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Paul Babeu on Lovejoy Case in '07: Sheriff Arpaio Driven by "Insatiable Appetite for Media Attention"

Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu has lots of respect for Sheriff Joe Arpaio now that he'd like his support in Babeu's run for Congress. In 2007, Babeu said Arpaio arrested a police officer on animal cruelty charges simply to grab headlines.
Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu has lots of respect for Sheriff Joe Arpaio now that he'd like his support in Babeu's run for Congress. In 2007, Babeu said Arpaio arrested a police officer on animal cruelty charges simply to grab headlines.
Image: Ray Stern

Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu, who wants Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio's support in his newly announced bid for Congress, had strong words for Arpaio after the 2007 arrest of officer Thomas Lovejoy.

Babeu questioned Arpaio's motives in the arrest, saying they were driven not by honest enforcement of the law, but an "insatiable appetite for media attention."

As the former president of the Chandler Law Enforcement Association, Babeu made the statements in a news release following Lovejoy's booking on a misdemeanor animal cruelty charge after Lovejoy's K-9 partner, Bandit, died in a hot patrol car.

Here's what Babeu said back then about the self-proclaimed "Toughest Sheriff," the guy he's now sucking up to:

We strongly disagree with Sheriff Arpaio's decision to charge, arrest and book Sgt Lovejoy, since the case has no criminal merit.

There was no intention to hurt, never mind cause the death of Bandit by any stretch of his culpable mental state (defined in ARS 13-105).

We are further troubled by our belief that the decision to charge, arrest, book and simultaneously hold a public press conference has been driven by an insatiable appetite for media attention.

Rather than fairly considering the legal merits of the case, as any citizen entitled to due process should receive, the Sheriff elected to manipulate the raw emotions of the public which are currently charged by recent local and national headlines.

The Sheriff's motivation is further suspect due to the unprofessional treatment of Sgt Lovejoy.

After Babeu was elected sheriff, he seems to have forgotten that he considered Arpaio a manipulator of raw emotions who's obsessed with media attention above everything else. Instead of becoming the public's watchdog for a sheriff he believed lack proper law-enforcement judgment, Babeu became one of Arpaio's most visible supporters.

The political alliance has had mutual benefit, with Babeu enjoying the sheriff's political support (and, no doubt, cash from Arpaio's often bigoted donors) and Arpaio enjoying a whitewashed investigation of his involvement in major ethical breaches in his office.

After writing a post this morning about the Lovejoy civil suit against Arpaio finally receiving a firm jury trial date of April 17, we decided to call Babeu and ask him about his 2007 diatribe for CLEA.

Chris DeRose, spokesman for Babeu, tells New Times that Babeu can't comment on the Lovejoy case, because he might be called as a witness in the trial. As far as his 2007 statements, "He's not repudiating those and he's not affirming them."

DeRose confesses that Babeu "will be delighted to have the support of Sheriff Arpaio in his run for Congress."

Whatever Babeu may have said about Arpaio in the past, "the two have become friends," DeRose adds. "He has tremendous respect for Arpaio."

Considering that Arpaio's under severe criticism right now for apparent racial profiling, running an unethical office and overseeing a sex-crimes unit that essentially re-victimized rape victims, DeRose's latter statement draws a distinct line in the sand for potential voters.

Such flip-flops are common these days, though. Arpaio may be publicity-obsessed, but he helps gets votes -- and that's what counts most for Republicans dreaming of ballot-box victories.

This story reminds us of the Matt Salmon flip-flop, in which the former Congressman who's now running for Congress again sought and received an endorsement from Arpaio despite harsh, past criticism of the sheriff.

In 2005, Salmon told New Times about Arpaio: "I don't respect him. I don't think he's playing with a full deck."

Other examples? Well, there's the surreptitious recording made of a conversation between Bill Montgomery and County Supervisor Don Stapley before Montgomery was elected county attorney. As our April 30, 2010 article revealed:

Montgomery related how he'd been talking about serious issues during a meeting with Arpaio when the conversation suddenly turned to "stories about his family, past Valentine's Days, that sort of thing."

An aide popped in to prompt the sheriff out of his daydreaming, and "it was a little bit like -- I don't want to disparage him -- but a little bit like someone coming into a nursing home and saying visiting hours are over now."

Ouch.

He said the experience "led me to this conclusion -- and I'm sharing this in confidence..."

"Sure," Stapley encouraged him, knowing the tape was being made.

Montgomery then said he thought the investigation into the planned construction of the court tower was probably not the sheriff's idea, but that of Arpaio's staffers who wanted the construction money to offset budget cuts.

"Manipulating is too strong a term, but it was something akin to that," he said.

He suggested that David Hendershott, the sheriff's chief deputy, was behind the move.

"I don't see everything that he is doing as something that he's coming up with on his own," Montgomery said. "Telling Hendershott 'no' is something that's going to have be done."

Montgomery later happily received Arpaio's endorsement and benefited hugely from a TV ad and mailers that slammed Montgomery's opponent in the 2010 Republican primary, former County Attorney Rick Romley.


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