Trying to deflect the blame for the decisions he made isn't working out so well for Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio.
Our cover story this week, Joe Knew, describes how documents and his own current and former staff members put Arpaio squarely in the loop. His retired chief financial officer says she told him he was using a voter-approved jail fund illegally. And far from letting his former chief deputy handle all the grunt work in targeting Arpaio's political enemies for criminal investigations, records show that Arpaio took a hands-on approach.
Witnesses say he attended many key meetings of his Maricopa Anti-Corruption Enforcement team, reviewed at least one search warrant personally, contemplated evidence in cases, and determined whether or not he had probable cause for the arrest of Don Stapley.
Yet now, as evidence mounts that he -- and not just his underlings -- broke the law, Arpaio's changing his story on a prime example of his unethical behavior.
Arpaio's spokeswoman tells New Times that Arpaio now denies that he ordered the September 21, 2009, arrest of County Supervisor Don Stapley.
The issue came up last week after Gila County Attorney Daisy Flores announced that she was declining to prosecute Stapley on allegations of fraud that stemmed from one of Arpaio's MACE investigations. Flores mentions in her 47-page letter to county officials on the issue that the behavior by the MCSO was too unethical to move forward with prosecuting Stapley, even though she felt he was guilty of fraud and financial dishonesty.
New Times covered Stapley's legal woes in our November 26, 2009, feature article, Serving Up Stapley, which explains how Stapley's sins -- troubling as they are themselves -- are nothing compared to the abuse of power by so-called law officers.
Flores' letter states, "The arrest of Stapley on September 21, 2009, against conflict counsel's advice and three days after (Stapley's first criminal case) was dismissed shows vindictive intent by MCSO."
Flores then wrote "(Hendershott)" after that sentence.
However, Arpaio told the Arizona Republic in 2009 that he ordered the arrest:
Arpaio said detectives began investigating the most recent allegations in January and completed the investigation Sept. 11. Top investigators in the Sheriff's Office reviewed the case last week.
Arpaio said he made the decision to make an arrest late in the week, but Stapley was out of town.
Sounds like Arpaio knows what he's talking about, right? And no scapegoating his former chief deputy, Hendershott. Just a sheriff taking full and complete responsibility for his own order.
Not anymore. Arpaio's in full blame mode as his castle walls crumble.
Our blog post about Flores' decision mentioned in parantheses that when Flores talks about "egregious" behavior, she's referring to Arpaio and others. That sentence prompted a frantic phone call from Arpaio's spokeswoman, Lisa Allen, who told us that Flores' letter didn't say a word about Arpaio's behavior being egregious. We took another look, confessed that she was right, and removed the offending paranthetical insertion from the sentence.
But we didn't drop the argument, telling Allen that Flores' letter slams the bad ethics involved in Stapley's arrest -- and that Arpaio ordered that arrest.
Allen protested: "Our recollection is Hendershott ordered the arrest. He ran down the hall and said 'We're in the process of arresting Don Stapley.'"
When we told Allen about Arpaio's statement to the Repub in 2009, she was surprised and asked us to forward her a link.
"Arpaio doesn't remember telling anybody that he ever ordered the arrest of Don Stapley," she said.
That's quite a flip-flop from his position in 2009, obviously. Needless to say, the sheriff never requested a correction from the Republic in 2009 or -- until now -- expressed doubt that the statement attributed to him was inaccurate.
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Allen said she'd get back to us after examining the newspaper article. She never did. But we did get ahold of Flores this week.
The Gila County Attorney tells us that she wasn't aware of any statements by Arpaio that he ordered Stapley's arrest.
"Whoever ordered the arrest, it was egregious," she says.
She's right about that.