Sheriff Gangbanger

This sardonic sapsucker scratches out the truth on Sheriff Joe's gang-friendly gulags, an ICE spokesman's DUI stint, and the Arizona Repugnant's reportorial fumbles

This ornery oriole gags over the way most of the P-town press plays cocker spaniel to Sheriff Joe Arpaio. Take, for example, the myth that he's the roughest, toughest lawman since Wyatt Earp, despite Arpaio's dismal record handling the two main jobs of his office — process server and jailer.

For example, the other day, Arpaio posted details online of 70,000 arrest warrants outstanding in the county, demanding that fugitives turn themselves in or that citizens report 'em. Um, 70,000 unserved warrants? Guess the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office's a bigger joke than the faux cops of Reno 911!. But the media here — including the Arizona Repugnant — reported the item like it was some great crime-fightin' deal, rather than what it was: an admission of professional impotence.

There's also this popular notion promulgated by much of AZ's fourth estate that Arpaio's jails deter crime and dispense just punishment. But in reality, Tent City's a breeding ground for violent, race-based gangs, mobs that control the desert gulag 'cause of the ineptitude of Joe and his underlings.

Fred Harper

One cat this parakeet's known since first flappin' its way into the PHX did a monthlong stint in Tent City recently, and was forced to join the Aryan Brotherhood, known in the pen as The Woods. Tent City's run by four major gangs: The Woods, encompassing the joint's whiteys; The Kinfolk, black inmates; The Pisces, Mexican prisoners from Mexico; and The Cholos, or Mexican-Americans in Joe's stir.

The Bird's bud told this bug-eater that on his first trip to chow, he unthinkingly sat at a Kinfolk table, and was advised to sit "with his own kind." Post-chow, he was visited by six big white doods who told him he had to report to The Woods council, made up of Aryan Brotherhood members whose seniority derived from previous stints inside.

"They told me, 'You disobeyed the first rule; you sat down with The Kinfolk,'" related The Bird's pal, a slight guy who's far from the most intimidating fella on the planet. "'You have any contact with The Kinfolk, and we beat you down.'"

Being that he was a newbie, they let him slide on his initial Kinfolk contact. And eventually, he was given a job within The Woods guarding a stash of tobacco. The punishment if his stash was discovered? First time, you skate. Second time, The Woods clobber you.

(Note: My pal's description of life in the tents goes for the regular stripe-wearin' Tent City population, not for those on "work furlough," who maintain their civilian garb, and are segregated from the regular population. Those on work furlough spend days on the outside, and nights sleeping in the canvas concentration camp.)

Opting out of a gang assignment is not an option. If you're white and you get forced to join, you're in the Aryan Brotherhood for the duration. You have to live by The Woods' code, or get your ass kicked daily. While he was there, he was in three fights, two with Mexicans, one with a black guy. Each time, he was made to mix it up.

"I was in the chow line, and this big Mexican dude cut in front of me," peeped the former prisoner. "The white guy behind me said, 'What're you gonna do about that?' I said, 'Nothing.' He said, 'You're gonna let that fuckin' beaner get in front of you? You better do something or when we get back in the tent . . .' So I had to shove the Mexican dude and be this fucking tough guy I didn't want to be. Three or four punches, and the fight was over. And no, I didn't win."

The Woods operate with ruthlessness, bringing in all kinds of contraband, from cocaine and marijuana to cigarettes and coffee, mainly by "keistering it in" via a "mule" who has a daytime job on the chain gang, or elsewhere. The mule sticks the stuff far up his anus, at which the Tent City staff only gives a cursory glance. Contraband's hidden and sold with the assistance of the guards, who generally steer clear of Tent City's yards.

Gangs "sell" contraband such as coffee and cigarettes by bartering them for commissary items, like chips and candy bars, which they purchase with the $100 each prisoner's allowed to keep on his commissary account per week. They keep excess items in lockers, for which they can buy combination locks.

The Aryans and other gangs have a complex distribution system. More expensive goods like crystal meth or coke are bought through intermediaries outside Tent City, and transferred to prisoners who work outside jail walls. These inmates then mule in the contraband under direction of the gangs.

Woe be it to the jailbird who doesn't follow The Woods' rules.

"The Woods'd put those locks in socks to beat someone with," my pal explained. "One day, I saw them rush this guy, whale him in the head. They beat the fucking shit out of him. It was the middle of the fucking day. There were no guards anywhere."

This ex-Tenter's tale is echoed in parts by a variety of sources. There's attorney Mike Manning, who's won multimillion-dollar settlements against Arpaio and Maricopa County for wrongful deaths. Manning currently has a lawsuit pending for the beating death of Phillip Wilson, a sheriff's office snitch who was informing on the Aryan Brotherhood. The Woods found him out and pummeled him to a pulp in his tent on July 22, 2003. The lawsuit alleges that officers assigned to the yard were outside in the parking lot at the time of the murder. Thus, according to the Wilson suit, the MCSO's so lax, it's let its own informants be killed by Tent City brutes.

A year before Wilson's demise, the Arizona Court of Appeals affirmed jury verdicts in a lawsuit brought by former Tent City inmate Jeremy Flanders. The appeals decision states, "Half Anglo and half Hispanic, Flanders was pressured to join competing jail gangs. Flanders instead chose to be 'by himself.'" As a result, six men attacked Flanders as he slept, bludgeoning him with steel spikes, leaving Flanders in a coma. When he emerged, he'd suffered permanent brain damage. The decision further reads:

"At the time of the attack, no guards were present in the yard or at the tents. No alarm sounded. No guard heard or saw the beating."

Lastly, a former Tent City guard recently contacted The Bird over her disgust with the way Joe's jails are run. She confirmed nearly everything this winged wonder's amigo said about his tent time, including the laziness of her fellow officers who preferred dawdling their days away in the cozy confines of the "control room."

She told this thrush, "Most of the guards would sit in there where it was nice and safe. You'd have 12 or 13 in there at one time, with only maybe two people out walking the yards.

"It'd break my heart, basically kids going in [Tent City], 19, 20, or 21," the former officer squawked. "They're in there for a DUI or something like that, and they're scared shitless. They don't want to be with any gang, but they have no choice."

Not surprisingly, Arpaio flack Lisa Allen MacPherson didn't respond to The Bird's calls for comment on who really runs the jails. The MCSO routinely violates the First Amendment rights of this paper and, by extension, the citizens of this county by refusing to answer routine inquiries. It denies New Times reporters access to press conferences, and blocks public records requests concerning the sheriff.

Such issues are at the heart of New Times' ongoing lawsuit against the MCSO seeking public documents detailing Arpaio's commercial real estate investments. As payback, the sheriff wants Pinal County to criminally prosecute this publication for mentioning his home address online, even though anyone with Internet access could always get this info in scads of other places. Read more about this contretemps in The Bird's Xmas card column to Joe ("Joe Strikes Back," December 21, 2006).

Bottom line is, Tent City's a lawless place controlled by organized criminal enterprises. Jeez, Sheriff Joke's the best friend gangbangers've ever had! The Woods should make the top screw an honorary skinhead. The Bird's sure the sheriff would enjoy wearing the steel-toed boots the Aryans favor on the outside.

Ahr on Ice

Speaking of DUIers and Maricopa County jails, this taloned tweeter's recently learned that Russell "Pete" Ahr, the former Phoenix public information officer for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (a.k.a. "ICE"), did a lil' time behind Arpaio's bars for (presumably) hitting the bars.

Seems Ahr was popped June 1, 2006, by Scottsdale po-po and found to have a sky-high blood-alcohol content of .166. State law sets an extreme DUI at .15 percent. The offense garners a mandatory 10-day stay in the slammer.

That means Ahr, 54, got to rub elbows with some of the very illegal Mexican immigrants ICE's charged with capturing, seeing that Maricopa County Attorney Candy Thomas and Sheriff Joke have made it a priority to nab illegals and try them on conspiracy charges of smuggling themselves into the country. Ahr did his time shortly after retiring from ICE on October 13, with 30 years of service under his chapeau. (ICE says Ahr's departure had nothing to do with his DUI conviction, BTW.)

No word on whether Ahr was forced to join the Aryan Brotherhood.

Certainly this sharp-tongued stork can sympathize with Ahr's need to get hammered. It's tough working for ICE in this town. Your bosses change as fast as the diapers on a diarrheic newborn. Your co-workers are demoralized. Liberals hate you 'cause you bust illegal immigrants. Conservatives hate you 'cause you're not busting enough.

And when you're nabbed for drinking and driving, ICE critic Candy Thomas makes sure your morose mug shot is front and center on the County Attorney-sponsored Web site www.stopduiaz.com. (Sometimes it sucks having a last name that begins with "A.") Then, the ultimate insult, some chirping PHX columnist scribbles it all down for posterity, revealing that you were still past due on $751.93 of your $2,483.93 fine.

Ahr's now living in San Antonio, Texas, leaving ICE on the hunt to fill his job, listed at $90,000 a year. The position must have been pretty easy since ICE does very little! Don't believe this arrogant avian? Read New Times writer Ray Stern's cover story on the troubled agency ("Meltdown," November 16, 2006). Hmm, $90K to bullshit reporters at a do-nothing agency? Where does this brazen buzzard sign up?

Wrong-Way Wagner

So when AZ's paper of record isn't reprinting Sheriff Arpaio's press releases and licking the loafers of PHX power brokers, the Repugnant's flubbing the news with its team of crack reporters. Enter Dennis "The Menace" Wagner, who's been shuffling along at the daily for many a year now, probably daydreaming of cashing in his chips and living out his days in a Yuma double-wide.

Wagner recently blew the dust off a profile of former AZ attorney general Grant Woods, which jumped from the front page to a full page in the daily's Sunday, January 7, edition. The story had the far-from-stirring header: "Defined by principles, paradox." Nothing much of note in the takeout, 'cept for a line high up in the story stating that Woods is "prosecuting the 'Baseline Killer' case."

Flip Fantasia, talk about a scoop!

But hold on there, Portnoy. We know from New Times éminence grise Paul Rubin's exposé about James Mullins, the Kentucky inmate who falsely confessed to murdering 19-year-old Georgia Thompson in September 2005, that Woods was going to prosecute Mullins ("I Dunnit," September 21, 2006). But that case wilted under the solar rays of further scrutiny. Tempe's police investigation was revealed to be shoddier than warped balsa wood, and Mullins' confession turned out more fake than some hottie's bolt-ons at the Hi-Liter.

For a while, it appeared Woods might win a role in the ongoing case against accused BLK Mark Goudeau. But, no, Woods' good buddy Candy Thomas backed off his initial desire to have Woods onboard the BLK prosecution team. (Politics sure do make for wacky mattress-mates, what with Woods being an outgoing and open-minded sort, and Candy being a nerdy, wing-nutty Mexican basher from way back.)

Instead, the prosecutin' will be handled by two of Candy's veteran homicide attorneys. Not to be denied, Woods accepted an assignment as lead prosecutor on another murder case for the Maricopa County Attorney's Office, though not a high-profile one. Woods says he's doing it gratis, just to keep his hand in.

Hey, maybe Wagner read Rubin's piece and never followed up to see if stuff had changed. Or maybe the Rep scribe's copy had been sitting around the office gathering cobwebs and no editor thought to recheck the facts. Either way, someone's getting paid too much at the snoozy fishwrap.

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1 comments
chris
chris

I am currentyl an inmate at tent city on work furlough. Everytime I eat food from the mcso i get so sick it feel like im going to die. Take my freedom, and rights but dont try to kill me! This is unreal how mcso can do this. You are forced to buy there food to keep from getting sick which Arpaio owns and operates.

 
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