Joe Arpaio has been trying to shut Jim Cozzolino up for the last two years. Last week, the sheriff finally found a way to do it.
On March 7, Judge William Anderson granted Arpaio an injunction prohibiting Cozzolino from getting near Arpaio or "by means of telephone, e-mail or other medium, threatening Plaintiff with death or serious bodily harm."
The key there is "e-mail." Besides serving as a campaign manager for one of Arpaio's opponents in last November's election, Cozzolino has been one of Arpaio's most vocal and virulent critics on the anti-Arpaio Web page, Arpaio.com ("Posse Galore," Robert Nelson, August 24, 2000).
Sheriff Joe Arpaio
Arpaio's attorneys tried to shut down the Web site several months ago. Failing that, they apparently are going after those who post on the site.
"They just want me to shut up," Cozzolino says. "They've purged everybody within the department who questioned Joe. Now they're going after the general public."
For sure, Cozzolino has made himself an easy target. Cozzolino was investigated two years ago in connection with death threats made against the sheriff over police radios. Cozzolino was not arrested or charged in the matter. He contends the investigation was an attempt to discredit him.
Last year, Cozzolino volunteered for the campaign of Tom Bearup, who was running against Arpaio as an Independent, then left the Bearup campaign to serve as campaign manager for Democratic candidate Bobby Ayala. Before the November election, Cozzolino sent the Maricopa County Elections Department documents he claimed showed violations of campaign finance laws by the Bearup campaign.
Karen Osborne, director of elections, found probable cause that campaign laws had been broken and has turned the case over to the County Attorney's Office. The problem for Cozzolino: The investigation he asked for apparently uncovered evidence showing he had also mishandled money.
Arpaio's staff jumped at the opportunity, justifying their injunction now by saying that Cozzolino might become enraged upon learning that he might soon be paying a fine.
As part of the injunction, Cozzolino, who instructs firearms classes, also lost his permit to carry concealed weapons.
In effect, Cozzolino's livelihood has been curtailed, as has his ability to speak freely about a public official on the Web site.
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And, Cozzolino says, Arpaio gets a little story to divert people's attention from the sheriff's current budget woes.
Cozzolino believes he has a strong case for the ACLU.
"You got it," he says. "It's another lawsuit against Joe."