Arpaio's Running Scared
Hey Joe, why are you hiding from me?
Are you scared?
Seems "the toughest sheriff in America" should have nothing to fear from me. All I've got is a pen, a notepad and a couple of hundred questions.
You've got an army of deputies equipped with machine guns, tanks, wiretaps and torture devices -- such as the restraint chairs that your hoodlums in the jail use to suffocate troublesome detainees.
If you're such a he-man, why won't you respond to my numerous public records requests seeking jail financial documents?
If you're such a bad-ass, why not cut loose the incident reports on the latest death in the jail, as your bitch Glen Campbell prepared to blow you by taking the stage the other night inside Tent City for a 30-minute concert for inmates that made, um, news everywhere?
What were the circumstances surrounding the death of 38-year-old Charles Edward Ward, who died from a ruptured blood vessel in his head?
Ward reportedly collapsed in a shower -- an area of the jail that's infamous for fights because there are no cameras.
Was Ward another in a long list of beating victims inside your gulag? Or did he just have one of your patented "accidents"?
If you're such an upstanding guy -- somebody who claims to hide nothing from the public -- then why won't you show us the rest of your real estate records that you've sealed in the Maricopa County Recorder's office?
Is it because you inexplicably have $800,000 in cash locked up in three small properties?
How much more cash have you stowed away in real estate on your civil servant's salary and federal pension from the DEA?
By the way, where did you get all that cash?!
Do these questions bother you, Cash 'n' Go Joe?
Is that why you darted from me when I confronted you in a Scottsdale library parking lot on July 8 and asked why you were driving a county-owned car to a Republican Party campaign event?
"I'm not talking to you!" you whined like a little girl, as you jumped tremulously into the county's unmarked police interceptor that you'd hijacked for personal use.
You were in such a nervous hurry to get away that you had one of your celebrated keystone cops moments. You inadvertently turned on the red-and-blue flashing police lights as you backed up and finally exited the library parking lot.
I couldn't help but laugh. The fearsome Sheriff Joe was scared witless of New Times!
So much so that you later refused to allow a photographer and me to cover the concert to some of your inmates by pop-country crooner Campbell. You let every other television station and newspaper in the county inside the jail to cover this 30-minute songfest. (That DUI arrest was a godsend for Campbell, because this is about the only kind of gig he can land anymore.)
We were told by your goons that New Times -- which has been pulling down your pants and fanny-whacking your wrinkled behind for years -- wasn't welcome.
That's okay, Mighty Methuselah of Law Enforcement, we hung with work-release inmates in the parking lot and listened to the show from the back of my pickup truck. Those prisoners had plenty of stories about jailers cutting off water supplies for five hours during the heat of the day -- and about attacks by swarms of mosquitoes breeding in the ridiculous fish farm pond you had dug next to the tents.
Hey, Joe, I'm sure you've heard about mosquito-borne West Nile virus, which has killed two people in Maricopa County this year. If an inmate or two died of this, that would just be more good law-enforcement, right?
That Arpaio has resorted to blatant censorship to keep New Times at bay is no surprise.
Tinhorn dictators like the Republican sheriff always resort to such tactics. Arpaio's hidden plenty of public records from the press and attorneys suing on behalf of inmates who have died in the jail, so why not stiff-arm us and continue to refuse to comply with the Arizona Public Records Law?
This, by the way, is illegal. But the increasingly dangerous and vengeful Old Man Joe cares little about the law when it gets in the way of what he wants to do.
With New Times locked out of the jailhouse hootenanny, the 72-year-old Arpaio knew the rest of the gutless local media would give gee-whiz coverage to Campbell's song and dance. It must be nice to have son-in-law Phil Boas as deputy editorial page editor at the Arizona Republic.
The Republic certainly bent over forward for the latest Joe Show, as well. Not only was there a story and photo on the front page of the July 10 paper, but the Republic's pinhead editors felt that Campbell's concert was so important that they ran a second story and photo on the front page of the Valley section.
Despite the saturation coverage, the Republic, as usual, missed the real story about Campbell's friendly relationship with Joe and his jail.
The paper never reported that Arpaio let Campbell stay in a private, cushy room at a supposedly closed holding facility in Mesa. Despite Campbell's claim to have served hard time, he never shared a double-bunk with the unwashed stripes packed like rats into Tent City.
Instead, Joe let his butt boy off easy, just like he does for other people who can later provide him favors.
Hey, Joe, here's a couple of questions your buddies in the press, like Robert Koebel -- the Channel 15 reporter fired last week for giving you a $100 campaign contribution and then doing a hit-piece on your principle political rival, Dan Saban -- didn't bother to ask.
Why did Campbell get to bring his guitar and other creature comforts like a mattress into the Mesa facility, when other inmates can't even bring in a toothbrush and a couple of books?
I thought you were going to treat him like "anybody else."
Why did you give him a nice, clean, quiet cell in which to spend the night? Campbell was on work-release and only had to report to jail between 7 p.m. and 7 a.m. during eight days of his 10-day sentence. He got out of jail early on his last day, slipping out the door at 6:16 a.m.
Campbell never came close to being forced to wear pink underwear and stripes.
You obviously gave Campbell an easy ride in exchange for the Rhine-stoned Cowboy's throwing a concert that would generate the free publicity that (if it proved necessary) you'd sell your wife into white slavery to get.
Yet, despite Campbell's helping you showboat -- and the embarrassingly dainty media coverage of your thuggery -- you're steadily losing political support, which is why you're running scared.
The Professional Fire Fighters of Arizona will endorse Saban, a retired Mesa police commander, in the September 7 Republican primary.
This is a mighty blow to Joe.
The 4,500 firefighters are the single most powerful political force in Maricopa County, and they are now joining forces with police unions and law enforcement fraternal groups that are unanimously opposing Arpaio's re-election to a fourth term. Not to mention Joe's own local Republican Party.
"This is a sign of our support for every police organization in the county in their choice of the top officer of their profession," says United Phoenix Fire Fighters Local 493 president Billy Shields.
Firefighters, Shields says, are disgusted with Arpaio's insatiable quest for publicity, which, in some cases, has resulted in creating dangerous conditions for the public.
Shields says firefighters are upset over the sheriff's handling of the May 8 arrest of two firefighters suspected of arson. Sheriff's deputies arrested the firefighters in the middle of their shift.
"No one wants to get in the way of the sheriff doing his job," Shields says. "But the theatrical and dramatic staging of the way he went into the fire station at 2 a.m. and made the arrests -- along with the presence of television cameras at the jail waiting for these folks -- was outrageous."
Shields says the arrests could have been made at the end of the shift, rather than reducing the number of firefighters available to respond to an emergency. "This was potentially life-threatening to the people in the area the fire truck served," Shields tells me.
Joe's show-biz bust of the firefighters -- just like the prostitution stings that blew up in his face when his Barney Fife deputies and posse members got naked and had sex with alleged hookers -- hasn't resulted in indictments.
More than two months after the firefighters were arrested, the sheriff's department has yet to file a police report with the Maricopa County Attorney's Office, and the firefighters have been released from jail.
Not only is the firefighters' union, which is masterful at turning out the vote, dumping on Arpaio, but the storied leader of Arizona Republicans is expected to soon announce that he, too, is sick of Ancient Joe -- who's the dangerous combination of stupid and mean.
Senator John McCain is expected to throw his support to Saban. The endorsement is expected to come later this month, just before voting by mail begins in early August. Although officials in McCain's office declined to comment officially, sources say that McCain met with Saban over the July 4 weekend, and McCain said he would support Saban in the primary.
McCain, I understand, was particularly upset with Arpaio after reading my recent cover story on the sheriff's life of slime ("In the Crosshairs," June 24).
It's about time political leaders get on the soapbox and encourage voters to throw Arpaio out of office. He's long been a huge liability for the county. Tens of millions of dollars in lawsuits have piled up in Maricopa County Superior Court over his flagrant abuses inside the jail.
These lawsuits will cost us taxpayers dearly. Arpaio's already been held personally liable by the Arizona Court of Appeals for the cruel and dangerous conditions he's purposely created at Tent City. The deaths and serious injuries that have occurred after the court's 2002 ruling are likely to result in huge damage awards for plaintiffs and their survivors.
The county already has had to raise its insurance deduction from $1 million per case to $5 million per case. Arpaio's disregard for human rights -- his attitude that torture and abuse are acceptable forms of punishment -- are costing us all dearly.
As Arpaio's political support is rapidly eroding, he's becoming increasingly vulnerable over allegations that he improperly used his police powers to destroy Saban's political campaign.
Saban campaign officials say they have obtained several depositions from sheriff's office employees and others that state they were ordered to do criminal investigations on Arpaio's political opponents.
Looking more and more like the poor man's Richard Nixon reincarnated, Arpaio sooner or later will become the target of a criminal investigation. There's just too much out there to ignore.
But first, someone with prosecutorial balls has to step up to the plate.
Saban personally called the office of Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard on June 29 and asked for a meeting to turn over information he has gathered concerning Arpaio's alleged misuse of his police powers. No one from Goddard's office responded to Saban.
"When I don't get a call back from the attorney general after the information I provided, that's incredible," Saban told me.
I agree. So I called Goddard on July 10 and left him a voice message, asking, "What's up?"
Goddard later left me a voice message, saying he didn't know that Saban had even called his office, let alone the reasons he wanted to meet.
I later briefed Goddard on the situation and, on July 12, one of his aides called Saban, apologizing for not responding sooner.
Saban says he's not waiting for Goddard to take action.
His campaign is now considering several other options, including asking Arpaio-hater and Republican County Attorney Rick Romley to investigate the allegations, or asking the feds to step in and review the matter.
Any intervention by Romley will unfortunately be seen as a personal attack on Arpaio, and could work to the sheriff's advantage.
Maybe Romley could hire former U.S. Attorney Mel McDonald to do the dirty work, as he did when Republican leaders asked him to investigate the state prison hostage incident last winter.
The Bush Administration feds will try to avoid this county political battle, especially since Arpaio, amazingly, is on the president's re-election team.
Goddard's office should seize the moment and at least review the information gathered by Saban's campaign, which has hired private investigator Rich Robertson to bore into Arpaio's pathetic antics.
It's time for Goddard to break ranks with fellow Democrat, Governor Janet Napolitano, who loves Joe.
Otherwise, it's a pretty sad indictment of the entire political structure in Arizona, when a Democratic governor and attorney general refuse to publicly condemn a Republican sheriff who flagrantly abuses his police powers to intimidate political rivals, and who has left a string of dead and injured inside his jail.
Makes me wonder: What has despicable old Arpaio got on the governor?
We'll find out. Sooner or later, we'll find out.
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you’ll never miss Phoenix New Times' biggest stories.