The widow of slain eye surgeon Dr. David Brian Stidham has settled her lawsuit against the county for $2.29 million.
Under the terms of the settlement, Daphne Stidham agreed to dismiss Pima County Attorney Barbara LaWall, Pima County and former prosecutor Lourdes Lopez from the lawsuit, said attorney Rick Rollman, who represented the county.
Pima County agreed to pay the entire judgment on behalf of attorney Paul Skitzki, who was also a prosecutor at the time of Stidham's death.
"It's a business deal. There were neither any denials nor admissions made by Mr. Skitzki," Rollman said.
Skitzki, now a public defender, would not comment Tuesday afternoon.
The settlement will be paid through a self-insured retention policy and by the county, Rollman said.
Stidham was found stabbed to death outside his medical complex near North First Avenue and East River Road on Oct. 5, 2004.
In April 2005, Daphne Stidham filed a $20 million claim against the county.
In her later lawsuit, Daphne Stidham said Lopez and Skitzki knew about a plot to kill her husband and failed to tell the proper authorities. She sued not only Lopez and Skitzki, but their former boss, LaWall, as well as Wetmore Land Corp., saying conditions at the medical complex aided Stidham's killer.
Wetmore settled with Daphne Stidham for an undisclosed sum in June.
The Pima County Board of Supervisors met with Rollman in executive session last week to discuss the possibility of settling the lawsuit.
In the days following, Rollman said the various attorneys met with Lawrence Fleischman, an attorney who specializes in mediation.
The settlement was reached Monday afternoon, although a probate judge must approve it for the Stidhams' children, Alexandre and Catherine, Rollman said.
Rollman stressed the county and LaWall were never accused of wrongdoing in the case. Instead, they were sued under the premise that employers are responsible for the deeds of their employees.
The case was expected to go to trial next week, and prospective jurors were to have been brought in this week to fill out a questionnaire to gauge their knowledge and thoughts on the case.
Had the case gone to trial, it would have lasted about four weeks, Rollman said.
"The settlement avoided a long trial, and they had sought a lot of money," Rollman said.
Dr. Bradley Schwartz and Ronald Bruce Bigger are serving life sentences in Stidham's death. Schwartz was convicted last year of conspiracy to commit first-degree murder, and Bigger was convicted earlier this year of first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit first-degree murder.
Pinal County prosecutors Sylvia Lafferty and Richard Platt believe Schwartz paid Bigger $10,000 for the slaying because he was angry that Stidham had abandoned their joint practice while Schwartz was in a drug-rehabilitation program.
Stidham ended up with many of Schwartz's patients after Schwartz and Lopez, then his girlfriend, were indicted on federal drug-fraud charges in September 2002 and Schwartz's medical license was temporarily suspended.
In the days following Stidham's death, numerous people told detectives that Schwartz had a long-standing grudge against Stidham and often spoke of his hatred for the married father of two.
Bigger and Schwartz were arrested shortly after Lopez went to detectives and said Schwartz had told her he wanted to hire a hit man to kill Stidham and stage the incident to look like a carjacking.
In the days and weeks following the arrests, it was learned that Lopez may have told Skitzki about Schwartz's alleged plot before the murder.
LaWall fired Skitzki for not reporting Lopez's allegations and suspended three other attorneys — attorneys who learned of Lopez's story after the slaying but also failed to report it immediately.
Skitzki, who denied learning of Schwartz's alleged plot beforehand, appealed his firing and lost.
LaWall testified during Skitzki's appeal before the Pima County Merit Commission that "if Skitzki came forward with this information in a timely way … Dr. Stidham may still be alive."
Tuesday evening, LaWall said she was pleased the case has been resolved, and in her favor.
"I'll say what I've been saying all along — I did nothing wrong," LaWall said. "I held people accountable, people who did something very wrong. I have high standards, and when people fail to meet those standards I hold them accountable. As deputy county attorneys we have a responsibility to protect the public's interest, and Paul Skitzki failed to live up to the public's trust."
The Arizona Supreme Court's disciplinary commission has recommended disbarment for Lopez because even after Lopez and Schwartz were indicted on the drug-fraud charges, she continued a relationship with Schwartz despite being ordered not to, and she lied about it.
If the Arizona Supreme Court opts not to review Lopez's case, she will be disbarred. It has not yet made a decision as to whether it will review the case.
On StarNet: A lot has happened since Dr. Stidham was murdered in 2004. Take a pictorial look at this bizarre case at azstarnet.com/crime
WHERE ARE THEY NOW?
Key figures in the Dr. David Brian Stidham murder case:
The Pima County attorney whose office was rocked by the revelation that one of her prosecutors may have known about the plot to kill Dr. David Brian Stidham ahead of time and failed to tell anyone, and that three others may have withheld crucial information after Stidham's death. LaWall still holds that position and is running for re-election next year.
The former prosecutor who had already been forced to resign because she was indicted along with Dr. Bradley Schwartz in September 2002 on federal drug-fraud charges. She has been recommended for disbarment by the Arizona Supreme Court's disciplinary commission. She still has a private law practice, but unless the Arizona Supreme Court reviews her case, she will be disbarred.
The former prosecutor whom LaWall fired, believing he knew about the plot and failed to tell anyone. He still works for the county. The Merit Commission upheld his termination, but he was hired as an assistant public defender.
Brad Roach, Nicki DiCampli and Janet Altschuler
The former prosecutors who were suspended by LaWall are all in private practice. Roach, whose suspension was reduced to a written reprimand, is planning to run against LaWall. DiCampli's suspension was reduced to a verbal reprimand. Altschuler withdrew her appeal.
Convicted in May 2006 of conspiracy to commit murder. He is serving a life sentence without the possibility of parole for 25 years. He was also stripped of his medical license.
Ronald Bruce Bigger
The hit man was convicted in May of conspiracy to commit murder and first-degree murder, and is serving life without the possibility of parole for killing Stidham.