Sheriff Joe Arpaio on Trial: Is He Guilty of Spawning President Donald Trump?

Joe could get six months if found guilty of criminal contempt, but in reality, he's unlikely to do day one in stir.
Joe could get six months if found guilty of criminal contempt, but in reality, he's unlikely to do day one in stir. Stephen Lemons

Former Sheriff Joe Arpaio goes on trial today, and we aren't believing this latest birther rumor for a moment.  We started it. - STEPHEN LEMONS
Former Sheriff Joe Arpaio goes on trial today, and we aren't believing this latest birther rumor for a moment. We started it.
Stephen Lemons

I sat at my typewriter, searching for the right words to describe the criminal contempt trial of former Sheriff Joe Arpaio, which begins today in federal court in Phoenix.

For at least 18 months, he violated the orders of federal Judge Murray Snow, orders that barred America’s Toughest Sheriff from enforcing the very immigration laws that made him famous.

The next two weeks will determine whether Arpaio acted criminally or was just fooling around, playing a practical joke on people who looked like they might be Mexican.

In the meantime, I had a job to do.

It was late at night as I agonized over crafting this column. What new insight could I bring to a story that seems to have lasted longer than The Simpsons?

Then something strange happened.

At least I think it did. I can’t be sure. I’ve been on some crazy thing called a Whole30 Diet for like two weeks now. No sugar. No breads. No rice or pasta. No diet soda. Nothing with artificial ingredients, either. Not even any peanut butter.

And, of course, no booze.

So maybe it was the sobriety that was affecting my mind that night.

As I started to type, I thought I heard a creaking sound. I looked up at the transom above my door. It was partially open.

Several pieces of paper, neatly folded, were slipped through it. They glided gently to the floor, like a paper airplane, landing at my feet.

I took a peek.

Four words were scribbled boldly at the top.


I read on, curious.

“Donald Trump was born in New York City in 1946. Joe Arpaio didn’t live that far away. He was in Massachusetts then.”

I saw where this was going.

“Yeah, but he was just a teenager,” I replied, before I realized I was talking to a piece of paper.

“I’m certain that Trump is Sheriff Joe’s illegitimate son,” the letter said.

I shook my head. Yes, a lot of people believe Trump is a bastard, but this seems more than a bit far-fetched.

Still, I continued reading a list of questions.

Who jumped to Donald Trump’s defense after he called Mexicans criminals and rapists?

Well, it was Arpaio. He said, Trump “had the right to voice his own opinion … and there’s no doubt about drugs coming from Mexico.”

Who was one of the first politicians to endorse Trump?

Again, it was Arpaio, who said in early 2016, “Donald Trump is a leader. He produces results and is ready to get tough in order to protect American jobs and families.”

“Who said he had ‘several things in common’ with Trump when he introduced him at Trump's first major speech in Phoenix?”

No doubt it was Sheriff Joe. I can see where they're a lot alike. Both crave media attention. Both seem have a flagrant disrespect for the law. Both are plumpy old men who like to talk about how tough they are, when I doubt either of them could win a pillow fight.

And, oh, yes, there was the birther conspiracy thing. Both men spent several years and thousands, maybe millions, of dollars trying to prove that President Barack Obama was born in Kenya.

Their obstinacy on this issue WAS remarkably similar.

Remember when Sheriff Joe told CNN’s Jake Tapper that he was certain the Hawaiian birth certificate that Obama released to the public was forged … “and that seems to be a violation of the law.”

Tapper asked Arpaio for proof.

Here’s your proof, Jake:

“I’m not stupid enough to even tell you about it if I didn’t think there was a whole lot of smoke and fire there,” Arpaio replied.

Trump was equally logical after Health Director of Hawaii Loretta Fuddy, who authorized the release of Obama’s birth certificate, died in a plane crash.

He tastefully tweeted immediately the tragedy:

“How amazing, the State Health Director who verified copies of Obama’s ‘birth certificate’ died in a plane crash today. All others lived.”

Ah, ha! Mystery solved.

It’s no more likely that Sheriff Joe is Trump’s father than it is that I own a typewriter or have a transom.

Here’s the clue that gave it away: Trump responded on Twitter.

Sheriff Joe thinks Twitter is a character in a Looney Tunes cartoon. He frequently brags that he doesn’t even own a computer.

Nope, these two men can’t be related.

I ripped the phantom paper to shreds. I’m declaring  this conspiracy theory to be fake news.

But I will acknowledge this:

The way Joe Arpaio treated Hispanics gave birth to a movement in this country that made hate acceptable. Donald Trump rode the wings of that movement to the White House.

For that, the former sheriff deserves the same compassion from the court that he showed to so many Mexican immigrants.
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Stuart Warner was the editor of New Times from 2017 to 2019. He has been a journalist since the stoned ages of 1969, playing a major role on teams that won three Pulitzer Prizes. He is also the author of the biography JOCK: A Coach's Story.