The son of U.S. Senator Jeff Flake has filed suit in federal court against Sheriff Joe Arpaio and Maricopa County, claiming that the sheriff's investigation into the deaths of 23 dogs last year at Gilbert's Green Acre dog boarding facility was motivated by politics, spite and Arpaio's insatiable hunger for publicity.
The complaint, which was filed late Friday, alleges that Arpaio directed his deputies to target Flake's son Austin and Austin's now estranged wife Logan because of the media-value of their last name. The sheriff also hounded his investigators to establish a link between the Senator and the animal cruelty case involving his son.
As a result, the complaint states that the MCSO conducted surveillance on the U.S. Senator's Mesa residence.
The complaint cites notes made by Deputy Chief David Trombi, indicating that the MCSO was watching the Senator's house on June 27, 2014, though Austin and Logan Flake actually were in Utah at the time.
The filing also alleges that the sheriff's office went through the phone records of Austin and Logan Flake, "specifically searching for any calls to or from Senator Flake or his wife during the time of the incident," but found none.
Arpaio knew "the Flake name would garner publicity" for his office, according to the complaint, so Arpaio "publicized the criminal case against the Flakes heavily."
Ultimately, Arpaio illegally sought and obtained an indictment against the Flakes, who were taking care of the facility for Logan's mother Maleisa Hughes and Maleisa's husband Todd, while they were away.
The Maricopa County Attorney's Office later dropped the indictment against the Flakes, after their lawyer Dennis Wilenchik revealed to the court that a sheriff's deputy allegedly lied to the grand jury in the case.
County Attorney Bill Montgomery later declined to re-indict the Flakes, though Montgomery did reinstate animal cruelty and fraud charges against the Hughes, who also had been indicted along with Austin and Logan Flake.
The case against the Hughes is pending. Meanwhile, Logan and Austin Flake are currently in divorce proceedings, begun April 14.
A member of the extended Flake family tells me that the divorce is a result of the pressure the couple endured from the MCSO's investigation and the attendant media frenzy.
Additionally, the complaint charges that Arpaio went prosecutor-shopping, asking former Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne, whom Arpaio endorsed in 2014, to take the case, believing the county attorney would not go full bore on the witch-hunt of the Flakes.
I would say that the Flakes benefit by having Wilenchik, a former ally of the sheriff, as their counsel.
The bulldog attorney, who was at loggerheads with New Times for years, betrays an understanding of Arpaio's psychology no doubt borne of his interactions with the man.
In one passage, Wilenchik observes that:
Defendant Arpaio has a long history of abusing his office to conduct investigations and/or press charges without probable cause, whether for spite or publicity. His targets have ranged from ordinary people like a mailman or a police officer, to respected public officials like judges and their family.
In summer and fall of 2014, Defendant Arpaio and the MCSO illegally investigated and pressed felony charges against Plaintiffs without probable cause, and in violation of their constitutional rights.
Defendant Arpaio has made statements that he loves this case, and others like it, because the more he publicizes them, the more money that he receives in campaign contributions.
The attorney also is acting as criminal counsel for former Executive Chief Brian Sands in the ongoing contempt case in Melendres v. Arpaio.
That, too, is a swipe at the sheriff, as Sands has denounced his old boss.
Sands also has a civil attorney, and it's unlikely that he will face criminal contempt charges.
However, Arpaio and his Chief Deputy Jerry Sheridan are expected to face criminal charges arising from their defiance of the court in Melendres.
Arpaio also is looking down the barrel of a bench trial in federal court to begin August 10 on a related suit brought by the U.S. Department of Justice.
Part of the DOJ case involves Arpaio's abuses of power, the targeting of his enemies and his critics, and the violation of their rights under the color of law.
Too bad discovery has been cut off in that case. Otherwise, the plaintiffs could add a U.S. Senator and his family to the ever-growing list of Arpaio's victims.
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