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

While ordinary Americans have expressed widespread outrage over the treatment of Iraqis in Abu Ghraib, until lately there has been barely a whimper of protest among private citizens in Arizona over the cruel treatment of prisoners in Arpaio's jails.

Such flagrant violations of constitutional protections have been reported for more than a decade by New Times writers, including Tony Ortega, Robert Nelson, Jeremy Voas and Barry Graham. Yet it is only in the last few months that the dreadful and indisputable facts have finally triggered outrage from members of Arpaio's own political party.

"This not something that I think should be taken lightly," says Glendale Republican and Justice of the Peace candidate Larry Pickard. "It runs afoul of how I think our government is supposed to work. It's like a Third World country. We don't need that here."

Sheriff Joe Arpaio never misses a chance to showboat in 
parades -- he's ridden in more than 38 of them in the 
last three years.
Laina McWhorter
Sheriff Joe Arpaio never misses a chance to showboat in parades -- he's ridden in more than 38 of them in the last three years.


In early May, leaders of the Maricopa County Republican party did what has never been done before.

The county Republican Party Executive Guidance Committee, made up of 18 district committee chairmen and seven at-large officials, voted resoundingly against endorsing a Republican incumbent, Sheriff Joe Arpaio.

"I do not recall the Republican party at any level in the state ever taking this kind of action," says former state legislator and longtime West Valley Republican activist Jean McGrath.

The official GOP rebellion against a man whose personal endorsement used to be highly sought after by politicians across the state is a stunning twist in Arizona politics.

Three years ago, Arpaio was in position to win the Republican gubernatorial primary against Matt Salmon and the odds-on favorite to win the statehouse.

But Arpaio elected not to run for governor. Now, county Republican leaders don't even want him as sheriff.

The unusual move to slam an incumbent Republican before a primary is a powerful indication that Arpaio's political base is eroding rapidly.

"It's not worth sticking up for [Arpaio] anymore because he isn't sticking up for us," says Bill Norton, chairman of Republican Party District 22 in Gilbert.

Republican officials say Arpaio made a crucial mistake in the election of 2002, when he appeared in a television ad with Democrat Napolitano in the final days of the extremely close gubernatorial campaign.

The last image of the commercial included a statement in bold red lettering quoting Arpaio saying: "Join me in rejecting the attacks against Janet Napolitano."

A former Democrat who switched to the Republican party in 1982, Arpaio has close ties with Napolitano dating back to her days as the U.S. Attorney in the mid-1990s. Arpaio's apparent endorsement of Napolitano late in the gubernatorial race is widely seen as a payback for Napolitano's dropping a criminal investigation of Norberg's death inside his jail.

In October 1997, then-U.S. Attorney Napolitano settled the federal probe into Arpaio's jail operations triggered by the Norberg case without bringing criminal charges against the detention officers and others involved in the incident. It was classic Napolitano, who has always been more politician than tough-minded public servant.

The now-governor's decision stunned the County Attorney's Office, which earlier had begun its own criminal investigation into Norberg's death.

That inquiry was derailed by the actions of former deputy county attorney Jack MacIntyre, the County Attorney's Office says.

MacIntyre, the office says, ignored Romley's orders and provided legal advice to sheriff's employees who were named in the Norberg family's wrongful-death suit.

MacIntyre disputes this account, claiming he had Romley's permission to provide the legal advice to the sheriff's employees.

In either case, MacIntyre's advice in the civil suit created a conflict of interest that made it impossible for the county attorney to pursue criminal charges against Arpaio's officers.

Soon after Romley's criminal probe was thwarted, Arpaio hired MacIntyre as his director of intergovernmental relations for the sheriff's office.

Then, Napolitano, in a joint press conference with Arpaio on her last day in office as U.S. Attorney, slammed the door on any possibility of charges against jailers involved in Norberg's killing.

With the Norberg criminal probe shelved, Arpaio and Napolitano enjoyed cordial relations after she was elected state attorney general in 1998 and through her 2002 campaign for governor. Her narrow victory over Salmon left a bitter taste in the mouths of many members of the GOP.

"Republicans feel we would not have Governor Napolitano had it not been for Sheriff Arpaio," says McGrath.

When New Times asked Arpaio why he appeared in the television advertisement supporting Napolitano just weeks before the election, he became noticeably agitated.

He claims he did it to "defend a lady" who had been unfairly attacked by then-Independent gubernatorial candidate Richard Mahoney.

"I did not endorse Janet Napolitano," he insists. "When I endorse somebody, I put my arms around them in public so everybody can see I'm endorsing this person!"

Despite the uproar, Arpaio says he has no regrets about doing the ad: "I'm proud of it. I did it. And that's the way it goes."

Arpaio's claim that he did not endorse Napolitano is dismissed as ridiculous by Republican leaders.

Immediately after the Napolitano ad appeared, Salmon called Arpaio and asked the sheriff to publicly endorse him. Arpaio refused, leaving Republicans to draw the only logical conclusion -- fellow party member Joe Arpaio, then the most popular politician in the state, was supporting the Democratic standard-bearer for governor.

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2 comments
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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