Public support for Outlaw Joe is eroding at an astonishing rate as the September 7 Republican primary nears, with more evidence surfacing that Arpaio profited by offering cushy jail space to the wealthy and powerful.
The new Jailgate developments come as an independent survey released last week by the Rocky Mountain Poll shows Maricopa County Sheriff Arpaio's support among just Republicans has plummeted from 71 percent in February to 53 percent.
The precipitous decline coincides with an aggressive grassroots campaign by Arpaio's Republican primary opponent, Dan Saban, and with my series of articles that have documented a wide array of corruption and abuses by the elderly incumbent.
I've already reported that Arpaio is using a supposedly closed detention center in Mesa as an upscale jail for the rich and famous. Arpaio's detention officers refer to the small facility as the "Mesa Hilton."
It's not uncommon for jailers around the country to segregate celebrities and the wealthy from the, um, riffraff put behind bars. But this is typically done for the physical protection of celebrities, who may be targeted by other inmates running extortion rackets.
That's not what's going on with Outlaw Joe.
Evidence I have uncovered in the past six weeks suggests that the 72-year-old sheriff is exchanging space in the quiet, safe, air-conditioned Mesa Hilton for valuable perks that the affluent and powerful can provide to him.
The payoffs come in the form of publicity, fund raising and cash.
First it was Glen Campbell.
Then it was Mandie Colangelo.
And the latest privileged character to surface is Joseph Deihl.
Everyone's heard of Campbell, and the Colangelo name is on everybody's lips in Phoenix.
But I'll bet you've never heard of Deihl.
And that's what makes his father's $10,000 cash contribution to Outlaw Joe's campaign committee at the same time Deihl, the younger, was facing jail time so important.
Last month I told you how Arpaio conned the public when he put up a façade that the singer was sweating out his 10-day jail sentence, stemming from a DUI conviction, in notorious Tent City.
But that was just another Arpaio lie.
Campbell actually served his time at the Mesa Hilton. Rather than wearing stripes and sweltering in a tent jammed with stinky dudes sleeping on double bunks, Campbell got the velvet treatment. He was even allowed to bring his guitar, cell phone and a therapeutic mattress to his private suite.
The Rhinestoned Cowboy returned the favor by throwing a 30-minute concert for Tent City inmates that generated worldwide press for both Campbell and Outlaw Joe -- highlighted by fawning local television coverage of a grinning Arpaio.
It was a classic Joe Show political con job designed to stroke the sheriff's insatiable ego and shore up waning support with increasingly concerned voters.
Last week I told you how Mandie Colangelo got the red-carpet treatment after she pleaded guilty in May 2003 to extreme DUI and was sentenced to 11 days in jail. Instead of reporting to the dangerously overcrowded Estrella Jail, where the court ordered her to go, Outlaw Joe sent her to Mesa.
Eight months later, her father, dethroned sports czar Jerry Colangelo, sponsored a mega-fund raiser for Arpaio that attracted several hundred of the Valley's richest and most powerful people -- who dutifully responded to Daddy Colangelo's call for money.
The catered afternoon event in Paradise Valley hauled in $50,000 for the Outlaw Joe reelection campaign.
Now, we have the story of Joseph Deihl II, son of a Paradise Valley multilevel marketing executive who found himself facing 15 days in jail stemming from a December 1996 arrest in a Phoenix Police Department prostitution sting along notorious Van Buren Street.
While there is no doubt that Campbell is a celebrity, and an argument could be proffered that Mandie Colangelo falls under the same protective shroud because of her father's stature, Deihl is just another chump who happens to have a rich papa.
Junior Deihl vigorously fought his 1997 misdemeanor solicitation of a prostitute conviction in Phoenix Municipal Court with a flurry of appeals by his team of attorneys at Quarles & Brady Streich Lang. You would have thought this guy was facing the death penalty rather than a couple of weeks of work release in Joe's gulag by the foot-high stack of paper generated by his fat-cat attorneys in a fruitless attempt to overturn his conviction.
Deihl appealed the case to Maricopa County Superior Court, then to the state Court of Appeals and then to the Arizona Supreme Court. The Supreme Court ruling meant it was only a matter of time before Deihl would have to report to Outlaw Joe's jail.
His Democratic challenger in the 2000 election, Bobby Ayala, had contributed more personal funds to his campaign than allowed under state law. Ayala's personal loans meant that Outlaw Joe could raise up to $28,000 from donors and, more important, that the individual campaign contribution limit of $320 per donor for the 2000 election cycle was lifted until the $28,000 was raised.
Lo and behold, on that very day Deihl's father cut loose a $10,000 contribution to Outlaw Joe's campaign fund, Arpaio's campaign finance reports state. Meanwhile, Junior Deihl's attorneys continued to file fruitless claims for reconsideration with state courts and eventually to a federal court. The legal maneuvering, while expensive, kept Junior out of jail for another three years.
With jail time still looming in October 2002, the Deihl family came out in force at one of Outlaw Joe's campaign events. Junior, wife Kim, dad, mother Sari and a brother each contributed the maximum $340 contribution to Outlaw Joe's 2004 reelection campaign.
That brought the grand total of reported campaign contributions to Outlaw Joe by the Deihl family to $11,700.
Last December, Junior's legal team lost a final appeal in federal court, and it was time for its 38-year-old client to report to jail. Phoenix Municipal Court Judge Carol Scott Berry ordered Deihl to report to rat- and vermin-infested Estrella at 9 p.m. January 8 to begin serving his 15 days.
But (I'm sure you're way ahead of me by now) that's not where Deihl ended up, according to county jail records. Outlaw Joe sent Deihl to the Mesa Hilton to serve his time in peace and tranquility. Deihl was allowed to leave each day at 9 a.m. to go to work and had to report back to jail each evening at 9 p.m.
Sources tell me Junior was allowed to bring food and his cell phone into the comfortable lockup -- items that are forbidden at Estrella and adjacent Tent City.
A comfortable stay in a private cell is what $11,700 in campaign contributions apparently buys you with Outlaw Joe.
I called Junior the other day to ask him about his time in the Mesa Hilton, and to see if the campaign contributions followed by his stay in the exclusive Mesa calaboose was merely coincidence.
"I'd rather not talk about it," Deihl replied.
I then asked him if he was aware that his father had contributed $10,000 to Outlaw Joe's campaign, and at first, Deihl claimed ignorance.
Then, he tried to deflect the question, claiming there are more than 100 Deihls in the Phoenix area and that any one of them could have made the contribution.
But there is no doubt that the $10,000 came from Deihl's father, who is clearly identified on Arpaio's campaign finance reports.
The elder Deihl didn't return several phone calls I left at his office last week. Nor did Arpaio's campaign spokesman, Scottsdale political consultant Jason Rose.
Their silence cannot obscure the obvious.
Outlaw Joe's created a scheme that has worked marvelously. He has purposely made the county jail system, except for the Mesa Hilton, unfit for humans as part of his sadistic shtick as America's "toughest sheriff." So there will always be demand for a room at the Hilton among those with the means to give back.
It's interesting to note that the elder Deihl wasn't the only big contributor to Outlaw Joe after the campaign contribution limits came off in October 2000 because of Ayala's personal contributions to his own campaign.
On November 2, 2000, former Dial Corporation chairman and chief executive officer John W. Teets contributed $10,000. The donation came four days before the 2000 general election in which Arpaio won 66 percent of the vote, crushing Ayala, who came in with 26 percent.
It wasn't as if Outlaw Joe even needed the two $10,000 contributions from Teets and Diehl to stave off a strong opponent. The election was a foregone conclusion, and he had plenty of cash in his campaign.
The reason for Teets' hefty contribution remains a mystery. He did not return a phone message left at his residence last week.
Jailgate isn't the only problem plaguing Arpaio. Last week I documented a dozen illegal contributions to his campaign, compelling evidence that Outlaw Joe isn't adhering to campaign finance law.
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Considering all that I have reported, Maricopa County Attorney Rick Romley could have a field day with Arpaio. But like the rest of us, he's probably hoping that the primary election will take care of his old nemesis.
If that doesn't happen and Romley refuses to act, here's an option to consider: State law allows any registered voter to file a formal complaint over alleged campaign violations with Romley's office, and the county attorney "shall investigate the complaint for possible action."
That is, if you file said complaint, the county attorney has no choice but to launch a probe. Go for it!