In the Crosshairs
Linda Saville leans across the table in a downtown Phoenix restaurant and recites the pledge she made at the moment her brother was acquitted of conspiring to kill Sheriff Joe Arpaio.
"I swore I was not going to let this happen to someone else," she said about that fateful Friday the 13th, when her kid brother was acquitted by a jury and released three days later from the Maricopa County Jail after spending four years behind bars.
"He was set up," she says, recalling that day last June.
James Saville was 18 years old when he was arrested on July 9, 1999, by undercover sheriff's deputies and charged with plotting to kill Arpaio with a bomb.
A self-described pyromaniac with prior felony convictions, Saville was slapped with a $1 million bond and no hope of getting out of jail before his trial.
Poor and confused, Saville was the perfect stooge for yet another Joe Arpaio publicity stunt.
That Saville was railroaded was incidental to the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office, where stroking Sheriff Joe Arpaio's publicity furnace comes well ahead of law enforcement.
All that mattered to Arpaio and his media czarina, Lisa Allen MacPherson, was that Saville's arrest led the evening television news and was page-one material in the county's daily newspapers.
And they got what they wanted: Images of gun-wielding deputies swooping into a parking lot and taking a bewildered and unarmed Saville into custody filled the airwaves.
News anchors gushed how they were thankful that Saville's despicable plot had been foiled by vigilant deputies and that the brave Arpaio had averted yet another serious attempt on his life.
"Well, we took this guy off the street," Arpaio bragged in his best John Wayne inflection to a television news station after going home to "comfort" his wife in the wake of the alleged foiled assassination attempt. "He's back in prison, where he belongs."
This is where Arpaio wished the Saville newsreel had ended.
But there's more.
Saville didn't deserve to be locked up in Arpaio's dungeon.
He was innocent.
Four years after his televised arrest, a Maricopa County Superior Court jury ruled that Arpaio's detectives had entrapped Saville.
Entrapment defenses rarely succeed because they are exceedingly difficult to prove. James Saville's attorney, Ulises Ferragut, had to prove that the idea of killing the sheriff had started with law enforcement, that deputies or their agents urged Saville to commit the crime and that Saville was not predisposed to do it.
Ferragut proved all three elements, and James Saville walked out of Arpaio's jail a free man. After the trial, jurors told Ferragut they were convinced that Saville had been a pawn in an elaborate media ploy.
"Arpaio had cameras out there waiting to film the arrest," Ferragut says. "The jurors indicated this was clearly a publicity stunt."
What was good press for Arpaio was a horrific experience for James Saville. He faced up to 22 years in prison if convicted of the trumped-up charges designed to boost Arpaio's popularity. Earlier this month, the Saville family filed a $10 million lawsuit against the county for entrapment and wrongly incarcerating James Saville.
As for Linda Saville, she is not content with just the lawsuit. The 25-year-old single mom wants to run Arpaio -- who in elections past has been the state's most popular politician -- out of office. And she has formed a political action committee called Mothers Against Arpaio, with other victims of Arpaio's tactics, to do just that.
Mothers Against Arpaio has staged protests in front of the county jail, and last week several members pelted Arpaio with questions about jail deaths during a Scottsdale breakfast meeting with political supporters. An angry, red-faced Joe Arpaio refused to answer the mothers of his victims.
The group, which includes about a dozen family members, is compiling detailed information of abuses inside Arpaio's notorious jails and posting victims' names on a Web site. The list includes more than two dozen examples of deaths, beatings and suicides that have occurred inside the county lockups. It also cites several examples of political vendettas carried out by the sheriff's office against Arpaio's critics.
In the past, the group might be easily dismissed as disgruntled family members upset over the treatment of loved ones who rightly landed in jail. But Mothers Against Arpaio has a mountain of facts to back up the legacy of atrocities with which it taunts the sheriff during his frequent public appearances.
What's more, the Mothers group is not alone in launching stinging attacks against Arpaio as the Republican primary approaches on September 7. For the first time in his 12 years as sheriff, Arpaio is getting torpedoed on several fronts, and the attacks are seriously undermining his bid for a fourth term as the county's top lawman.
Maricopa County Republican party officials last month took the unprecedented action of voting not to endorse Arpaio in the upcoming September primary. The GOP leaders are furious over Arpaio's support of Democrat Janet Napolitano in the 2002 gubernatorial race, and upset over his heavy-handed political tactics against rivals and critics.
Police union and fraternal organizations, meanwhile, are lambasting Arpaio for creating harsh and dangerous working conditions for sheriff's office employees. Nine different groups have endorsed retired Mesa police commander Dan Saban in the Republican primary.
And last week, Maricopa County Attorney Rick Romley delivered a body slam to Arpaio's credibility when he refused to prosecute nearly 60 women arrested last winter in a highly publicized sheriff's office prostitution sting.
This time, it was an Arpaio publicity stunt gone bad.
Because not only did the TV cameras roll when the arrests were made (the sheriff made sure the daily media were tipped off), but they also rolled when Arpaio was humiliated by Romley, also a Republican, who declined to prosecute the cases because Arpaio's deputies and posse members "deviated from standard investigative practices" by getting naked and engaging in sexual relations with the alleged whores.
Who would have thought that Sheriff Joe would be in such a mess?
A few short months ago, high-level politicos considered him unbeatable. Now, with a citizens' group of enraged mothers dogging his every step and his own political party and law enforcement brethren turning against him, the 72-year-old is fighting for his political life.
The James Saville case was classic Joe Arpaio -- meant to add to the legend of Arpaio's being what his publicity machine calls "the toughest sheriff in America."
It was all about pitching the public that the sheriff's office doesn't coddle criminals.
It was a circus side show.
Hardly the Dirty Harry type he would have the uninitiated believe -- the only gun you'll ever see him wearing is the one on his favorite tie clasp -- Joe Arpaio is an elected lawman who spends practically all his time huckstering.
He might call it campaigning. He's at it seven days a week, running from speeches to high school students and women's groups to judging chili contests to riding in the Ostrich Festival parade to attending a May 2002 Mother's Day event with then-Democratic gubernatorial contender Janet Napolitano.
Since late December 2000, Arpaio was scheduled to appear in 38 parades, from Wickenburg to Chandler to downtown Phoenix. But what Arpaio really loves to do is give speeches (327), conduct scheduled media interviews (200) and attend luncheons and dinners (216).
"Since the day I got elected, I've been giving speeches," Arpaio says in an interview with New Times. "I'm going constantly. Everybody who wants me to talk, I talk. I feel I'm the elected sheriff. I deserve to go directly to the people. You can't rely on the press, the media, to tell the truth."
Arpaio also knows there is tremendous political payback from his relentless schmoozing.
"My name ID is like 99 percent," he brags. "That isn't just because they see me on television. I'm out there talking to people constantly."
More than 90 percent of the events appearing in his daily duty calendar are related to stoking his public image. His only regular work-related duties, according to the calendar, are two weekly staff meetings and speaking to classes of graduating detention officers and deputies.
For a cop who loves to brag about his gun battles with drug dealers in Turkey, South America and Washington, D.C., during his 32 years with the federal Drug Enforcement Agency, Arpaio spends no time at the firing range practicing his gun-slinging skills.
He's too busy with public functions such as judging the Maricopa County Fair's celebrity goat-milking contest.
One police activity that is high on his to-do list is swearing in new sheriff's office posse members, who occasionally include political figures such as Maricopa County Supervisor Max Wilson.
During the height of Arpaio's popularity, membership in his posse was considered a useful campaign tool by politicians who wanted to prove to voters that they, too, were tough on crime.
But once they got their posse membership card, they became beholden to Arpaio, who tends to revoke the posse membership of anybody who crosses him.
The county has more than 3,200 posse volunteers involved in a wide range of activities: search-and-rescue operations, animal-abuse calls and shopping-mall patrols during Christmas season. Some are certified to carry a weapon and ride with deputies in patrol cars as a second officer.
Former executive posse commander Marvin Weide was drawn into one of the nation's biggest marijuana busts in 1997 after undercover Department of Public Safety agents discovered he had unwittingly leased a warehouse to drug dealers.
Despite Weide's lofty title and police training, he apparently had no idea that his warehouse was ground zero for one of the largest marijuana-smuggling operations in the United States.
At the same time the smugglers were moving thousands of pounds of pot through the North 40th Street warehouse over a 21-month period, the executive posse commander was using another part of the same building as a posse operations base -- not to mention as Arpaio's reelection campaign center.
The pot dealers later told federal agents that they selected Weide's warehouse because they believed the marijuana would be secure from rival drug operations because posse members conveniently parked marked patrol vehicles in the parking lot.
To say that Weide, Arpaio and the posse became the laughingstock of the state Department of Public Safety, et al., over that doozie is, naturally, an understatement.
Arpaio's posse members also played a prominent role in the much-maligned prostitution sting that County Attorney Romley has refused to prosecute because the Barneys got naked and engaged in sexual activities during an undercover effort to nab the reputed ladies of the evening.
The joke going around is, "At least that's what they're telling their wives."
The Weide gaffe and Hookergate in Hooterville were incidents that the sheriff's diligent Public Information Office just couldn't contain. Through the years, the office has worked hard to do the opposite of what taxpayers employ it to do. Instead of keeping us informed, it does everything in its power to keep us from finding out about the scope of Arpaio's back-slapping on the public dime and about all the Keystone Kops flubs by Joe, his posse and his deputies.
What it bombards us with is Arpaio's tough-guy image.
The architect of that slick fabrication is former television reporter Lisa Allen MacPherson, who cranks out one publicity stunt after another to keep Arpaio's scowling image on the small screen as much as possible.
"Joe Arpaio loves the media," says MacPherson, who moves back and forth between Phoenix and her husband's home in San Diego. "He likes being on TV. He loves it! He loves to communicate with his public through the media."
Whether it's chain gangs, the pink underwear he makes inmates wear, black-and-white-striped jumpsuits, Joe bobblehead dolls or forcing juvenile offenders to bury the indigent, MacPherson promotes Arpaio's latest stunts to a gullible media eager for a cheap sound bite.
And nothing triggers a media frenzy faster than allegations of death threats against the sheriff. Although no one has ever so much as fired a shot anywhere near the grandstanding Arpaio, he says more than a dozen people have been convicted of threatening to kill him. Yet it was never more obvious than during his recent interview with New Times that Arpaio is using the so-called threats only to bolster his image.
"I don't have a feeling I'm in that much danger," Arpaio admits, smirking.
MacPherson has expertly used the threats to make the public believe that Joe is one tough SOB, a guy who criminals hate so much that they want to blow him away.
She turns events that almost certainly would destroy an elected law enforcement official in any other major American metropolitan area into advantages for Sheriff Joe -- "the toughest sheriff in America."
The way she has whitewashed Arpaio's policy of abuse, torture and flagrant disregard of human rights inside the Maricopa County jails -- conditions that make the outrageous treatment of prisoners in Iraq by U.S. soldiers seem like child's play -- is nothing short of masterful.
The voting public has been manipulated overwhelmingly into believing that even inmates dying and incurring serious injuries from beatings by detention officers and fellow inmates is a good thing. The atrocities just demonstrate Joe Arpaio's righteousness as a crime fighter.
MacPherson has hoodwinked a conservative public in Maricopa County into believing that Joe's hardball tactics -- even against prisoners strapped helplessly in restraint chairs -- are good for us all. A whole lot of criminals will just go straight, according to the spin, before they will risk angering Mighty Joe.
But, lately, a lot of influential leaders in law enforcement, including one who represents Arpaio's own deputies, are among those who aren't buying it anymore.
"All he's concerned about is getting his face on the news," Chris Gerberry, president of the 300-member Maricopa County Deputies Association, says of the sheriff. "He's not tough on crime, he's tough on prisoners."
Scott Norberg's June 1, 1996, death in a restraint chair inside Maricopa County's Madison Street Jail remains the watershed event of Arpaio's tenure as sheriff.
One of Joe's top aides says that not only did detention officers handle Norberg properly, but the calamitous events of that day actually set a standard for how sheriff's detention officers should perform their duties in the future.
"I think the tone was set under Norberg," comments Larry Black, one of Arpaio's chief deputies.
Norberg died of asphyxia after he was tackled by 14 detention officers and strapped into the restraint chair. His head was then pressed forward against his chest and a towel was placed over his face. An autopsy report showed that he sustained numerous contusions and lacerations to his head, face, neck and limbs. He had been stun-gunned more than 20 times. There were burn marks up and down his body.
Norberg's death triggered worldwide criticism of the sheriff's office.
The London-based human rights group Amnesty International conducted a review of the incident and issued a 1997 report that states: "Although Norberg was reportedly uncooperative and engaged in bizarre behavior, his behavior and initial 'passive resistance' does not appear to have warranted the extreme degree of force used, especially as he already had his hands handcuffed behind his back and was lying on his stomach on the ground when dragged by officers from his cell."
To this day, Arpaio denies any wrongdoing by his jailers in Norberg's death. In fact, the sheriff is proud of how the matter was handled -- even though the county agreed to pay $8.25 million to settle the wrongful-death lawsuit filed by Norberg's family.
Arpaio says he was not consulted by the county's insurance carrier on the decision to settle the case. If he had been, he says, he would have declared that he "wanted to take it to trial."
Chief Deputy Black says the public has never learned about all of the circumstances that led to Norberg's slaying.
"The real truth about that has never come out," Black says.
Black claims that a Superior Court commissioner "witnessed the entire thing," that the commissioner told the sheriff's office the detention officers dealt with a man who had become combative the best way they knew how.
"Unfortunately, the guy died," Black says.
But that doesn't mean the guards should be accused of killing him, Black says.
"To turn around and say we murdered him, that's pretty harsh," Black contends.
Not according to Mike Manning, a Phoenix attorney who represented Norberg's family in the lawsuit.
Manning disputes Black's contention about the commissioner's value as an eyewitness. The lawyer says videotape shows that the commissioner neither had a clear view of Norberg nor the restraint chair.
"He was behind three people, plus a door was in his way," Manning says of the sheriff's star witness. "He didn't see a thing."
Manning says Norberg's brutal death, as he was bound helplessly in the chair, symbolizes everything that is wrong with the way Arpaio does business.
Despite the uproar that the Norberg case generated, Arpaio continues to use the restraint chair on a regular basis. Five years after Norberg died, Charles Agster met a similar fate on August 6, 2001.
According to Amnesty International, the 33-year-old mentally handicapped man arrived at the jail hog-tied, with his arms handcuffed behind his back, his legs bound at the ankles with a leather strap and a strap tied between the handcuffs and leg strap.
Agster was then dragged face-down, strapped into the restraint chair and hooded. Minutes later, detention officers noticed he wasn't breathing.
In an April 2002 report, Amnesty International says it is "concerned that the degree of force used against Agster was grossly disproportionate to any threat posed by him."
It doesn't come close to stopping there.
Arpaio was found personally liable for damages by an Arizona appeals court in September 2002 in a case stemming from the beating of inmate Jeremy Flanders inside the Tent City jail. The appeals court upheld a jury award of $635,000 in damages to Flanders, with Arpaio held personally responsible for 35 percent of the judgment.
The 26-page opinion written by appeals court Judge Jefferson L. Lankford details the abuses and unsafe conditions that Arpaio brags about implementing at the Tent City jail, where more than 1,800 inmates are supervised by only four detention officers.
Arpaio, Lankford wrote, "admitted knowing about and in fact intentionally designing, some conditions at Tent City that created a substantial risk of inmate violence: the lack of individual security and inmate control inherent in a tent facility; the small number of guards; a mixed inmate population subject to overcrowding; extreme heat and lack of amenities."
Lankford ruled that evidence presented in the lawsuit supported the jury's finding that Arpaio was "callously indifferent" to Eighth Amendment protections afforded to prisoners and that he purposely "exposed Tent City inmates to serious injury."
Arpaio considers the appeals court ruling a minor nuisance.
"It doesn't impact anything," Arpaio tells New Times, before acknowledging that jailers are now removing the steel-rebar tent stakes that witnesses say were used to beat Flanders.
Arpaio feigns ignorance about details of the court ruling, despite his being held personally liable for more than $230,000 in damages.
"I think that case has been adjudicated, but there has never been any proof that the guy was hit with a rebar," Arpaio says. "Regardless, we don't think that ever happened. There was a little fight between the inmates, and then they sue you and you have to go through the system."
The "little fight" that wasn't stopped by the detention officers has left Flanders with permanent brain damage.
Last December, the American Civil Liberties Union joined a class-action lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Phoenix to stop Arpaio's bid to terminate what few federal protections still exist for prisoners awaiting trial.
During a tour of county lockups, ACLU attorney Alice Bendheim says, she found seriously dangerous and inhumane conditions, including inadequate medical and mental-health care and severe overcrowding.
"Allowing mentally ill prisoners to lie in a catatonic state, naked on a bare concrete cell floor, for 23 hours a day is not being 'tough on crime,'" Bendheim argues. "The conditions I witnessed in the Maricopa County jail were cruel and detrimental to the well-being of the people confined there."
The public can expect more brutal beatings and deaths inside the county's grossly overcrowded jails, where 70 percent of the 9,245 people in custody are awaiting trial. Building regulations allow the county jail system a capacity of 5,200 inmates. To handle the 4,000-inmate overflow, thousands of prisoners are jammed into day rooms filled with triple bunks.
"The real problem is, the whole system is overloaded, and you've got an idiot who wants to put more people in jail," Phoenix attorney Joel Robbins says, referring to Arpaio. Robbins has represented more than three dozen plaintiffs in lawsuits against the sheriff's office, including Jeremy Flanders.
To help maintain the climate of brutality inside the jails that he's so proud of, Arpaio has brought in Gary DeLand, the former Utah corrections chief whom the Department of Defense hired as a consultant on how to operate the notorious Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. In addition to giving Arpaio tips on jail operations, DeLand has testified as an expert witness for Arpaio in depositions stemming from lawsuits brought against the sheriff by inmates.
While ordinary Americans have expressed widespread outrage over the treatment of Iraqis in Abu Ghraib, until lately there has been barely a whimper of protest among private citizens in Arizona over the cruel treatment of prisoners in Arpaio's jails.
Such flagrant violations of constitutional protections have been reported for more than a decade by New Times writers, including Tony Ortega, Robert Nelson, Jeremy Voas and Barry Graham. Yet it is only in the last few months that the dreadful and indisputable facts have finally triggered outrage from members of Arpaio's own political party.
"This not something that I think should be taken lightly," says Glendale Republican and Justice of the Peace candidate Larry Pickard. "It runs afoul of how I think our government is supposed to work. It's like a Third World country. We don't need that here."
In early May, leaders of the Maricopa County Republican party did what has never been done before.
The county Republican Party Executive Guidance Committee, made up of 18 district committee chairmen and seven at-large officials, voted resoundingly against endorsing a Republican incumbent, Sheriff Joe Arpaio.
"I do not recall the Republican party at any level in the state ever taking this kind of action," says former state legislator and longtime West Valley Republican activist Jean McGrath.
The official GOP rebellion against a man whose personal endorsement used to be highly sought after by politicians across the state is a stunning twist in Arizona politics.
Three years ago, Arpaio was in position to win the Republican gubernatorial primary against Matt Salmon and the odds-on favorite to win the statehouse.
But Arpaio elected not to run for governor. Now, county Republican leaders don't even want him as sheriff.
"It's not worth sticking up for [Arpaio] anymore because he isn't sticking up for us," says Bill Norton, chairman of Republican Party District 22 in Gilbert.
Republican officials say Arpaio made a crucial mistake in the election of 2002, when he appeared in a television ad with Democrat Napolitano in the final days of the extremely close gubernatorial campaign.
The last image of the commercial included a statement in bold red lettering quoting Arpaio saying: "Join me in rejecting the attacks against Janet Napolitano."
A former Democrat who switched to the Republican party in 1982, Arpaio has close ties with Napolitano dating back to her days as the U.S. Attorney in the mid-1990s. Arpaio's apparent endorsement of Napolitano late in the gubernatorial race is widely seen as a payback for Napolitano's dropping a criminal investigation of Norberg's death inside his jail.
In October 1997, then-U.S. Attorney Napolitano settled the federal probe into Arpaio's jail operations triggered by the Norberg case without bringing criminal charges against the detention officers and others involved in the incident. It was classic Napolitano, who has always been more politician than tough-minded public servant.
The now-governor's decision stunned the County Attorney's Office, which earlier had begun its own criminal investigation into Norberg's death.
That inquiry was derailed by the actions of former deputy county attorney Jack MacIntyre, the County Attorney's Office says.
MacIntyre, the office says, ignored Romley's orders and provided legal advice to sheriff's employees who were named in the Norberg family's wrongful-death suit.
MacIntyre disputes this account, claiming he had Romley's permission to provide the legal advice to the sheriff's employees.
In either case, MacIntyre's advice in the civil suit created a conflict of interest that made it impossible for the county attorney to pursue criminal charges against Arpaio's officers.
Soon after Romley's criminal probe was thwarted, Arpaio hired MacIntyre as his director of intergovernmental relations for the sheriff's office.
Then, Napolitano, in a joint press conference with Arpaio on her last day in office as U.S. Attorney, slammed the door on any possibility of charges against jailers involved in Norberg's killing.
With the Norberg criminal probe shelved, Arpaio and Napolitano enjoyed cordial relations after she was elected state attorney general in 1998 and through her 2002 campaign for governor. Her narrow victory over Salmon left a bitter taste in the mouths of many members of the GOP.
"Republicans feel we would not have Governor Napolitano had it not been for Sheriff Arpaio," says McGrath.
When New Times asked Arpaio why he appeared in the television advertisement supporting Napolitano just weeks before the election, he became noticeably agitated.
He claims he did it to "defend a lady" who had been unfairly attacked by then-Independent gubernatorial candidate Richard Mahoney.
"I did not endorse Janet Napolitano," he insists. "When I endorse somebody, I put my arms around them in public so everybody can see I'm endorsing this person!"
Despite the uproar, Arpaio says he has no regrets about doing the ad: "I'm proud of it. I did it. And that's the way it goes."
Arpaio's claim that he did not endorse Napolitano is dismissed as ridiculous by Republican leaders.
Immediately after the Napolitano ad appeared, Salmon called Arpaio and asked the sheriff to publicly endorse him. Arpaio refused, leaving Republicans to draw the only logical conclusion -- fellow party member Joe Arpaio, then the most popular politician in the state, was supporting the Democratic standard-bearer for governor.
"It's quite evident he chose sides," says Larry Pickard, the Glendale justice candidate who is also a former GOP district chairman.
County Republican leaders are now poised to make Arpaio pay for his betrayal by asking several thousand precinct committeemen to withdraw their support of him in the September primary. Because of the votes these chairmen influence, their defection could have a devastating effect on Arpaio's chances in the primary.
"He doesn't have the support among the voters like he thinks he does," says Norton.
When all this comes up in the New Times interview with the sheriff, he brings up a recent meeting with George W. Bush in which he claims the president said: "You're solid as a rock."
Arpaio adds, "I'm on Bush's steering committee. I guess if I was in that bad of a condition, I don't think they would want to associate with the sheriff."
It's highly conceivable that the president is too busy with Iraq to have familiarity with Maricopa County politics. But even with what he says is Bush's strong support, Arpaio is afraid to participate in debates with his two Republican rivals.
The bottom line is, Arpaio has little to gain from allowing his Republican rivals to take shots at him on the campaign trial. His advisers feel it could only erode a 71 percent approval rating from Republicans in a countywide poll conducted in February of 600 registered voters in the county. Done by the Behavior Research Center of Arizona, the poll showed Arpaio's approval rating was 54 percent among Democrats and Independents.
But the poll was taken four months ago, well before the GOP vote against backing him and the commencement of the party's vendetta against his re-nomination.
And it was before the Mothers Against Arpaio, the police organizations and County Attorney Rick Romley began unleashing salvos about his treachery, ineptitude or thuggery.
The GOP leadership is not only angry about his support of Napolitano, it is annoyed by intimidation tactics he's used against political opponents in the party.
"I'm one of the ones who is running as fast as I can away from him," says Fred Taylor, a law enforcement liaison for former Republican governor Fife Symington and current chairman of the African American Republicans Committee.
Taylor says Arpaio's reliance on fear tactics and blatant attempts to intimidate political rivals has reached a dangerous threshold.
"You'd think you were watching something going on in the times of Mussolini," Taylor says. "It's scary stuff!"
Taylor says he was telephoned by an Arpaio aide, who gave him the third-degree about supporting Saban. The call from former Phoenix mayor Thelda Williams infuriated Taylor, who equated it to Mob strong-arm tactics.
"I was shocked that somebody would do that," he says.
African-Americans, Taylor says, are particularly sensitive to questioning about their voting preferences, since that tactic was used by segregationists to intimidate black voters.
Arpaio personally called District 22 chairman Norton after the Gilbert district voted 121-1 not to endorse the incumbent in the primary. The district vote came three weeks before the Republican Executive Guidance Committee adopted the same measure to withdraw support for Arpaio.
Norton says Arpaio told him he was angry over the district's vote and that Arpaio leveled a veiled threat.
"He certainly came across that he wanted me to know that he knew who I was and where I worked," says Norton, who's employed by Sharper Image. "He made me feel like it was something out of The Sopranos."
Says Pickard, "Anyone who has openly opposed the sheriff I think has had their personal past scrutinized very heavily. If you come out against the sheriff, you get a big bull's eye."
Just ask Dan Saban.
The retired Mesa police commander is Arpaio' strongest Republican rival for sheriff. He quickly found himself the target of a criminal investigation by the sheriff's office.
The probe was triggered in May after Saban's foster mother alleged that he had raped her more than 30 years ago when he was in his late teens. The woman had never filed a complaint, and Saban has denied the allegation, which appears dubious at best.
But rather than turning the case over to another police agency since it involved a political rival, Arpaio's detectives rushed out to interview the woman.
It was only after the detectives' report landed on his desk, according to Arpaio, that he realized there was a conflict of interest. He says he then forwarded the case to the Pima County Sheriff's Office for an independent investigation. (Pima County dropped the probe recently, citing lack of evidence.)
Whatever Arpaio's involvement, the sheriff's office criminal report somehow found its way to a Phoenix television news station in short order. Armed with a copy, Channel 15 ambushed Saban after a campaign appearance. He vehemently denied the woman's claim.
But the damage was done. It was a direct hit on his campaign, forcing him to issue a statement on his Web site denying the allegation. Even more damaging is that the claim has increased scrutiny of Saban's personal life, which includes four divorces.
Arpaio denies that his office leaked the police report to Channel 15, saying the station learned about the case from the East Valley Tribune, which had been in contact with the woman for several months.
Tribune reporter Bryon Wells, who is covering the sheriff's race, says he believes the criminal report must have been leaked by the sheriff's people to a friendly Channel 15 reporter. The Tribune never reported the allegations in the report until after the Channel 15 broadcast because they appeared to be unfounded.
"It didn't come from us," Wells says of the report.
In an interview with New Times, Saban says he was sexually and physically abused by his foster mother when he was a minor. Saban declined to provide details of what occurred more than 30 years ago, but he says it was he, not his foster mother, who was the victim.
Using police investigations to smear political rivals would be nothing new for Arpaio. But turning a teenaged rape victim into a rape suspect would be a whole new publicity ploy for the man who has long kept a team of detectives busy snooping into the affairs of political opponents and investigating the sources of damaging internal sheriff's office leaks to the press.
James Cozzolino, co-founder of the anti-Arpaio Web site Arpaio.com, filed a lawsuit June 1 against Arpaio and the sheriff's office. Cozzolino alleges that deputies have illegally bugged his house and telephone for years, followed him, spent months rooting through his trash and wrongfully seized his prized 1974 Pantera automobile.
"All of the foregoing actions were undertaken for the purpose of silencing one of . . . Arpaio's vocal critics," Cozzolino's lawsuit alleges.
The Arpaio.com Web site has become a central depository of information about internal operations inside the sheriff's office. The Internet site includes gossip and insider information that appears to be written by sheriff's office employees who want to leak damaging information to the public. It has become a source of information for the media and political opponents.
"It's been causing us a lot of heartaches," admits MacPherson, Arpaio's spokeswoman and image consultant.
Cozzolino was arrested by sheriff's deputies after a bizarre incident inside a Fountain Hills bowling alley where he accidentally discharged a firearm. The sheriff's office took advantage of the opportunity and raided Cozzolino's home, seizing his computer and other personal belongings that still have not been returned.
The computer, Cozzolino says, contains years of detailed files he had compiled on allegedly illegal operations inside Arpaio's office.
During Cozzolino's trial last winter, he received an unsigned letter purportedly from a deputy who detailed how the sheriff's office had conducted elaborate and illegal surveillance of Cozzolino for several years (see Robert Nelson's December 25, 2003, column at www.phoenixnewtimes.com).
The trial concluded with Cozzolino's pleading guilty to discharging the gun, followed by Arpaio's asking the judge to sentence Cozzolino to several years in prison. True to form, the sheriff claimed Cozzolino had threatened his life four years earlier.
The judge stuck to the case at hand and sentenced Cozzolino to four months in jail and five years on probation.
Arpaio's willingness to use his police powers to silence opponents has chilled public opposition to his policies.
"There are people who will not endorse Arpaio's opponents because they are afraid of retaliation," says Leo Mahoney, first vice chairman of the county Republican Executive Guidance Committee.
That's why a lot of prominent Republicans have not publicly backed anybody in the sheriff's race, choosing instead to register their displeasure with Arpaio by denying him the party's official endorsement for the September primary, Mahoney says.
One of the few high-profile Republicans publicly endorsing Dan Saban is Mesa Mayor Keno Hawker.
"You'll hear a lot of people say they won't make a statement against Arpaio because they are afraid it will come back to bite them," says Hawker, mayor of a city that strongly supported Matt Salmon for governor. "I don't care. I never have. I just think Dan [Saban] would do a whole lot better job."
Joe Arpaio's toughest-sheriff-in-the-U.S. shtick isn't impressing a bevy of other cops.
In fact, police organizations are joining jail-abuse victims' families and Republican leaders in expressing outrage over his policies.
An informal coalition of peace officers' groups is actively campaigning against Arpaio for reelection. So far, nine police organizations have endorsed Dan Saban in the Republican primary, with none endorsing Joe Arpaio.
Brian Livingston, executive director of the Arizona Police Association, a legislative and political organization that represents more than 6,500 law enforcement officers across the state, says low pay and Arpaio's use of intimidation tactics on his own employees have destroyed Maricopa County deputy morale.
"If somebody speaks out against the sheriff, they can almost be assured an internal investigation will be undertaken and any promising position a deputy may have will be in jeopardy of being lost," Livingston says.
Chris Gerberry of the Maricopa County Deputies Association worked for Arpaio until 1999, when he released information to county supervisors and the press documenting how severe understaffing of detention officers had increased the risk of violence against prisoners and jail guards.
Understaffing remains a serious problem, and Arpaio is faced with the daunting task of hiring another 1,000 guards by the end of the year when two new jails are to be completed.
There are fewer detention officers now than a year ago. Gerberry blames the lack of interest in the jobs, which start at $32,000 a year, on Arpaio.
"Pay is an issue, yes," Gerberry says. "But it is the way you are treated and the way administration handles things. You are just treated horribly there. The morale is the worst."
Arpaio is frequently criticized for refusing to work with other law enforcement agencies in the Valley. Police in various cities complain that he conducts publicity-laden busts without so much as alerting them.
"The level of cooperation between the upper level of the sheriff's office and other municipal police departments is poor at best," Livingston says.
The Fraternal Order of Police is among a coalition of county cops' groups that opposed Arpaio in the 2000 election.
"We still believe it's time for a change in the administration of the sheriff's office," says Mike Pennington, president of the FOP's Maricopa Lodge 5.
The National Coalition of Public Safety Officers, which claims 5,000 law enforcement officers in Arizona as members and 20,000 members nationwide, has gone full-throttle for Saban.
"It's time to put someone into the position of Maricopa County sheriff who is genuinely committed to the citizens of Maricopa County," says Rich Anemone, coalition president.
When asked if it bothers them that police political and fraternal organizations across the county oppose Arpaio, sheriff's office brass claim the groups don't truly represent sheriff's employees.
"We don't recognize any of them," says Chief Deputy Black. "We are not going to negotiate with them. We are not going to deal with them. We are not going to have any of this kind of stuff. And they don't like it. It pisses them off."
Arpaio's executives ignore the fact that more than 325 of 500 deputies patrolling the streets are members of the Deputies Law Enforcement Association. Gerberry's equally large Maricopa County Deputies Association includes patrol deputies, detention officers and civilian personnel as members.
Though the DLEA isn't technically a union (the county isn't legally required to negotiate with labor organizations), the association pressures the sheriff's office over deputies'-rights and fair-benefits issues.
Even though the DLEA officially opposes Arpaio and has endorsed Saban, its president was among those too intimidated by the sheriff's history of retaliation to comment on his organization's bread-and-butter issue, working conditions in the sheriff's office.
Michael Culhane says, "I'm an extremely nervous person when it comes to talking to the press. I definitely have some strong opinions. Other presidents have talked to New Times, and it didn't bode well."
DPS Sergeant Bill Whalen, who is also second vice president of the state Fraternal Order of Police, says Arpaio lost credibility with DPS officers when deputies issued a citation to Nick Tarr on Halloween, 2002, for impersonating a DPS cop. The incident occurred a week before a general election in which Tarr and Arpaio were squaring off over competing gambling propositions.
Tarr is an actor who appeared in TV commercials as "Joe Arizona" in support of a ballot proposition that would have allowed gaming machines at race tracks. Arpaio was supporting a competing proposition that kept gambling on Indian lands.
On the afternoon of October 31, 2002, Tarr showed up at a downtown Phoenix restaurant wearing a costume that included an old DPS shirt unbuttoned to reveal an "I love Arizona" tee shirt, and a pair of the pink boxer shorts that Arpaio issues to inmates. It was clearly a costume to everyone, except Arpaio's chief deputy, David Hendershott, who was eating in the same restaurant.
The sheriff's office contacted DPS, asking it to cite Tarr for impersonating an officer. When DPS officers arrived, they saw that Tarr was obviously dressed up on Halloween and refused to charge him.
But Hendershott was undaunted. Sheriff's deputies wound up citing Tarr for impersonating an officer. The charge was later dropped, but Tarr was so annoyed that he joined the legion of others who have sued the county over the high-handed antics of Arpaio and his deputies.
Whalen says the Tarr incident seriously damaged Arpaio's credibility with the DPS, among other police agencies across the state.
"That was an insult to DPS to ask us to arrest him," Whalen says. "If you go out there and ask anybody in law enforcement how they feel about the upcoming election, they will say, 'Anybody but Joe!'"
Arizona law enforcement outside possibly the sheriff's office must be enjoying the fact that a department with no sense of humor (take the Tarr case, for example) has become a national laughingstock because its deputies and posse members were caught with their pants down.
In announcing last week that his office would not prosecute nearly 60 prostitutes who had been arrested by sheriff's deputies last November in a countywide sting operation, County Attorney Romley ripped Arpaio's supervisors for directing an undercover investigation that "violates accepted standards of professionalism."
The County Attorney's Office said that "some undercover deputies and certain posse members engaged in oral sexual contacts, breast fondling, genital contact, masturbation, nudity and other behavior which is contrary to professional law enforcement and legitimate public policy.
"The techniques . . . undermine prosecution by reducing the likelihood of conviction."
This surely isn't what Arpaio thought would be the outcome last November 13 when he cleared his daily calendar of all appointments to make sure he had time to respond to the horde of interview requests he expected later that day.
Arpaio knew the impending raid on dozens of homes, hotels and businesses across the Valley was guaranteed to generate reams of what he loves best:
He dispatched several hundred deputies and posse members to arrest more than 70 prostitutes and johns, capping an eight-week operation that stretched across the county from tiny Wittmann to tony Fountain Hills. The sheriff's office boasted that the raids were possibly the country's largest single-day sweep of houses of ill repute.
"We're a full-service law enforcement agency. We go after everybody," Arpaio boasted during a news conference on the day of the raids that, as expected, generated front-page newspaper articles across the state and prominent coverage on television.
But, as usual, there was something profoundly amiss with the tactics employed by Arpaio's overzealous and misguided detectives. Just as they had improperly entrapped James Saville in a twisted attempt to make the 18-year-old appear to be a Unabomber intent on killing Arpaio, the sheriff's agents blew the cases because they got blown by some of the hookers.
A key factor to note is that all that is needed to establish commission of a crime in a prostitution case is for two people to discuss the exchange of money for sex. No sex act need occur, nor does anyone have to remove a shred of clothing. Therefore, prostitution cases are the simplest to make. Virtual no-brainers for cops.
Here's an example of how posse member Glenn Coffman handled an encounter with an alleged prostitute:
Last October 29, Coffman drove to a massage parlor on West Thomas Road and agreed to pay $40 for a 30-minute rubdown. A woman in her early 50s told Coffman to take off his clothes. Coffman agreed. He then lay face first on a massage table and the woman began rubbing his back.
"She started to chew on my left ear, put her tongue in my ear, and whispered words to the effect for me not to be surprised if she ran her tongue over my balls and my shaft until I came all over her," Coffman states in his signed police report.
"She told me that for an additional $100, she did the massage in the nude and would give me oral sex. I told her I would get the $100. I got off the table, took the $100 out of my trouser pocket, and gave it to her."
At this point, a crime had been committed, and Coffman should have made the bust.
But this sheriff's posse member was far from done.
"She then removed the blue dress and bikini panties. She took my hand and walked me back to the table. She told me to lie down on my stomach. Once I was on the table, she began to massage me with her bare breasts. After using her breasts on most of my back and buttocks, she told me to turn over.
"She got on the table straddling me and took my penis and rubbed her vagina area with no penetration. I told her to slow down.
"She got off the table, came around to my right side, and massaged my penis with her breasts. I again told her to slow down.
"She hesitated a few minutes, and then took my penis in her hand and kissed it about 3-4 times."
Coffman's sexual encounter with the hooker ended moments later when an undercover officer knocked on the door.
Barnett Lotstein, special assistant county attorney, says Coffman's nudity had already wrecked the case. And his willingness to engage in extended sexual contact only made things worse.
Other undercover deputies and posse members, Lotstein says, also engaged in inappropriate sexual conduct and nudity in the course of the investigation.
The sheriff's office is desperately trying to save face on this latest fiasco, claiming that the County Attorney's Office approved the techniques used in the operation and is now trying to politically embarrass Arpaio with the primary election two months away.
Sheriff's PIO MacPherson's spin is that the operation was properly conducted and that undercover deputies and posse members did nothing wrong in engaging in sexual activities with alleged hookers.
"We didn't do anything illegal," she says. "These are prosecutable cases, and we will get them prosecuted."
When pigs fly, the County Attorney's Office says. Neither the state Attorney General's nor the U.S. Attorney's offices has jurisdiction in such matters.
Lotstein stresses that Romley's office would never approve the use of nudity and sexual contact in the course of an investigation, that it is ludicrous to think that having sexual relations with prostitutes could result in prosecutable cases.
"We in law enforcement have an obligation," Lotstein says, "not to stoop to this level."
The sheriff's publicity machine has even tried to turn the tables on Romley by insisting that he is playing to the G-rated sensibilities of the voting public.
But, as Lotstein implies, hookers blowing lawmen simply doesn't play well with judges and juries. The truth is, such tactics just won't work when it comes to getting prosecutions.
It took weeks of negotiations with sheriff's office brass to get an interview with the public official who prides himself on manipulating the press to his benefit. The man who loves to be in the limelight, on TV, have his picture in the newspaper.
Those who look out for Joe Arpaio, particularly PIO MacPherson, were wary of New Times' intentions so close to a primary election in which he's facing serious competition for the first time in his dozen years in office. They were hesitant to allow any questioning of the sheriff about his record -- which he has so brazenly reminded people at public events that he "stands on" -- because that record is for the first time getting Arpaio in quicksand with his own political party.
They didn't want a story to come out in which Joe was portrayed as a political liability, a dinosaur nearing extinction because his own cruel and, even in conservative Arizona, outdated policies may have caught up with him.
But when the interview was finally granted and Arpaio sat down inside the Madison Street Jail -- surrounded by his trusted sheriff's office advisers -- he didn't temper his comments for a new era. He defended his department, even in instances when it was made a fool of, even for times when civil court juries ruled against it. He didn't apologize for anything.
If you believe him, no death inside a jail under his supervision was the fault of any of his employees. Certainly not his fault.
Arpaio showed remorse neither for the death of Scott Norberg nor for the beating that turned Jeremy Flanders' brain into mush.
He makes no apologies for what New Times discovered on his duty calendar -- that he spends practically all his waking hours hyping himself, leaving his jails to be overseen by lieutenants who understand full well that the quickest way to get on Joe Arpaio's bad side is to be seen as soft on the criminal element.
The way Arpaio sees it, the county's got an insurance policy that covers injury and wrongful-death settlements, at less the $5 million deductible per case. And the dead and the injured coming out his jails provide an invaluable service by further enhancing his bad-ass image.
That not even his own once-sacred local Republican party is buying into the fantasy that no atrocity is too great if it thwarts crime (no evidence exists, by the way, that Joe's policies have reduced crime) certainly bothers those in charge of getting him reelected. But Arpaio's still on his same old soapbox, claiming that even the defection of fellow Republican officials by the droves doesn't bother him at all.
Why has he stayed around so long, why does he love publicity, why -- at 72 -- does he want to fight it out with an opponent who might beat him?
A grim look on his face, all he would say at first was, "I know the minute I [go] you wouldn't want to talk to me. I disappear. Once you're gone, nobody gives a crap about you."
"My next hook might be the oldest sheriff in America!"
But moments later, Arpaio holds out the possibility that the end of the line may come sooner than later.
He knows the county Republican party, Dan Saban, the Mothers Against Arpaio and almost every law enforcement organization in Maricopa County are trying to convince voters not to let him get much older in the job.
The furrows on his brow deepening, he continues, "I'm not going to work anymore when I leave. That's it! I will just ride out into the sunset in a convertible. I won't ride a horse.
"I don't care what kind of convertible," he says about his last ride. "Just so they can recognize me."
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