Doubting Thomas

Tom Bearup helped elect Joe Arpaio and mold the myth of "America's Toughest Sheriff." Now the former executive in the Sheriff's Office is convinced he was wrong.

He went on to become one of several mythmakers for a sheriff the federal government and Amnesty International say runs a shoddy jail where inmates, most of whom await trial, are subjected to unconstitutional and inhumane treatment.

Yet Tom Bearup wants to be believed. He may have taken part in a campaign to dupe citizens hungry for tough law enforcement, but he now claims to regret his role in it.

He knows he will be dismissed by some as a vengeful ax-grinder. But, Bearup asks, if he had sought to avenge his fall from grace, wouldn't he have gone to the press immediately after his resignation? And wouldn't he also have kept a "little black book," as he puts it, to store away the sheriff's secrets for future use?

Bearup didn't keep a little black book. But what he did keep in his memory, and what he shared recently in official court testimony, could prove just as explosive.

On October 20, attorney Nick Hentoff deposed Tom Bearup for more than three hours.

Bearup had been called to testify in a lawsuit filed by Gary Josephson, a former sheriff's employee who is suing over his November 1994 termination. Bearup is one of the defendants in the case, as well as Maricopa County, Arpaio and the Sheriff's Office. Hentoff's goal is to prove that Josephson was fired because Arpaio believed he was feeding information to the media. Arpaio insists that Josephson was let go only for budgetary reasons.

Previously, Bearup had testified he had been told by Arpaio that Josephson was let go to save the Sheriff's Office his $30,000 salary. But now, Bearup has changed his tune, saying that Josephson also lost his job because Arpaio suspected Josephson of criticizing him.

Bearup--despite that he's a defendant in the case--was also willing to say much more, to the apparent consternation of attorney Laurie Metcalf, who is defending Arpaio, the Sheriff's Office and even Bearup. Hentoff says Metcalf appeared concerned as Bearup answered his questions at great length.

Bearup admitted, for example, that in the spring, Sheriff Arpaio told him he could begin telling people Arpaio planned to run for governor of the state of Arizona.

When Arpaio announces his intentions publicly, he'll have to quit his job as sheriff. So in the meantime, Bearup says, Arpaio carries on a barely disguised campaign which--if Bearup's statements are true--could be breaking several election laws. (Most of Metcalf's frequent objections, made for future consideration in court, are edited out for clarity.)

Hentoff: "Do you know of any situations under which Mr. Hendershott is misusing the posse in either unethical or immoral ways?"

Bearup: "I believe he's probably using it in political ways."
Hentoff: "How is he doing that?"
Bearup: "Not only the executive posse, but other posses."
Hentoff: "How?"

Bearup: "Being involved in fund-raising, being involved in generating support for the sheriff."

Hentoff: "Are you talking about political fund-raising?"
Bearup: "Yes. . . ."
Hentoff: "Do you believe that Chief Hendershott is using the posse for campaign purposes for Joe's race for governor?"

Bearup: "Yes."
Hentoff: "What is the basis for your opinion?"
Bearup: "I believe that they are selling tickets."
Hentoff: "Do you know that?"
Bearup: "Yes, I do. . . ."

Asked to elaborate on his testimony, Bearup replies: "Hendershott would call the posse members and ask them to sell tickets for him for Arpaio fund raisers." The members were not only expected to find buyers for the tickets but to purchase them themselves. "They're going to say it was in an off-duty capacity, but the list of donors and help staff [in Arpaio's campaign] will read like a posse roster," Bearup says.

Hentoff: "What other ways do you believe that the posse or the posse foundation is being used in Sheriff Arpaio's campaign for governor?"

Bearup: "I don't even--there has been a question raised to me out of the pink shorts money, that even some of that money could have been funneled into the campaign. Now, I don't know if that's true or not, but that issue was raised. . . . Dave Hendershott was supposed to--in order to get his promotion, that he was to raise $135,000 for the sheriff's campaign for governor, and if he did that, he would get a raise in his salary."

Hentoff: "Did he subsequently get a raise?"
Bearup: "Yes, he did, and a title change to director. . . ." (In March, Hendershott received the new title and a $13,000 raise.)

Hentoff: "Do you think that [Arpaio] views the posse as his private campaign staff or workers?"

Bearup: "I believe so today."
Hentoff also quizzed Bearup about deputy concerns about the large amounts of money that Arpaio's posses have raised through the sale of pink shorts, shirts and other sources. The Sheriff's Office released records to New Times showing that posse sales had exceeded $400,000 by March 1996, but has refused to release subsequent records.

The flow of money was particularly heavy in late 1995 and early 1996, and deputies say the control of that money was suspect. Bearup confirms that boxes containing cash were brought to the Enforcement Support bureau, from which Director David Hendershott oversees posse operations.

Bearup: "I was telling [Arpaio] that I believed and what I was hearing, that there was abuses or potential abuses of money that was coming in from the pink shorts sales, that there was a number of people that were coming to me, and naturally he wanted to know who they were, and I refused to tell him, but that I was hearing that money was being thrown on the table, that Dave Hendershott had money brought into his office and he was--it would be in his office with him alone in that office. There was no accountability of that."

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