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|Hail to the Chief?|
|Persons of interest|
Joseph Michael Arpaio was the Republican sheriff of Maricopa County, Arizona, who seemed to have forgotten that the sheriff's office is an agency for upholding the law, rather than a vehicle for promoting his own personal brand.
Few people can even name the candidates running against Arpaio: his "brand" recognition is astronomical. Each time his name got in the news for some new malfeasance, he won new voters. It didn't matter whether it cost the taxpayers millions. He set a new benchmark for "teflon." He could only keep dodging the fallout for so long though, as his 24-year reign of terror was broken in November, 2016, when he was voted out of office. The former sheriff was pardoned by Donald Trump on August 25, 2017. So much for being "tough on crime".
Arpaio has taken a very hard line against illegal immigration. So hard, in fact, that he declined to hand illegal immigrants over to federal authorities for deportation in lieu of a stint in jail, and the sheriff's office was so busy trying to hunt illegal immigrants that it had little time for anything else. The end result of all of this was that the Justice Department filed a civil suit against Arpaio in Federal court in May 2012 due to multiple civil rights violations primarily aimed at the Latino population of Maricopa County.
Civil rights violations
Arpaio, like a large number of Republicans, talks a good talk on cost-cutting. Unlike most of the prominent politicians in his party, however, he has actually cut some costs. For example, he has cut food costs in the jails of Maricopa County by starving jail inmates, he has cut building costs by jailing people in tents in often 100°F+ heat, and he has cut maintenance costs by letting the jails rot. Unfortunately, these cost-cutting measures have been more than offset by the massive number of lawsuits filed against the sheriff's office, resulting in more than $43 million paid out in settlements.
In 2008, a federal court ruled that conditions in the jails were unconstitutionally harsh. Arpaio, perhaps preoccupied with his fledgling clothing-design career, did not seem to get the memo; two years later, another ruling held that conditions had not changed and ordered him to get off his keister. Yet somehow he kept getting chosen as sheriff.
Fake assassination attempt
During the years 2004 to 2009, Maricopa County paid $14.5 million in claims regarding the sheriff's office, and another $6.4 million for claims against the jail health service for failure to diagnose, deliberate indifference, and suicides. The most outrageous one was a false arrest for a fake assassination attempt that was designed to boost Arpaio's re-election bid. In 1999, undercover deputies arrested 18-year old James Saville for plotting to kill Arpaio with a pipe bomb. On July 9, 2003, a Maricopa County Superior Court jury acquitted Saville, finding that the bomb plot was an elaborate publicity stunt to boost Arpaio's reelection bid. In 2004, Saville sued both Arpaio and Maricopa County for wrongful arrest and entrapment, seeking $10 million in damages. In 2008, the suit was settled by Maricopa County paying Saville $1.6 million.
Using public office for self-promotion
Arpaio used the sheriff's office, including its official communication organs, as self-promotion tools, including but not limited to the publication of his political differences with the federal government and of his opinions on Arizona political happenings.
Sometime in the 1990s, the underwear given to inmates in Maricopa County jails was dyed pink to prevent inmates from walking off with it. Arpaio used this as a pretext to brag about how well he has served his constituents. He also, in 1995, began to sell this pink underwear as a souvenir item through an outfit called the Posse Foundation, with funding from the sheriff's office; there were allegations that the money thus received was being mishandled. Unfortunately for poor Joe, use of the pink underwear in prisons is currently under scrutiny by an appellate court.
In 2007, Arpaio set up a radio station, KJOE, in the basement of one of the jails, broadcasting operas, patriotic songs, and educational programming. This makes one wonder precisely what his position is on certain other taxpayer-funded radio stations with similar programming.
Sexual assault cases? What sexual assault cases?
It looks like while Big Joe was busy rounding up his posse of Mexican hunters and pot busters, he may have chanced to overlook over 400 sexual assault cases, most of which involved children. Either these cases slipped under his nose while he was busy being a hero-cum-underwear vendor to all right-thinking people in Arizona, or he deliberately turned a blind eye since many of the victims' parents were in the country illegally. These revelations have provoked many calls for him to resign.
In 2012, Sheriff Arpaio took up the cause of birtherism, arguing that President Obama's birth certificate and selective service (draft) registration card are fakes. His volunteer "Cold Case Posse", in conjunction with Jerome Corsi, conducted an "investigation" and then held an excruciatingly long press conference in March 2012 to announce their findings: the documents are fraudulent and Obama was probably born abroad and is not eligible to be President. Their evidence was heavily dependent on the idea that the birth certificate's electronic form, as released online by the White House, differed from a "control" sample certificate that they scanned themselves.
Interestingly, the day before Sheriff Joe's "Cold Case Posse" released their report, the lead investigator, Michael Zullo, published a book on the topic, co-authored by a helpful Jerome Corsi.
Not content with hosting one excruciating dog-and-pony show on the subject, Arpaio and Zullo took a second stab at the same comedy-ready material in July 2012, adding some extra spice to the mix by insisting that sooper sekrit codes were hidden in the birth certificate and that some very old person (apparently not present at the press conference; go figure) could figure out what those secret codes actually meant. Not content to leave it at that, Arpaio and Zullo also asserted that
black helicopters Hawaiian police were following Zullo around in an effort to harass him during his "investigation". Mind you, none of this has anything to do with the civil lawsuit being filed against Arpaio at all.
In December 2016, Arpaio and Zullo promised an Obama birth certificate "bombshell" would be revealed at an upcoming press event. Perhaps responding to the public's recently demonstrated attraction to crazy shit, many TV stations streamed the press conference live. Hapless viewers were treated to a snoozy video presentation that plodded through the birth certificate's supposed "9 points of forgery" with lots of scientific-sounding jargon and Arpaio crankily blaming the mainstream media for ignoring his past investigations.
School protection posse
In early 2013, after the shootings at the Sandy Hook Elementary School, Sheriff Arpaio announced he would form an all volunteer posse of "well trained", gun-carrying patrols to drive around town and protect the schools. Not one school has ever requested such services, of course, and many schools and parents were outraged at the use of volunteer, virtually untrained men "protecting" the schools. In early February 2013, it was discovered that his posse included at least one convicted child molester, and several men convicted of domestic abuse. The training for the team was given by
police tactician and ammunitions expert actor Steven Seagal who defended himself by saying "I’ve put hundreds of thousands if not millions of hours into my weapons training". For the record, 100,000 hours is 11.41 years of 24-hour days.
Ersatz cultural criticism
Arpaio also challenged George Lopez to "meet [him] face to face" after he took
selective outrage offense to some of Lopez's material concerning Arpaio that aired on HBO in July 2012. He was also supposedly shocked by the naughty, naughty words that Lopez used during the monologue as well even before the fact became apparent that Lopez was talking about Arpaio at the time. Yeah. Sure.
Arpaio was voted out of office November 8, 2016, as the county voters chose the Democratic challenger, Paul Penzone. The irony was that most of the voters who said "No" to Arpaio's bid were moderate Republicans. Penzone succeeded Arpaio as Maricopa County Sheriff on January 7, 2017.
Many of the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office employees — civilian and those in uniform — were happy, too. Many felt that Arpaio was focusing too much on his political career. Others were angry about the staffing shortage at the county jail; dwindling resources thanks to mounting legal bills from the racial-profiling lawsuit; and many were just plain ashamed of where they worked.
Not Done Yet
Because the concept of wingnut welfare is still very much alive and well in the US, Arpaio has been considered for Trump's cabinet as Secretary of Homeland Security, a position which manages (among other things) Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Customs and Border Protection, the Coast Guard, and the Transportation Security Administration. Out of the frying pan, into the fire.
Thankfully, Trump had the good sense not to appoint him after all… at least not yet.
What he did do, however, was pardon Arpaio for his conviction for criminal contempt of court on August 25, 2017. Arpaio took the opportunity to appeal for donations towards his legal fund and to declare that his conviction was "a political witch hunt by holdovers in the Obama justice department!" Meanwhile, several politicians, even including republicans such as Paul Ryan, law professors, and political scientists have described Trump's move as rather troubling in its implications and ramifications, while some have outright declared it a move that only serves to undermine the rule of law.
- Previous iteration of Sheriff Arpaio's "Cold Case Posse" report on President Obama's birth certificate.
- Frank Arduini's refutation of Sheriff Arpaio's "Cold Case Posse" report on President Obama's birth certificate.
- AWOL Soldiers Serving Sentences At Tent City
- Special Report: Health and death behind bars
- Underwear Under Scrutiny by Tony Ortega (May 13, 1999 at 4 a.m.) Phoenix New Times.
- "Claims vs. county cost taxpayers $71 mil". May 23, 2010. http://www.azcentral.com/news/articles/2010/05/23/20100523maricopa-county-taxpayers-claims.html. Retrieved Aug 26, 2017.
- Bommersbach, Jana. Will Sheriff Joe Stop at Nothing? PHOENIX Magazine, February 2005.
- Dickerson, John (October 28, 2008). "A Phony Murder Plot Against Joe Arpaio Winds Up Costing Taxpayers $1.1 Million". Phoenix New Times. http://blogs.phoenixnewtimes.com/valleyfever/2008/10/arpaios_phony_murder_plot_cost.php. Retrieved Aug 26, 2017.
- Dougherty, John (June 24, 2004). "In the Crosshairs". http://www.phoenixnewtimes.com/2004-06-24/news/in-the-crosshairs/. Retrieved Aug 26, 2017.
- Arpaio Concerned About Federal News Release at the Wayback Machine (archived December 29, 2010)
- Maricopa County Sheriff’s Deputies Sieze [sic] 500 Pounds of Marijuana During Human Smuggling Illegal Alien Investigation at the Wayback Machine (archived December 29, 2010)
- Laundry Services at the Wayback Machine (archived December 29, 2010)
- Arpaio Launches KJOE Radio
- "Full Video of Sheriff Joe Arpaio Press Conference 3/1/12 - Obama Eligibility Cold Case Investigation", YouTube
- "Arpaio's Volunteer Investigator Profits from Birther Probe," Talking Points Memo
- Amazon.com listing for A Question of Eligibility
- On the heels of electoral defeat, Sheriff Joe Arpaio attempts to revive debate over Obama's birth certificate Los Angeles Times, December 14, 2016
- December 14, 2012, Newtown Connecticut
- http://azcir.org/news/2016/12/23/joe-arpaio-election-hispanic-latino-republican-maricopa-sheriff/ moderate Republicans