By Amy Silverman
By Olivia LaVecchia
By Monica Alonzo and Stephen Lemons
By Chris Parker
By Michael Lacey
By Weston Phippen
"The techniques . . . undermine prosecution by reducing the likelihood of conviction."
This surely isn't what Arpaio thought would be the outcome last November 13 when he cleared his daily calendar of all appointments to make sure he had time to respond to the horde of interview requests he expected later that day.
Arpaio knew the impending raid on dozens of homes, hotels and businesses across the Valley was guaranteed to generate reams of what he loves best:
He dispatched several hundred deputies and posse members to arrest more than 70 prostitutes and johns, capping an eight-week operation that stretched across the county from tiny Wittmann to tony Fountain Hills. The sheriff's office boasted that the raids were possibly the country's largest single-day sweep of houses of ill repute.
"We're a full-service law enforcement agency. We go after everybody," Arpaio boasted during a news conference on the day of the raids that, as expected, generated front-page newspaper articles across the state and prominent coverage on television.
But, as usual, there was something profoundly amiss with the tactics employed by Arpaio's overzealous and misguided detectives. Just as they had improperly entrapped James Saville in a twisted attempt to make the 18-year-old appear to be a Unabomber intent on killing Arpaio, the sheriff's agents blew the cases because they got blown by some of the hookers.
A key factor to note is that all that is needed to establish commission of a crime in a prostitution case is for two people to discuss the exchange of money for sex. No sex act need occur, nor does anyone have to remove a shred of clothing. Therefore, prostitution cases are the simplest to make. Virtual no-brainers for cops.
Here's an example of how posse member Glenn Coffman handled an encounter with an alleged prostitute:
Last October 29, Coffman drove to a massage parlor on West Thomas Road and agreed to pay $40 for a 30-minute rubdown. A woman in her early 50s told Coffman to take off his clothes. Coffman agreed. He then lay face first on a massage table and the woman began rubbing his back.
"She started to chew on my left ear, put her tongue in my ear, and whispered words to the effect for me not to be surprised if she ran her tongue over my balls and my shaft until I came all over her," Coffman states in his signed police report.
"She told me that for an additional $100, she did the massage in the nude and would give me oral sex. I told her I would get the $100. I got off the table, took the $100 out of my trouser pocket, and gave it to her."
At this point, a crime had been committed, and Coffman should have made the bust.
But this sheriff's posse member was far from done.
"She then removed the blue dress and bikini panties. She took my hand and walked me back to the table. She told me to lie down on my stomach. Once I was on the table, she began to massage me with her bare breasts. After using her breasts on most of my back and buttocks, she told me to turn over.
"She got on the table straddling me and took my penis and rubbed her vagina area with no penetration. I told her to slow down.
"She got off the table, came around to my right side, and massaged my penis with her breasts. I again told her to slow down.
"She hesitated a few minutes, and then took my penis in her hand and kissed it about 3-4 times."
Coffman's sexual encounter with the hooker ended moments later when an undercover officer knocked on the door.
Barnett Lotstein, special assistant county attorney, says Coffman's nudity had already wrecked the case. And his willingness to engage in extended sexual contact only made things worse.
"We believe that juries would not have convicted these people because of the police conduct," Lotstein says.
Other undercover deputies and posse members, Lotstein says, also engaged in inappropriate sexual conduct and nudity in the course of the investigation.
The sheriff's office is desperately trying to save face on this latest fiasco, claiming that the County Attorney's Office approved the techniques used in the operation and is now trying to politically embarrass Arpaio with the primary election two months away.
Sheriff's PIO MacPherson's spin is that the operation was properly conducted and that undercover deputies and posse members did nothing wrong in engaging in sexual activities with alleged hookers.
"We didn't do anything illegal," she says. "These are prosecutable cases, and we will get them prosecuted."
When pigs fly, the County Attorney's Office says. Neither the state Attorney General's nor the U.S. Attorney's offices has jurisdiction in such matters.
Lotstein stresses that Romley's office would never approve the use of nudity and sexual contact in the course of an investigation, that it is ludicrous to think that having sexual relations with prostitutes could result in prosecutable cases.
"We in law enforcement have an obligation," Lotstein says, "not to stoop to this level."
The sheriff's publicity machine has even tried to turn the tables on Romley by insisting that he is playing to the G-rated sensibilities of the voting public.
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!