Could This Be The Tipping Point for Arpaio and Thomas?

It is not uncommon for certain shady dealing to go on for years, with a small group of critics but never really breaking out into the media.  We skeptics have been criticizing climate scientists for years for various problems with their temperature indexes and historical temperature reconstructions, but never really got traction until the CRU emails were made public, and then there has been a real firestorm of media attention.  Criticisms that never got much traction before are now being actively investigated.

I am hoping that we have a similar situation with Sheriff Joe Arpaio and County Attorney Andrew Thomas.  The story is so wacky it simply defies easy description, but Arpaio and Thomas have been pursuing a number of corruption probes against their bosses in the County government.  All well and good, except for the funny fact that the targets of the probes all seem to be historic critics of Arpaio and Thomas, who have brought out their biggest guns for the one Democrat on the County Council (Arpaio and Thomas are both Republicans).

Both these men have  a history of indifference to civil liberties.   When Arpaio is not busy arresting folks for breathing while Mexican (he once managed to make a crime sweep through the 99% Anglo neighborhood of Fountain Hills and arrest 75% Mexicans), he likes to haul folks off to jail whose only crime is speaking out against the Sheriff .   He arrested (with Thomas's help) newspaper reporters and editors who wrote critically of him.  This is a man who in his paranoia invented an assassination plot (against himself, of course) and got the city to spend $500,000 protecting him.  If his deputies want to see a defense attorney's working papers, they just take them.  If he can't get a judge to release computer records, he has his posse storm into the County computer center and take it over at gunpoint.

Most recently, Thomas and Arpaio wanted a judge who has handed them a number of court losses removed from a certain case.  To make that happen, Arpaio and Thomas bizarrely charged the judge and numerous other county employees in a giant RICO case, a case attorneys are still laughing about because it was so transparent and shoddy.  When that didn't work, he charged the judge with felony bribery, apparently on the interesting theory that getting a new, updated court house building was effectively a bribe to the judges working there.

It gets much weirder even than this, with Arpaio's stealing documents from a defense counsel in court (caught on video) with this same judge holding Arpaio's deputy in contempt for the action and then the sheriff's deputies essentially going on strike at court, refusing to bring in prisoners.

But after years of fawning, positive publicity as "Americas Toughest Sheriff," the dam may finally be breaking.  When the AZ Republic finally covers it, you know the situation has to be bad:

Hundreds of attorneys gathered on the courthouse steps in downtown Phoenix to protest Thomas and Arpaio's public campaign against public corruption.

LOL, I have a picture of these guys with suits and holding placards.  Anyway, this was a real blow:

And, in a scathing letter to The Arizona Republic, the Yavapai County attorney

, who previously handled some of Thomas' cases against county officials, blasted the prosecutor and sheriff as "a threat to the entire criminal-justice system."

Oops, so much for the respect of your peers.  Shelia Polk, the Yavapai County attorney (that is a neighboring county) handled the investigations into some of Arpaio and Thomas's early charges against our County officials, so she knows the details of the story.  And she is a Republican, the same party as Arpaio and Thomas:

In her letter, Polk wrote that although Maricopa County isn't her jurisdiction, she can't sit by and watch the abuses from a distance anymore.

"I am conservative and passionately believe in limited government, not the totalitarianism that is spreading before my eyes," she wrote. "The actions of Arpaio and Thomas are a disservice to the hundreds of dedicated men and women who work in their offices and a threat to the entire criminal-justice system."

Polk had stayed out of the legal drama in Maricopa County, and her remarks offer the first insight from an outside law-enforcement official who has some knowledge of the cases Arpaio and Thomas have lodged against county officials.

Arpaio's response was predictable:

Hendershott spoke on behalf of Arpaio. Hendershott said that Polk's office repeatedly failed to issue subpoenas the Sheriff's Office needed.

"It seemed clear to us that this case was being deliberately stalled," he said. "We basically let her know that her work product was ineffective."

This is a constant refrain from the sheriff - anyone who seeks to impose any limit on his power is therefore evil and conspiring to thwart his will.  It comes up time and time again - he simply does not react well when denied a subpoena, or a search warrant, or access to certain information.  If they are not rubber stamping Sheriff Joe's requests, then they must be corrupt.  If he had been honest, his RICO charges would have simply read "they didn't give me what I want."  But there is a reason these third parties are part of the process, and you can see it in Polk's letter:

Polk said she worked with the Sheriff's Office on the cases for the next six months, then returned the cases to the Maricopa County Attorney's Office.

In Polk's letter, she wrote that she was "happy to remove myself from the cases and from contact with Sheriff Arpaio. My discomfort grew daily and my role in restraining potential abuses of power increasingly more difficult."

  • Danimal

    I hope Sheila Polk doesn't need to pass through Arpaio's territory anytime soon.

  • mahtso

    "It gets much weirder even than this, with Arpaio’s stealing documents from a defense counsel in court (caught on video)...." I am sure you know that the Sheriff is not the person who took the documents. How can I take you seriously on issues related to the Sheriff?

  • John Moore

    Err

    Apaio and Thomas have been pursuing a number of corruption probes against their bosses in the County governmentr...

    Arpaio's bosses are the people who elected him, not anyone in County government.

    So the question is: what will his real bosses do?

  • O Bloody Hell

    > “It gets much weirder even than this, with Arpaio’s stealing documents from a defense counsel in court (caught on video)….” I am sure you know that the Sheriff is not the person who took the documents. How can I take you seriously on issues related to the Sheriff?

    And how can anyone take YOU seriously when you make a counterclaim without any supporting information...?

    AAAANNNKKKK. Thanks for playing.

    Do you actually have any validly relevant source for this claim (and NO, a source which says it was "a deputy" is not a valid support for the claim -- the Sheriff is directly responsible for the actions of his deputies, and if a deputy did this without his approval, said deputy should be cashiered and blackballed... has this been done? I suspect not even if that IS the claim)...?

    Well, if you have this, then by all means, cough it up. Otherwise, you're just a mindless naysaying idiot.

  • Ian Random

    As long as he irritates you, he has my complete support. :-)

  • mahtso

    To Mr./Ms. Hell: the video link shows who took the documents and it was not the Sheriff (i.e., the proof was in the original post.) Granted, my post was predicated on the assumption that the blogger knows what the Sheriff looks like.

    As to your statement about the Sheriff being responsible for his underlings: that does not make the statement that the Sheriff was stealing documents accurate or true. (For what it is worth, I doubt the documents were stolen, because the Detention Officer probably did not have the requisite mental state. Recognizing you are a stickler, my source for the legal authority is “Legally Blonde.”)

    Finally, normally I would not respond to someone who uses such a juvenile and nasty tone. But in this instance I did because some readers of this blog might not know what the Sheriff looks like, so for them, the video would not have been sufficient to show that the blogger was wrong.

  • Mesa Econoguy

    This entire case/situation is bizarre.

    Andy & Joe went all in here, but they may have reason, but little suggests they’re right. This Wilcox woman is definitely a problem, but extent unknown (at this time).

    I think Sheriff Joe wants to be king.

  • Ariel

    Coyote worded it poorly, however, Arpaio did support the deputy's actions after the fact as being within the range of normal security precautions. So at that point, Arpaio owned it too. The deputy's claim that he recognized papers that were not "checked" and that he spotted specific words at the distance he was at on documents that were actually buried under others was dishonest at best. I would note that "security" does not have to do with lawyer's documents, notes, or the words on them, but with weapons or other dangerous devices. The party being sentenced was part of the Mexican Mafia and the deputy, in my estimation, took a chance that he might find something valuable to his boss.

    I voted for Arpaio twice, then realized he was dangerous in his own right. This current circus instigated by Arpaio and Thomas has left Maricopa County renamed Marikafka County and rightly so. I have no doubt there is corruption in the County Admin, but there is certainly corruption in the County Sheriff's Dept and Prosecutor's Office given that it is so blatantly on display.

    By the way, Arpaio's Dept. has lost so many civil rights and excessive force, as well as wrongful death, lawsuits that the "Toughest Sheriff" is also the most costly.

  • mahtso

    Ariel

    I understand that I do not have all the facts because my knowledge is limited to what I read in the news and blogs. But your statement: “I would note that “security” does not have to do with lawyer’s documents, notes, or the words on them, but with weapons or other dangerous devices” does not accurately reflect the facts of the matter at issue and is potentially in error anyway.

    According to a partial transcript of the contempt hearing (which was posted on several blogs) the Detention Officer’s position was that he initially thought the document was evidence of a crime and after he read the document he thought it was evidence of a security risk. Because the document has not been made public there is no way to judge the validity of the latter assertion, and is also a basis for the pending appeal.

    Recently a lawyer in Maricopa County was arrested because he allegedly hid drugs in a pad that was given to an inmate. (Some people argue he was framed.) The point being that the documents can hold small items that do not belong in the jails. Also, attorney Lynne Stewart was convicted of being a conduit for messages in and out of prison (not Maricopa County). So, it would appear to me that the potential risks go beyond weapons or devices. A hypothetical example (which is very close to the facts on which Ms. Stewart was convicted): a lawyer’s notes include information from a gang leader instructing members about their illegal acts.

    As to whether the blogger made a poor choice of words: Certainly the word “steal” was such. But the Sheriff was not the actor in this instance and I do not believe the blogger did not know that. He did the same thing with respect to another link in the same post (the one alleging the Sheriff arrested people only because they disagree with him). The Sheriff did not make those arrests and I think I made a comment to that effect when the original item was posted.

    “By the way, Arpaio’s Dept. has lost so many civil rights and excessive force, as well as wrongful death, lawsuits that the “Toughest Sheriff” is also the most costly.”

    On other blogs I have asked for information to confirm similar statements, but none was forthcoming. Some time ago, on this blog there was a total cost of all the lawsuits. I calculated (and posted) that it came to only a few dollars per citizen per year. That doesn’t sound like a lot to me. Can you provide information to support your claim?

    Finally, as I have posted elsewhere (and perhaps here): maybe the Sheriff has broken the law, I don’t know. But he and his office have been under investigation by the DOJ for close to a year with no charges filed, so I assume not much has turned up. (And civil rights groups have been “investigating” for several years, so I assume they have turned over to the DOJ their findings.)

  • Ariel

    Mahtso,

    They rifle through the papers, they do not read them. I guess one could put contraband, which is the example you give, under the rubric of "security" but really has nothing to do with the security of the building or courtroom. They, the DO's, also have the opportunity to search the prisoner multiple times before he leaves for lock-up. This was after all a sentencing hearing.

    What you have to look at are the claims of the Deputy and that he violated attorney-client privelege.

    I did look up Sheriff Joe's tally and it was about $45 million in lost lawsuits so far. Unfortunately, that info does not break out the legal cost or increased insurance premiums, if they are even in that number. It isn't the cost per Maricopa County citizen but how he rates to similar jurisdictions. He came out poorly, not the worst. My bad for the exaggeration, but I like the sound of it versus "toughest". I can't give you a single link summary, you have to do multiple searches through jurisdictions. LA County does come out far worse, but I wouldn't be too happy given the state of LA County. It was bad 40 years ago in crime and police corruption, when Phoenix wasn't.

    As for the DOJ, Arpaio can easily walk a line that keeps him out of the Feds hands, he was a Fed himself. But that doesn't make him incorrupt, just careful. However, this post of Coyote's was more about the corruption of going after political opponents with spurious, even frivolous charges, which haven't stuck so far as they keep getting thrown out of court. Wilcox may be one that will stick. You do have to understand that Arpaio/Thomas use the tactic called "dirtying" as a matter of course.