If you're a close observer of the Maricopa County sheriff like we are, check out this hour-long video (in three parts) from his testimony in last year's Joel Fox termination appeal proceedings.
Arpaio squirms a little, appears to feign ignorance and mixes up his stories as he answers questions from a county official over the firing of Joel Fox, Arpaio's former captain who played patsy in what we affectionately call the "SCA scandal."
New Times obtained the video of Arpaio's testimony after a recent records request to the county.
Scroll down to see the videos.
Regular readers know the SCA story well. In a nutshell, it involves Arpaio's top aides concocting a scheme to secretly raise money from themselves and rich donors in order to fund an R-rated smear ad against Arpaio's 2008 Democratic opponent, Dan Saban.
Arpaio's cover story has long been that he didn't know his former chief deputy, Dave Hendershott -- who was also his campaign manager that year -- had coordinated the stealth ad campaign. But we think you'll agree that when you parse through all of Arpaio's ramblings and convenient memory lapses in this video, it becomes clear he knew enough.
The suspicious fundraising activity by Captain Joel Fox in 2008 drew a complaint from the Democratic Party and sparked a criminal investigation by the state Attorney General's Office, followed by a raid on Fox's home. But the former Democratic AG at the time, Terry Goddard, couldn't manage to secure any criminal charges despite apparent evidence by his investigators that campaign-finance laws had been broken.
At the time, Arizona law prohibited corporate funds from being used for a political campaign, and another law criminalized the "earmarking" of independent expenditure funds for a specific candidate's campaign. The mysterious Sheriff's Command Association violated both laws, evidence showed.
Fox, the SCA's front man, at first refused to tell anyone the names of the other people in the group, even after donating $105,000 in SCA money to the Republican Party for the smear ad. Threatened with a $315,000 fine, Fox finally confessed that Hendershott, another top Arpaio aide named Larry Black, and big-wigs like Arizona developer Steve Ellman had made donations.
When the scandal first broke in 2008, Arpaio claimed that he had "no knowledge" of the fundraising scheme. His testimony last year shows that the "no knowledge" claim was a bald-faced lie.
In the testimony, Arpaio also answered a question we've long wondered about: Why, when Arpaio learned that Joel Fox had been accused of campaign crimes, and when he later learned Hendershott and Black were involved, did Arpaio not take action?
No internal investigation, no nothing.
Clarisse McCormick, who was representing the county in the sheriff's office's decision to terminate Fox's employment, asked Arpaio if he ever asked Hendershott about his involvement in the SCA.
Arpaio said no.
McCormick asked why he didn't follow up with Hendershott.
"I was letting nature take its course and see what would happen," Arpaio answered.
Let's run through that again: The top elected law officer in the county learns that his chief deputy and several of his top men are accused of crimes, and he's gonna let "nature take its course."
Don't you wonder what other sorts of things Arpaio is letting nature handle these days?
As we've speculated in the past, one thing that could explain Arpaio's decision to do nothing about the allegations: He knew an investigation might lead back to him.
The media reported in October of 2008 that Fox was involved. New Times first broke the story in July of 2009 that Hendershott, Black, Ellman and the others were involved. It wasn't until September of 2010 that Arpaio put Hendershott, Black and Fox on leave, and only then it was because another of his top commanders, Frank Munnell, had handed him a 63-page manifesto detailing mismanagement and possible crimes -- including the SCA scandal -- alleged to have been committed by Hendershott and others.
In 2011, after Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu conducted an investigation into the allegations in the "Munnell Memo," alleging policy violations and mismanagement by Hendershott and other employees, Arpaio fired Hendershott and Black. He later allowed them to resign. Fox was fired after another internal investigation concluded he'd committed numerous violations. But he appealed his termination, leading to last year's hearings.
Perhaps we're overly obsessed with this SCA case and not thinking clearly, but we see the Arpaio testimony at the Fox hearing as a total farce.
Follow along with us here for a second: Assuming Arpaio knew what Fox was up to, and we believe he did, then it makes no sense for him to testify that it was right for Fox to be fired. After all, in our version of events, Fox had been doing something that Arpaio knew about, and which benefited Arpaio.
This is why we often refer to Fox as a patsy or fall guy.
McCormick, ostensibly representing Arpaio, seems to be grilling Arpaio. Yet if her probing questions about the SCA had caused Arpaio to confess that he'd put Hendershott, and thus, Fox, up to the SCA fundraising, McCormick would have blown her case. That is, it would be clear that Fox's firing was unfair. She seems to take a double-sided approach in her questioning -- probing, but always gently, and with almost no tough follow-up questions.
Ed Moriarity, Fox's attorney, occasionally objects to McCormick's probing questions -- even though you'd think his client would benefit from unveiling Arpaio as the ringleader of the SCA scandal that got Fox fired.
Moriarity, throughout the many county scandals of the last few years, represented and defended Dave Hendershott. It stands to reason that Moriarity wouldn't be interested in getting to the bottom of the SCA scandal, because that might bring out negative information about Hendershott.
One major piece of evidence that something strange is going on: Moriarity decides not to ask Arpaio a single question after being told he could begin his cross-examination. Yet Arpaio, theoretically, is one of the key witnesses who could prove that Fox's firing wasn't warranted. Moriarity's failure to ask Arpaio questions is just plain weird.
We'd love to hear your take on all this. Now, with the county release of these Fox hearing videos, we figure the door is all but closed on the SCA scandal. No criminal charges were ever filed by state or federal officials.
But since Arpaio was re-elected to a sixth term in November, his testimony last year is still relevant, and will help people understand the SCA zaniness that began five years ago.