Dennis Burke Admits There's "a Problem" with Joe Arpaio's Rampage; Source Says the U.S. Attorney's Office Will Act in a Matter of Weeks

Keep New Times Free
I Support
  • Local
  • Community
  • Journalism
  • logo

Support the independent voice of Phoenix and help keep the future of New Times free.

Though I didn't make Dennis Burke's swearing in as the new U.S. Attorney for Arizona yesterday, I did make the after-party -- a reception at the University of Arizona's College of Medicine in downtown Phoenix.

The reception, sponsored by Congressman Ed Pastor and Phoenix political consultant Ronnie Lopez, was attended by over 100 political movers-and-shakers, as well as lawyers and judges. Before remarks by Lopez and Burke, I spotted Burke mingling with the crowd, and approached him to ask about the two-ton purple gorilla in our county -- Sheriff Joe Arpaio -- and whether Burke's office was going to do anything about Arpaio's rampage against his political enemies, the judiciary, and so on.

I mentioned the MCSO's recent raid on the offices of Chicanos por la Causa, and the climate of fear and intimidation that's dominant in Maricopa County as Arpaio and his willing henchman, County Attorney Andrew Thomas, harass judges, file racketeering complaints on their foes, and arrest practically anyone who opposes their rule of terror.

"People are afraid," I told him. "They're waiting for your office to do something about this man."

Burke replied that he could "neither confirm nor deny" any investigation under way by his office into the sheriff, but invited me to "read into what I just said."

I pressed him, pointing out that he had made statements to the press listing what the priorities of his office will be mortgage fraud and border violence, laudable efforts to be sure, but what about political corruption and intimidation?

"You want a quote for your article," he replied. "You wanna write an article; I'm just telling you that I don't think giving you a quote would solve the problem."

"So you admit there is a problem?" I asked.

"Of course there's a problem," he conceded. "You're not going to solve it with my quote."

I also asked Burke about statements made by ex-U.S. Attorney David Iglesias during a CBS 5 interview, where Iglesias said that he would work closely with a grand jury and seek an indictment of Arpaio.

"I don't want to litigate it [here]," he told me.

Burke's later remarks to the crowd did not mention Arpaio, or allude to him in any way. When queried, some of those present who're in the know let drop that "things are happening" regarding Arpaio, but they wouldn't get into specifics or go on the record.

Today I spoke with someone I can only describe as a high-ranking federal official, who informed me that the U.S. Attorney would be "taking a critical look into the shenanigans going on in Maricopa County." Asked when this might happen, this individual said it would begin in a matter of weeks, and would involve some legal action against the MCSO.

All of this is very vague, but legal action -- possibly involving a federal grand jury -- would not be surprising, considering Arpaio and Thomas' recent antics. Also, I found it somewhat encouraging that Burke at least acknowledges the "problem" in Maricopa County.

What we have here is a battle royale that must be fought along the lines of Al Capone and Eliot Ness in the 1987 film The Untouchables. We already know who the Al Capone character is being played by locally. What remains to be seen is if Dennis Burke will be our Eliot Ness.

Keep Phoenix New Times Free... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Phoenix with no paywalls.

We use cookies to collect and analyze information on site performance and usage, and to enhance and customize content and advertisements. By clicking 'X' or continuing to use the site, you agree to allow cookies to be placed. To find out more, visit our cookies policy and our privacy policy.


Join the New Times community and help support independent local journalism in Phoenix.


Join the New Times community and help support independent local journalism in Phoenix.