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Arpaio Corruption: The Feds Have Spoken, But Justice Won't Be Served Until the Sheriff's Indicted

The DOJ's report is no more than a sometimes enticing read, unless the feds go after Joe Arpaio criminally.
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Jack MacIntyre is paid more than $120,000 a year to justify and rationalize the ill deeds for which his boss, Sheriff Joe Arpaio, ultimately is culpable.

These include the wrongful deaths that take place regularly in Arpaio's jails, the persecution of Arpaio's enemies by his underlings, the Sheriff's Office's rampant corruption, its malfeasance and dereliction of duty, its institutionalized racial profiling, and its gross disregard for constitutional rights.

So his smarmy reply at Arpaio's recent press conference to the U.S. Department of Justice's bombshell report on the MCSO's well-documented mania for racial profiling hardly was a surprise.

"There are really no specific allegations in [the report]," MacIntyre buffaloed reporters. "There are generalities. There are claims made by a few people that are unidentified."

The deputy chief's lips were moving — so Mac­Intyre, of course, was lying.

But, then, MacIntyre, at the same presser, moronically compared the DOJ report to the Japanese sneak attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941.

The report, in the form of a letter of findings from Assistant U.S. Attorney General Tom Perez, actually is full of specifics that back up its characterization of the MCSO's policies as "the most egregious [case] of racial profiling in the Unites States."

The report states at one point, "The MCSO has implemented practices that treat Latinos as if they are all undocumented, regardless of whether a legitimate factual basis exists to suspect that a person is undocumented."

In reading that line, I felt as though I'd written it — on many other occasions and in many different ways.

In 2009, when dealing with the case of a green-card-carrying father and his 12-year-old American-citizen son (who were zip-tied and treated like ordinary criminals by MCSO goons because their home was next to a drop house), I observed:

"To the MCSO, all Hispanics are suspected of being illegal aliens until proved otherwise."

Both the legal-resident dad and his son are named Fili Gaucin. The names of Gaucin junior and senior are not mentioned in Perez's letter, but their treatment is described in detail.

On the day in question, Gaucin senior was at home when MCSO thugs knocked on his door. He cooperated with them, let them search his home without a warrant, and answered questions about his neighbors, though he didn't know what they were up to.

Though Gaucin had his green card on him, deputies took him outside, zip-tied his hands, and sat him down with those the MCSO was removing from the drop house next door.

As if that weren't bad enough, Arpaio's boys in beige went for his son, placing the kid in zip ties that hurt his wrists. They were detained for about an hour before getting released without explanation.

Perez avoided naming the Gaucins when describing the incident. He used it as just one example of the "widespread pattern or practice of law enforcement and jail activities that discriminate against Latinos."

New Times readers should be familiar with these allegations, because I and other writers here proved them in a 2009 series titled "Are Your Papers in Order?" and in stories published before and since.

In fact, I wrote about the Gaucins twice, once in March and once on October 29, 2009 ("Joe Arpaio Zip-Ties a 12-Year-Old"). Other news outlets covered the Gaucins, as well. Both MacIntyre and Arpaio are well aware of the incident.

The Gaucins, of course, are just one example of how the MCSO treats Hispanics as second-class citizens. There are so many other examples that it would take an encyclopedia to detail them all.

There also is the case of Julio and Julian Mora, another father-and-son pair in which the dad is a legal permanent resident and the son an American citizen.

In 2009, the Moras were handcuffed and held for three hours without cause during an MCSO immigration raid, one in which the sheriff's men looked for illegal landscapers. With the help of the ACLU of Arizona, the Moras sued the MCSO, receiving a $200,000 settlement.

Over the years, I've brought you accounts of Latina moms whose arms were broken or their jaws busted in MCSO custody. I've given you accounts of parents torn from their crying children by MCSO deputies wearing black ski masks and bulletproof vests.

Other New Times reporters have recounted stories of permanent residents getting physically abused and, in one instance, a medieval scene in which a Latina was shackled to her bed as she gave birth.

No, the Perez letter doesn't retell each of these stories. It doesn't have to.

Over three-plus years, DOJ investigators and analysts interviewed witnesses and victims. The DOJ sued for access to records, MCSO personnel, and the jails themselves. They ultimately won — and were able to nail down the systemic nature of the MCSO's ill deeds.

They found Latino drivers four to nine times more likely to be stopped by the MCSO. Twenty percent of all stops made by the MCSO's notorious Human Smuggling Unit were done "without reasonable suspicion or probable cause."

 

And almost all HSU stops were of Latinos.

The DOJ also picked up on Arpaio himself "promoting a culture of bias in his organization" and communicating to his underlings that "biased policing would not only be tolerated, but encouraged."

Indeed, for a 22-page document, the DOJ covered much ground. For proof of the sheriff's "culture of bias," it recounted blatantly bigoted e-mails sent around the MCSO, with crude depictions of drunken Mexicans and ethnic stereotypes that would warm the hearts of Klansmen.

I reported on these in April of this year, when they were released as part of the discovery in the big ACLU racial-profiling lawsuit against the MCSO, Melendres v. Arpaio ("Joe Arpaio Admits Racial Profiling," April 30).

Oral arguments in the case are scheduled for December 22, and judging from a recent order to both parties, U.S. District Judge G. Murray Snow does not seem favorably inclined toward the MCSO, primarily because deputies destroyed countless documents long sought by the plaintiffs.

The DOJ also commented on letters to Arpaio from his bigoted followers, some stupidly complaining of Spanish speakers at a McDonald's in Sun City. Arpaio improperly used such scribblings from local yahoos as the rationale for Hispanic-hunting sweeps and immigration raids on businesses.

Though the DOJ's info on the bigoted letters to Arpaio came from Melendres, I had detailed in a 2009 cover story the ties between right-wing extremists and Arpaio, including neo-Nazis and near-insane nativists ("Ja, Joe," May 14, 2009).

In that piece, I told how Arpaio allowed Minutemen and nativists into command centers for his sweeps. He gave neo-Nazis intelligence on protesters. And he used a petition circulated by devout Mexican hater and convicted public urinator "Buffalo" Rick Galeener as the pretext for an immigration sweep at Cave Creek and Bell roads in Phoenix.

What I also appreciate about the DOJ report is that it notes the horrid treatment of Latinos in MCSO custody, where they are punished for speaking Spanish, even if they speak only a little English or none at all.

And it mentioned the retaliation the MCSO regularly practices against those who criticize it, in direct violation of the First Amendment. Though the Justice Department doesn't mention it, New Times' lawsuit over the MCSO's arrests of our founders for writing a story about illegal grand jury subpoenas is a case in point.

Also, maybe MacIntyre wants to play dumb over the DOJ's mention of the illegal arrest and detention of Salvador Reza in 2010 on bogus charges later dropped by then-acting Maricopa County Attorney Rick Romley.

As with the Gaucins, Reza's not mentioned by name, though it is obvious the letter is referring to him ("Joe Arpaio and Goons Grab Salvador Reza Off the Street," July 30, 2010).

Ditto the 2008 arrests of members of advocacy group Maricopa Citizens for Safety and Accountability at the Board of Supervisors' public meetings, in some cases for "clapping."

Though the members of the group arrested aren't named, the organization is named, as is the fact they beat their charges, sued the county, and won substantial settlements.

One of Maricopa Citizens for Safety and Accountability's organizers at the time was Randy Parraz, now famous for leading the recall charge against former state Senate President Russell Pearce ("Headhunter," November 17).

Parraz was falsely arrested in 2008 by MCSO goons on bogus trespassing charges. Charges later were dropped. His lawsuit's still in play.

Like many others, I, too, was encouraged reading Perez's report. The DOJ certainly seems to get it in many respects.

The report even comments disapprovingly on the MCSO's habit of pressuring immigrant detainees to sign "voluntary return" documents that deprive them of their rights to fight deportation.

Ironically, the practice also benefited U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which was partnered in Arpaio's jails with MCSO's federally cross-trained 287(g) deputies, who could act as junior immigration agents.

In the wake of Perez's report, ICE stripped Arpaio's office of 287(g) in the jails, though the agency's complicity in the MCSO's civil rights abuses extends over several years.

Indeed, Arpaio couldn't have implemented his policy of immigration sweeps without his 287(g) agreement with ICE, which began in 2007. Though his 287(g) authority in the field finally was taken from him in 2009, Arpaio terrorized countless civilians under ICE's watch during that period.

But so far, the recent severing of the 287(g) jails agreement is the only immediate, tangible repercussion for the MCSO as a result of its years-long pattern of discriminatory policing.

The residents of this county who are outraged by the sheriff's corruption need and demand more from the Obama administration.

 

Perez made very clear both his intention to cooperate, if possible, with the MCSO and — if the MCSO refuses to cooperate — to sue the office to force compliance with a list of "remedial measures" meant to rein in a rogue, racist police force that Perez described as "broken."

While slamming the feds during his presser, Arpaio reluctantly signaled that he might cooperate.

County supervisors pray that he does. At stake is $155 million in federal aid that the county receives. That money potentially could be withheld if Arpaio does not comply. And it wouldn't hurt the MCSO much if the sheriff didn't comply. His office garners only about $5 million of the cash.

Arpaio has 60 days to come to terms with the feds. After that, the legal sturm und drang could drag on for who knows how long — though there always is the remote possibility that the MCSO could be taken into receivership by the feds in the meantime. A more likely result would be a court-enforced consent decree, like the kind the DOJ entered into with the Los Angeles Police Department in the wake of the Rampart scandal.

It is not in Perez's purview as head of the Civil Rights Division to bring criminal charges against Arpaio, but indictments of Arpaio and his henchmen are necessary for justice to be done.

Particularly since much of what Perez outlines in his letter is criminal.

It is illegal under federal statute for officials to deprive individuals of their constitutional rights "under the color of law." It also is illegal for two or more individuals to conspire to do this. There are criminal penalties for both offenses.

Is there any doubt that in retaliating against his critics, Arpaio has done just this? Not to mention the intentional discrimination, physical abuse, and targeting of those with brown skin?

Perez said the criminal probe of Arpaio is ongoing and that he couldn't speak to it.

My sources say the U.S. Attorney's Office has not been able to make the case against Arpaio criminally. In the past, it has been suggested that the whole matter is so political that the U.S. Attorney's Office, in the minds of those in the Obama administration, must wait until after the November 2012 election to act.

However, in the wake of the DOJ's latest move, there's chatter that this is part of a new "narrative" that Obama-ites wish to project.

That is, as they failed Latinos nationally on immigration reform and the DREAM Act, pursuing Arpaio for his racial-profiling ways will show Latinos that the president really is on their side, that he wants to box in Hispanics' Public Enemy Number One.

I couldn't care less what the motivation is; I just want to see Joe Arpaio get his.

The feds should flip his underlings to testify against him by charging them and threatening them with serious prison time. Do whatever it takes.

Because no matter how good a court-monitored consent decree might come out of either the DOJ's negotiations with the MCSO or the rulings in Melendres, there will be no justice until Arpaio and his henchmen are perp-walked.


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