t do that. He also doesn’t have the skills to do this because he’s never prosecuted his own cases. There is no way his employees would ever be able to do what he is asking of them. With about 44 attorneys in the office, some of the responsibilities are administrative, but in part you need to try cases and be shoulder to shoulder with these guys that I plan to lead.”
Mr. Voyles thinks not prosecuting cases personally is just one of the bad policies the county attorney’s office holds, he said. Another failure of the office is that it is too lax with violent felons, he said.
According to Mr. Voyles, about 61 percent of all cases tried and won by the county attorney’s office that should have mandatory prison terms cases are being sentenced without them. These types of crimes are typically violent felonies such as aggravated assault or assault with a deadly weapon.
Based on the specifics of the case, a prosecutor can choose to file for requirements that force the judge to include prison time when sentencing, but this power isn’t being used much, Mr. Voyles said. “Let’s say that a defense attorney is trying to get probation for his client that has shot at a cop. They could say ‘if you don’t give my client probation, I’m going to mention in the press that there was a case just like this where the defendant did get probation,’” Mr. Voyles said.
He believes that this has happened in the county’s office on several occasions, and he believes that the prosecutors in the office often give in to these tactics.
These statistics were generated by Mr. Voyles personally. He claims to have gone through each case won by the office in 2010 and 2011, and picked out those that qualify for these mandatory prison times. Out of these, 61 percent of all cases tried and won by the county attorney’s office in that time frame were given probation.
“I’ve looked at every single case from 2011. The only cases I’ve counted when I was researching these statistics were those cases charged with crimes that have mandatory prison time. What I found was that most of these cases were getting paroled,” he said.
Mr. Walsh greatly doubts the claim that his office is releasing 61 percent of violent criminals, calling the statistic “a political bluff.”
“No one has double checked it. He claims to have done the research, but when I asked him for the names of the cases, he asked me to sit down with him. Why would I do that for? Obviously, he’s hand picked out what he wants to already,” he said. “I think he’s off base there, and I think the people of Pinal County are not easily fooled by it. I don’t think he’s given us, or the people of Pinal Coutny, very much information about what this 61 percent is all about. I’m honestly not sure where he is getting these numbers, and I’m not doubting him when he said he did all this research, but I’m just not sure that he did it very well because he didn’t get the right answers.”
Mr. Walsh has some statistics of his own. He said that since he came into the office in 2007, violent crime has fallen more that 30 percent in Pinal County.
“How could we be letting violent criminals go when the crime rate has been falling steadily …. The numbers don’t add up,” he said. “ We are sending more people to prison in Pinal County than at any other time, so I think it’s just one of those things you see in a political campaigning, and the bottom line is that it’s just not true.”
Mr. Voyles thinks that his statistics are solid, and has given his opponent plenty of chances to double check his research, he said.
“It’s funny that he doesn’t have the correct information because I’ve given him the chance to sit down with me and see these cases,” he said. “I spoke with Mr. Walsh a few weeks ago at a forum in Casa Grande. I asked him, ‘Jim, would you take time to sit with me and go over some of these cases?’ I had the entire packet of 2010 and 2011 cases under my arm at the time. I told him, ‘if it turns out I’m wrong, I’ll recant this claim.’ He said, ‘I don’t have time for that. I’ve got an office to run.’ Hopefully once January first comes around, he won’t have to worry about that anymore.”
When Mr. Voyles was doing his initial research he started with cases that received a sentencing disposition in 2011, but when he finished he was shocked by how many cases were given parole, so he double checked his results with cases from 2010, finding similar statistics, he said.
In all, he looked at about 2,400 cases, he said.
“It’s easy to see these types of cases, because if you look at the case and see that the prosecutor won, then you know my opponent took away these prison enhancement requirements. They just dismissed it,” he said.
Mr. Voyles agrees that the choice to enforce these enhancements or not falls under the jurisdiction of a case’s prosecutor, but thinks that the current office has been far too free with it.
“ The prosecutor has a lot of power. Most people don’t know this, but unfortunately it’s being abused right now,” he said.
Mr. Walsh was also worried about how Mr. Voyles has apparently made an alliance with Sheriff Paul Babeu. He thinks that forming an alliance with the sheriff means that Mr. Voyles may have to pay for it with political favors if he wins.
“I think that my opponent has been exercising questionable judgment by not being independent from law enforcement,” Mr. Walsh said. “ We work with law enforcement. We couldn’t be doing the job we are doing if it wasn’t for law enforcement. But there is a real question of independence when you make a strong, obvious and open political alliance with someone as politically ambitious as [Sheriff Babeu]. The voters need to be asking themselves ‘is this somebody that will be able to exercise independent judgment?’” Mr. Voyles dismissed these claims.
“ Working with the police is a integral part of being a prosecutor, so it’s crazy to think that I’d have a conflict of interest working with the sheriff ’s office. We’re on the same side after all,” he said.
Mr. Walsh can be contacted via his website, www.walsh4pca.com.
Mr. Voyles can be contacted via his website, www.voyles4countyattorney.com.
Written by Alexander Foote