Supervisor Don Stapley, one of two Maricopa County supes under criminal indictment, has hired a new defense attorney to defend him against the latest set of charges he faces from County Attorney Andrew Thomas.
His name is Kurt Altman (pictured), and he earned his stripes as a feisty and successful major-felony prosecutor for about 14 years before switching to criminal-defense work a few years ago as a sole practitioner.
Altman is perhaps best known for winning a murder conviction (with co-counsel Bill Clayton) in the highly publicized trial of Ahwatukee resident Brian Eftenoff, who is now serving what, in effect, is a life sentence for killing his wife.
Here is our story on the Eftenoff trial that delved into Altman’s trial techniques.
Altman moved over to the U.S. Attorney’s Office after working for Maricopa County for several years.
While working for then-U.S. Attorney Paul Charlton, he secured the only death penalty imposed in the District of Arizona in recent years, against a Native-American man who stabbed to death a woman and her 9-year-old granddaughter during a carjacking.
Known as a particularly effective cross-examiner, Altman’s presence in the Stapley case comes as somewhat of a surprise, as the pol already has two top-notch attorneys on board.
But these attorneys, Tom Henze and Paul Charlton (yes, the former U.S. Attorney) from the blueblood firm of Gallagher and Kennedy, aren’t known for discounting their legal costs, and this may have something to do with the turn of events (not that Altman necessarily comes cheap, either).
Henze and Charlton remain on the first Stapley criminal case, which our colleague Ray Stern ably dissected in a recent cover story. The whole thing needs a flow chart to explain, and Altman should brace himself for a wild ride.
Having often seen the dude in action, we can say this for sure: Kurt Altman can work a case like a champ, whatever side he’s on, and Andy Thomas — who wouldn’t know how to sell a closing argument to a jury if his own life depended on it — should beware.
-Kurt M. Altman, PLC, is a former state and federal prosecutor and Alison Holcomb is director of the ACLU Campaign for Smart Justice.
This story was originally posted on the Phoenix New Times website.