Longform

Breathtaking Abuse of the Constitution

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Sheriff's deputies combed the poor child's computer, as well as her prep school. Nothing.

Did we mention that the genesis of this fantasy was a confidential source from the border who failed the pivotal polygraph question about whether he was telling the truth about a plot to off Sheriff Arpaio?

The thread to all this was that the Minutemen wanted to stir up hostility to immigrants for shooting Arpaio. It was never clear how this was going to be blamed upon mojados, but that was hardly the most glaring question.

Or as Chris Simcox told the morning newspaper, "Look, Joe Arpaio is like a hero to us as Minutemen. Why would we want to go against the toughest sheriff in the country?"

When quizzed by the Republic, Chief Larry Black — in charge of the unit that works threat assessment and evaluates the wave of fist-shaking directed at Arpaio — admitted that not a single, factual lead from the confidential source checked out.

"No, it didn't," Black told the newspaper. "And it was killing us."

No doubt.

Just like it was killing Arpaio's threat-assessment boys in 2003 when prosecutors took hapless James Saville to trial for "plotting" to kill Arpaio. Jurors wound up deciding that deputies set up the assassin, coaxing and entrapping him. Saville was acquitted ("The Plot to Assassinate Arpaio," August 5, 1999).



Then there was the time Arpaio identified a threat upon his life that turned out to be an art student's sculpture of a spider left upon his lawn.

Half a million dollars and almost 17,000 hours later, the latest investigation of the Minutemen/Bermudez caper has gone nowhere, but yet the case remains open.

Coincidentally, we guess, New Times' alleged Class 5 felony bounced out of Pinal County and back into County Attorney Thomas' office at just about the time Arpaio was putting on his helmet and moving from one hotel to another to avoid the reputed gunslingers from the Mexican drug cartels.

According to the disappeared confidential informant, none of whose claims could be verified, Los Zetas, the enforcement arm of Mexican drug smugglers, knew where Sheriff Arpaio lived.



As these coincidences began to congeal: Los Zetas knew where Arpaio lives, New Times knows where Arpaio lives, conceivably New Times readers know where Arpaio lives . . .

BAM. GRAND JURY.

Or maybe these events are not related at all.

Maybe Dennis Wilenchik and Andy Thomas and Joe Arpaio just believe that even though the sheriff's home address is all over the Internet, is readily available on several government Web sites and is not much of a secret at all, that New Times and its readers should be keelhauled before a grand jury.

Could be.

Dennis Wilenchik recently filed papers with the judge arguing against our motion to open up the proceedings.

We are told to trust the process.

In 2004, John Dougherty filed public-records requests in the middle of the sheriff's contested election. He wanted public information in nine separate areas, from the death of a prisoner to the accounting for the millions of dollars that flowed through jail vending machines.

Arpaio's office refused to produce any records until we filed a lawsuit.

None of the information was produced in time for the election.

But we worked with the system and stayed with the lawsuit, and today, three years later, we are still waiting for the resolution within the courts.

The election is long over.

Special prosecutor Dennis Wilenchik argued in his paperwork that if we didn't like the intrusiveness of the subpoenas, we had choices within the system.

When Dennis Wilenchik surreptitiously contacted the judge presiding over our grand jury, he argued that we should not be alarmed.

"If there is prosecutorial misconduct in the proceedings, petitioners have remedies for that. Just ask Mike Nifong, the Duke [University] lacrosse players' prosecutor," wrote Wilenchik in his response to our motion to remove him from the case.

That's our remedy? Look to Duke? Look to the case where the defendants' lives were ruined, jobs lost, educations canceled, fortunes squandered on attorneys, reputations smeared, and the landscape scorched with the due process of the law?

When Dennis Wilenchik doesn't understand that his behavior is "absolutely inappropriate," we want to take our chances — not with the process but with the public.

In 1970, we started this newspaper because we believed in the public's right to know.

Nothing has changed.

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Michael Lacey
Contact: Michael Lacey
Jim Larkin
Contact: Jim Larkin