Sheriff Joe Arpaio pulled yet another ho-hum raid on a restaurant franchise recently, hunting illegal immigrants. At a Si Senor Mexican eatery in Chandler, sheriff's deputies scored five — count 'em, five — workers suspected of using fake ID.
Arpaio's self-congratulatory press release on this paltry haul called it his 56th such operation. Given his druthers, the sheriff might work his way through the kitchens of nearly every restaurant in Sand Land, learning in the process that — Shazam! — the people who peel potatoes and wash dishes in that industry are almost always here illegally from south of the border.
But Joe's latest use of a law enforcement blunderbuss to off a pond of minnows scored him almost zero press.
Perhaps Arpaio thought the weekend Chandler raid would help divert attention from his latest scandal — the MCSO's gross negligence in failing to properly investigate more than 400 sex-crime cases in El Mirage. He was wrong.
The public has been enraged by the Associated Press' account of the scandal, and the local news media has been piling on mercilessly. Elected Democratic officials have joined the call by activists for Arpaio's resignation. Even our two Republican U.S. senators, Jon Kyl and John McCain, have expressed "concern" over Arpaio's obvious neglect.
Fresh from the victory over ex-state Senate President Russell Pearce, Citizens for a Better Arizona and its co-founder Randy Parraz are leading the charge for Arpaio's head on a pike, setting sights on his fiscal bosses at the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors in hopes of pressuring them to seek Arpaio's political harakiri.
Folks seem particularly incensed by Arpaio's lame mea culpa for the bungle, one in which he "apologized" with the preface, "If there were any victims."
Of course, there were victims, including scores of children. But, as both my colleagues Ray Stern and James King have pointed out in several blog posts, this tale of the El Mirage outrage is not new.
Indeed, the East Valley Tribune first probed the El Mirage debacle in the 2008 series that earned two of its scribes a Pulitzer Prize. The MCSO's bungling extended beyond sex crimes to homicides and other transgressions.
But in 2008, the public really didn't give a flip. All the yahoo majority cared about was that Arpaio — through a series of unconstitutional sweeps of Latino neighborhoods that utilized racial profiling as a strategy — was rounding up Messcans left and right.
So all of a sudden, the public wants Arpaio to begin acting like a real law man and prioritize child molesters instead of illegal dishwashers and cooks?
Not that I'm complaining, but where have you numbskulls been all these years?
Actually, the electorate has never demanded that Arpaio embody the role of professional law enforcement officer. Scandal has plagued his administration almost since it began nearly two decades ago.
You practically could fill Burton Barr Central Library with all the cover stories and columns New Times has published exposing the sheriff.
From Arpaio's framing enemies and ginning up the specter of fake death threats against himself to a body count of unconvicted inmates who've either died from the abuse of guards, other prisoners, or from medical neglect in his vast incarceration complex.
New Times has pointed out — over and over — that Arpaio is the most sued sheriff in the nation, that wrongful deaths in his horribly run facilities have cost county taxpayers more than $50 million (at last count) in legal fees, lawsuit payouts, and settlements.
The majority of the voting public shrugged. No matter how egregious the wrongdoing — no matter the depth of the corruption — Arpaio had the public's number.
He gave them bread and circuses, stunts, and shuck and jive. Pink underwear and jail stripes and a broken tank that had to be pulled around like a Christmas parade float.
When nativist hatred toward the undocumented began to rise in 2005-06, Arpaio ditched his cavils that being illegally present in the United States was not a crime. He transformed the MCSO into a county version of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. People ate it up.
Subsequently, the MCSO's scandals have grown to gargantuan proportions.
Arpaio teemed up with now-disgraced former County Attorney Andrew Thomas, pursuing vendettas against county judges and supervisors and even newspapermen, like Village Voice Media executives Michael Lacey and Jim Larkin.
Later came the so-called "Munnell memo," exposing the illegal activities of Arpaio's then-Chief Deputy David Hendershott, the outside investigation of Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu, the results of which are still being sifted through; the theft by Arpaio's office of $100 million in county funds; and Arpaio's laughable testimony in the State Bar of Arizona's disciplinary proceedings against co-conspirator Andrew Thomas, in which his favorite phrase under oath was "I don't recall."
If Arpaio's not going to resign after all this, and after being investigated by a federal grand jury for criminal abuse-of-power violations, do you really think he's going to resign over botched sex-crime cases in El Mirage?
The only way I can see Arpaio resigning is if the do-nothings at the U.S. Department of Justice get a heavenly dose of testosterone and do a deal with the sheriff, forcing his resignation under threat of prosecution.
The feds have made such deals with malcontent politicians in the past, but the Obama administration still, inexplicably, seems to fear making Arpaio a martyr. I don't see the feds acting any more than I see Santa Claus sliding down Arpaio's chimney with an indictment wrapped in a shiny red bow.
So the 400-plus sex-crime cases in El Mirage, the ganked $100 million, and the crimes committed by Arpaio and his underlings in Joe's witch hunts against his enemies are, in the end, just some of the many bullets that can be used against him.
But bullets are worthless without someone to pull the trigger.
What we need is a candidate who can take on Arpaio in a primary or general election in 2012 — and win.
Naysayers carp that Arpaio has $6 million in his election kitty. Well, that's what Arpaio tells us. The last time he had to report campaign finances to county elections officials, it was closer to $2.4 million.
In any case, having more money than your opponent didn't help Russell Pearce in Legislative District 18.
Backtrack for a moment to 2008. Though sheriff's candidate Dan Saban was a severely wounded opponent — he had little money and was all but ostracized by the Democratic Party that recruited him to run — he still pulled 42 percent of the vote. And he managed to get more actual votes than Democratic hopeful for county attorney Tim Nelson.
Nelson had the state and county party on his side and the endorsement of then-Governor Janet Napolitano, and yet he earned about 8,000 votes fewer than Saban.
I'm not suggesting that Saban reconsider and jump into this battle. It's just that there's an anybody-but-Arpaio vote in the county of about 42 percent.
Possible future Arpaio challengers out there — Scottsdale Lieutenant Mike Stauffer, the only official opponent so far, or ex-Phoenix Police Sergeant Paul Penzone, whose name is getting bandied about — fall into this category.
However, the person who's got the big money of both political parties waiting on the sidelines is U.S. Marshal for Arizona David Gonzales.
Gonzales, a Republican, was appointed under President George W. Bush, and was kept on by President Obama, a testament to his nonpartisan effectiveness as a law enforcement official.
Essentially, Gonzales' job on the federal level matches what the sheriff's should be on the county level: He manages the movement of prisoners, oversees inmate custody, hunts fugitives, serves warrants, protects the courts, and investigates wrongdoing.
Tough and educated, with a bachelor's degree from the University of Arizona and a career at the Arizona Department of Public Safety that included a stint as an undercover narcotics agent, he's an affable, experienced public servant whom only crazy GOPers can't get behind.
His problem is twofold — a Hispanic last name and a reputation as a moderate R who has been critical of Arpaio's counterproductive immigration sweeps. As the county Republican Party is currently run by insane Mexican-bashers like county chairman and Arpaio stalwart Rob Haney, observers so far have figured Gonzales stands no chance taking on Arpaio in a GOP primary.
I would counter that this political forecast did not anticipate the public's sudden antipathy for the sheriff's malfeasance when it comes to sex-crime cases. Nor had it bargained for a shift in attitudes over immigration, a shift that helped bring Pearce to his knees in ultra-conservative LD 18.
As for his surname and his ethnicity, there are Archie Bunkers aplenty who will not vote for him over Arpaio.
But he would be helped by Democrats, who will work for any Republican who has a chance of removing Arpaio. And there is a long list of GOPers who secretly loathe Arpaio and want to see the near-80-year-old go down.
A bonus for Gonzales would be Latinos' registering and organizing to vote en masse against Arpaio.
Particularly, if Gonzales decided to run in the general election as an Independent.
Gonzales hasn't commented on his political ambitions; the minute he announces any candidacy, he must resign his federal post.
If he does decide to oppose Arpaio, he'd have to run a brash campaign to win. And he'd have to fire all the bullets that Arpaio has left at the ready.
Here's a follow-up on last week's column on Phoenix attorney Carmen Fischer, recently kicked off the Arizona District Court's list of referral attorneys because of her marriage to Angel Garcia, a high-ranking member of the New Mexican Mafia.
The photo of Fischer, arm-in-arm with her beloved, was sent my way by an anonymous source. It was taken in 2010 at the federal prison known as "Big Sandy," in Inez, Kentucky. You may wish to note the tattoo of a double-M logo and the words "Mexican Mafia" written above and below it in cursive on Garcia's arm.
Last week, I wrote that the State Bar of Arizona has an outstanding complaint against Fischer. Though the Bar has declined to comment further, I have learned that the bar is scheduled to hold a probable-cause hearing on January 13 to address ethics charges against her.
Allegations include Fischer's representing Garcia and a defendant whose case butted heads with Garcia's. The Bar complaint also claims that Fischer gave one of her clients intelligence on police informants and that she advised this same individual of an FBI sting targeting him.
Nancy Greenlee, Fischer's attorney in the Bar complaint, initially told me that whether or not she was representing Fischer was "confidential." Eventually, she copped to being Fischer's counsel but would not respond to allegations against her client.
"We're not going to try her Bar matter in the media," she told me. "I would rather you leave this be."
I told her that, like it or not, Fischer is a story because she has been accused of having sexual relations in the past with an incarcerated killer and has now wed a member of "New eMe," as the New Mexican Mafia is called.
Indeed, law enforcement sources believe Garcia, doing time in an Arizona pen for a prison assault and facing state charges of money-laundering and running drugs, has ordered as many as 10 people whacked (though he never has been charged with these crimes).
His photo even surfaced on Gangland: Valley of Death, a History Channel documentary on New eMe. Though his eyes are blacked out, it's obviously Garcia in the picture with some of his carnales, as his brothers in the gang that controls Arizona Department of Corrections prison yards are called.
The documentary is chilling because it re-creates the near-assassination of former ADC director Terry Stewart at Oaxaca restaurant in downtown Phoenix, which Stewart frequented.
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The assassins had their hands on their guns at one point, ready to off Stewart. But when a couple of uniformed cops came in to eat, the plan was blown.
There's no indication Garcia had anything to do with that assassination attempt in 1999, but he is a shot-caller in the same organization that would target such a high-ranking state official.
Which gives you an inking of what the man Fischer's married to is all about.