In the Crosshairs

County lawmen boffing hookers isn't Sheriff Joe's only problem. Fed up with his thuggery, Arpaio's own political party has targeted him for defeat

Chief Deputy Black says the public has never learned about all of the circumstances that led to Norberg's slaying.

"The real truth about that has never come out," Black says.

Black claims that a Superior Court commissioner "witnessed the entire thing," that the commissioner told the sheriff's office the detention officers dealt with a man who had become combative the best way they knew how.

Retired Mesa police commander Dan Saban's mounting 
a serious challenge to Arpaio in the upcoming 
Republican primary.
Jackie Mercandetti
Retired Mesa police commander Dan Saban's mounting a serious challenge to Arpaio in the upcoming Republican primary.
Mesa Mayor Keno Hawker's undeterred by Arpaio's 
reputation for retaliation and has endorsed Saban in the 
upcoming primary.
Jackie Mercandetti
Mesa Mayor Keno Hawker's undeterred by Arpaio's reputation for retaliation and has endorsed Saban in the upcoming primary.


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"Unfortunately, the guy died," Black says.

But that doesn't mean the guards should be accused of killing him, Black says.

"To turn around and say we murdered him, that's pretty harsh," Black contends.

Not according to Mike Manning, a Phoenix attorney who represented Norberg's family in the lawsuit.

Manning disputes Black's contention about the commissioner's value as an eyewitness. The lawyer says videotape shows that the commissioner neither had a clear view of Norberg nor the restraint chair.

"He was behind three people, plus a door was in his way," Manning says of the sheriff's star witness. "He didn't see a thing."

Manning says Norberg's brutal death, as he was bound helplessly in the chair, symbolizes everything that is wrong with the way Arpaio does business.

Despite the uproar that the Norberg case generated, Arpaio continues to use the restraint chair on a regular basis. Five years after Norberg died, Charles Agster met a similar fate on August 6, 2001.

According to Amnesty International, the 33-year-old mentally handicapped man arrived at the jail hog-tied, with his arms handcuffed behind his back, his legs bound at the ankles with a leather strap and a strap tied between the handcuffs and leg strap.

Agster was then dragged face-down, strapped into the restraint chair and hooded. Minutes later, detention officers noticed he wasn't breathing.

In an April 2002 report, Amnesty International says it is "concerned that the degree of force used against Agster was grossly disproportionate to any threat posed by him."

It doesn't come close to stopping there.

Arpaio was found personally liable for damages by an Arizona appeals court in September 2002 in a case stemming from the beating of inmate Jeremy Flanders inside the Tent City jail. The appeals court upheld a jury award of $635,000 in damages to Flanders, with Arpaio held personally responsible for 35 percent of the judgment.

The 26-page opinion written by appeals court Judge Jefferson L. Lankford details the abuses and unsafe conditions that Arpaio brags about implementing at the Tent City jail, where more than 1,800 inmates are supervised by only four detention officers.

Arpaio, Lankford wrote, "admitted knowing about and in fact intentionally designing, some conditions at Tent City that created a substantial risk of inmate violence: the lack of individual security and inmate control inherent in a tent facility; the small number of guards; a mixed inmate population subject to overcrowding; extreme heat and lack of amenities."

Lankford ruled that evidence presented in the lawsuit supported the jury's finding that Arpaio was "callously indifferent" to Eighth Amendment protections afforded to prisoners and that he purposely "exposed Tent City inmates to serious injury."

Arpaio considers the appeals court ruling a minor nuisance.

"It doesn't impact anything," Arpaio tells New Times, before acknowledging that jailers are now removing the steel-rebar tent stakes that witnesses say were used to beat Flanders.

Arpaio feigns ignorance about details of the court ruling, despite his being held personally liable for more than $230,000 in damages.

"I think that case has been adjudicated, but there has never been any proof that the guy was hit with a rebar," Arpaio says. "Regardless, we don't think that ever happened. There was a little fight between the inmates, and then they sue you and you have to go through the system."

The "little fight" that wasn't stopped by the detention officers has left Flanders with permanent brain damage.

Last December, the American Civil Liberties Union joined a class-action lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Phoenix to stop Arpaio's bid to terminate what few federal protections still exist for prisoners awaiting trial.

During a tour of county lockups, ACLU attorney Alice Bendheim says, she found seriously dangerous and inhumane conditions, including inadequate medical and mental-health care and severe overcrowding.

"Allowing mentally ill prisoners to lie in a catatonic state, naked on a bare concrete cell floor, for 23 hours a day is not being 'tough on crime,'" Bendheim argues. "The conditions I witnessed in the Maricopa County jail were cruel and detrimental to the well-being of the people confined there."

The public can expect more brutal beatings and deaths inside the county's grossly overcrowded jails, where 70 percent of the 9,245 people in custody are awaiting trial. Building regulations allow the county jail system a capacity of 5,200 inmates. To handle the 4,000-inmate overflow, thousands of prisoners are jammed into day rooms filled with triple bunks.

"The real problem is, the whole system is overloaded, and you've got an idiot who wants to put more people in jail," Phoenix attorney Joel Robbins says, referring to Arpaio. Robbins has represented more than three dozen plaintiffs in lawsuits against the sheriff's office, including Jeremy Flanders.

To help maintain the climate of brutality inside the jails that he's so proud of, Arpaio has brought in Gary DeLand, the former Utah corrections chief whom the Department of Defense hired as a consultant on how to operate the notorious Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. In addition to giving Arpaio tips on jail operations, DeLand has testified as an expert witness for Arpaio in depositions stemming from lawsuits brought against the sheriff by inmates.

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Enemies List needs updating
Enemies List needs updating

It's time to get rid of "elected" officials as Sheriff and County Attorney. They have politicized law enforcement and the justice system putting all at risk to be used as their political pawns.

Need legislation for oversight and accountability of these offices. Hire professionals with higher standards then the minimal, inadequate standards that exist for these positions.

The people have had enough of abuse of power by thomas and arpaio!

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