From here on out, 72-year-old Joe Arpaio isn't the Maricopa County sheriff in my book.
He's an outlaw waiting to be hog-tied and strapped into one of his infamous restraint chairs scattered throughout Maricopa County's jails.
I now have proof, in writing, from one of Outlaw Joe's top deputies, that reveals how Arpaio's office has crossed the sacred line separating a legitimate law enforcement agency from a latter-day Gestapo.
Last April, Arpaio's five-member "threats management unit" opened a politically motivated criminal investigation of his opponent in the September 7 Republican primary, retired Mesa Police Department commander Dan Saban.
The investigation was triggered after the sheriff's office received a call from Saban's foster mother alleging that Saban had assaulted her more than, get this, 30 years ago. At the time, the foster mother, Ruby Norman, was in her late 20s and Saban was in his mid-teens.
Part of the reason Saban is outraged is that he says it was his foster mother who sexually abused him. By the way, as countless celebrated cases around the country have proven, it's illegal for any adult to have sex with a minor, even if the adult is female and the minor is a male teenager.
It's so typical of the vindictive Arpaio -- whose goon squad has been sicced on Joe's enemies before -- to try to turn a teenage sexual assault victim turned political rival into a criminal.
In addition, even if the allegation were true, it was obvious that there was nothing the sheriff's office could have done because the woman was finally calling police long after the statute of limitations had expired.
It was well known at the time the MCSO received the call from Norman that Saban was challenging Arpaio in the upcoming election.
To avoid even the appearance of a conflict of interest, MCSO should have immediately referred Norman to another police agency. The state Department of Public Safety was a logical choice.
But instead of doing the right thing, Arpaio dispatched his "threat" squad officers, who then improperly used their police powers to try to destroy a political opponent based on a dubious claim by a woman who clearly was on a vendetta.
Outlaw Joe's brown shirts interviewed Norman, wrote up a criminal report that never should have been prepared and then leaked it to a Channel 15 television reporter, who had earlier contributed $100 to Arpaio's reelection campaign.
The reporter, Rob Koebel, ambushed Saban after a campaign event and broadcast an April 30 hit piece announcing that the sheriff's office had opened a criminal investigation into allegations that Saban had sexually assaulted his foster mother.
Outlaw Joe and Koebel got what they wanted by calling Saban literally a motherfucker on the evening news. But we know who the real bastards are in this case. One already has bitten the dust, and it is only a matter of time before the other one goes down.
Channel 15 fired Koebel earlier this month after the station learned that he had contributed money to Arpaio's campaign before doing the story on Saban.
Joe should be the next one to go down -- hopefully in the upcoming Republican primary. Meanwhile, it's time for the feds, the state or the county to get off their butts and do what is right: Conduct a criminal investigation into Arpaio's shop.
There's plenty of smoke billowing from the sheriff's office on the 19th floor of the Wells Fargo building that should be triggering major alarms with U.S. Attorney Paul Charlton, County Attorney Rick Romley and Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard.
Hey, guys, if the fact that Outlaw Joe is plowing huge amounts of cash ($800,000 and counting) into real estate -- far more than his salary and DEA pension would suggest he's capable of investing -- doesn't fire you up, you might want to read the June 23, 2004, sworn deposition of deputy Sergeant Steve Bailey.
I got a copy of the deposition conducted by Phoenix attorney Joel Robbins. It made my week.
Bailey is one of the five members of Arpaio's threat squad, which is supposed to investigate threats against judges, deputies and other county officials. Bailey oversees three detectives, and he reports to Lieutenant Ray Jones, who, in turn, reports to Arpaio's chief deputy, David Hendershott.
Bailey testified that he was ordered by Lieutenant Jones to interview Ruby Norman late last April after the sheriff's office received a call from Norman alleging a sexual assault.
There have been allegations in the past that Arpaio's threat squad has conducted illegal surveillance and covert operations against political opponents. But this is the first time that a member of the threat squad has testified under oath describing how the unit would go to great lengths to try to destroy a political opponent.
In the deposition, Robbins asked Bailey why the threat squad conducted the initial interview when deputies knew in advance that there was an obvious conflict of interest since Saban was running against Arpaio in the GOP primary.
"I can't speak for whoever made that decision. I mean, my lieutenant comes to me and says, 'You need to go talk to this person and take a report,'" Bailey testified.
Bailey, despite his concerns over a conflict of interest, says he "didn't see a problem in taking the initial report."
But, he stated, he saw a huge problem if it went any further: "I did see a problem in us continuing to investigate it past taking her initial information."
It was obvious from the moment that Bailey and another detective named Gentry arrived at Ruby Norman's home that she wanted to sabotage Saban's campaign.
"When we initially got there, she started to talk about political issues. I told her I was not there to talk about any political issues regarding her or anybody else she wants to mention," Bailey testified.
During the interview with Norman, Bailey testified in the sworn deposition, he was surprised to learn that her allegations were about an event that occurred more than three decades ago, long after the statute of limitations had run.
"I remember sitting there thinking, 'Thirty years is a long time,'" Bailey testified.
By the time Bailey returned to his Phoenix office, he was convinced that Norman was politically motivated, that the statute of limitations had run on her allegation and that the sheriff's office had an obvious conflict of interest in the case.
Bailey said he discussed the situation with others in the office.
"What was the discussion?" Robbins asked.
"Just that, you know, we can't investigate this," Bailey responded. "We have a responsibility as a law enforcement agency, if somebody wants to report a crime, to either point them in the right direction or take the initial information and pass it to the appropriate agency."
Bailey said he and Detective Gentry told their immediate superior, Lieutenant Jones, "We cannot investigate this, period."
Despite his deep concern about the situation, Bailey said he prepared a written report on the matter. To cover his butt, Bailey made it clear that he was aware there was a conflict of interest.
"I wrote that in my original report," he stated.
Robbins asked the obvious question: "Why did you even write a report?"
"I was told to," Bailey replied.
"By whom?" Robbins wanted to know.
"My lieutenant," Bailey testified.
"Was he advised, as well, that the statute of limitations was long past?" Robbins asked.
"Once we got back to the office and we told him," Bailey stated.
Outlaw Joe was also very interested in the interview with Saban's foster mother, Bailey testified.
"[Arpaio] asked me, 'Did you talk to her?'" Bailey stated. "I told him I found her articulate and well-spoken."
Bailey testified in the deposition that he prepared a police report and, within two days, it landed on the desk of Lisa Allen MacPherson, Arpaio's public information officer.
MacPherson, who routinely ignores the Arizona Public Records Law by refusing to respond to my requests for public records, wanted a copy of the report because she had miraculously received a public records request from none other than Arpaio campaign contributor and Channel 15 reporter Rob Koebel.
Koebel tells me he had no idea that the sheriff's office had put together a criminal report based on Norman's interview and that he just happened to submit a public records request to MCSO regarding the matter.
"[Ruby Norman] was shopping the story around," Koebel says. "It was just good reporting."
Sorry, Rob, but I don't believe you. It's far more likely that MacPherson gave Koebel the heads up to request the police report -- which never should have been written because the statute of limitations had expired.
MacPherson cut loose the report based on Norman's politically motivated allegations. Then Koebel used it to ambush Arpaio opponent Saban on April 30.
Scumbags, all around.
It gets worse.
Immediately after the Channel 15 story aired, Saban's attorneys demanded a copy of the police report. I also asked for a copy and so did the county's daily newspapers.
Shazam! Suddenly, the report is no longer available.
Arpaio told me in a June 1 interview that he had sent the report to the Pima County Sheriff's Office after suddenly realizing that his office had a conflict of interest.
In fact, the report was locked up in an MCSO desk drawer for another few weeks before it was finally sent down to Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik in late June. Dupnik, after consulting with the Arizona Attorney General's Office, quickly dropped the case because the statute of limitations had expired.
"To this day, I have no copy of the police report," Saban tells me.
Neither do I.
The slimy and possibly illegal action by Arpaio's threat squad has cost Saban more than $8,000 in legal and private investigation fees.
There's no doubt that Outlaw Joe should be removed from office. And there is only one way to guarantee that happens.
It's time for voters to use guerrilla tactics, and thanks to a nifty Internet site, there's a simple and easy way for Democrats to register as Republicans in the upcoming primary.
Go to www.servicearizona.com and scroll down to the "Voter Registration" icon. Click on it and follow the prompts. In five minutes, you're a temporary Republican.
Registration must be completed by August 9 to vote in the September 7 primary. Immediately after the primary, log back on and reregister with your preferred party for the November general election.
Independent voters are already eligible to vote in the primary by simply requesting a Republican ballot.
If enough of you anti-Arpaio voters register temporarily as Republicans and Independents, what has been impossible in past election years can actually happen. Come on, for starters, there are hundreds of thousands of you who have spent time in his hellhole county jails!
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What I'm suggesting is that you have the power to kick evil, old Joe Arpaio out of office.
That, my friends, would be a great day for democracy in the Valley of the Sun.
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