E.J. Montini, Sheriff Joe Arpaio's New Best Bud

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Why do I bother with a middlebrow muttonhead like the Republic's E.J. Montini? After all, this smug little scribbler is known for his milquetoasty opinions, his aversion to rocking the proverbial boat, and his kowtowing to authority. No doubt he's well-paid for his snooty simpering, the kind that doesn't upset the digestion of the seniors in Sun City too much.

He certainly doesn't have to work very hard for whatever he gets. Montini is one of those old-school, weak-wristed hacks, the sort that might make a phone call or two, but would faint at the thought of mixing with the hoi polloi and actually getting out in the field and doing a little reporting. As a result, his columns are as musty as his office must surely be.

Most recently, he's been quite an apologist for Sheriff Joe Arpaio. Oh, sure, he raps Joe one on the knuckles every now and then, like the Republic itself. But Joe knows that in a pinch, the Rep will never entirely bag on him. Indeed, in one of the darkest hours of Joe's career, Montini has come to Joe's aid. He suggests we're all pickin' on Joe, from House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers, on down to the immigration activists. In his latest column, he suggests that Arpaio's a victim of -- gasp -- a witch hunt!

Talk about sympathy for El Diablo. In the past, Montini's labeled himself as an "honest critic" of the sheriff, and has then gone on to defend Arpaio against comparisons to legendary bigoted, Alabama lawman Bull Connor. Thing is, Montini's argument was half-hearted and lazy. He never explained why Arpaio was nothing like Bull Connor, he just insisted it was so. It was as if he'd clapped his well-manicured mitts and declared: "So let it be written, so let it be done."

But as I pointed out in my commentary on Montini's piece then, the analogy to Connor fits Arpaio well enough. Indeed, the comparison resonates with many in Arizona and beyond. Montini may disagree with it, but the fact remains that both men have become symbols of oppressing minorities, whether Hispanics or Blacks.

Then today, of all days, E.J.'s decided to pooh-pooh the allegation that Arpaio's beige-shirted bulls have violated anyone's civil rights as they enforce federal immigration law.

"But to suggest that [Arpaio] has acted with blatant disregard for people's civil rights or worse?" asks E.J., rhetorically. "That's a stretch."

Gee, E.J., why don't you tell that to Maria del Carmen Garcia Martinez, who was beaten and brutalized in MCSO custody, her arm broken by MCSO thugs trying to get her fingerprints on documents -- what sort of documents, it remains to be seen. But you can check the pic, E.J., that's her arm in a cast. And there was no cast in her booking photo.

I would say there is certainly evidence to believe Martinez's rights were violated.

Maybe E.J. hasn't seen the ACLU lawsuit against Arpaio, which alleges racial profiling on the part of the MCSO, cites examples of such, and charges that the MCSO is in violation of the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution?

At one point, it reads: "Defendants [meaning the MCSO] acting under color of law in concert with one another, stopped, seized, searched, arrested and/or impermissibly extended stops of plaintiffs, pretextually, for racially motivated reasons and without probable cause or reasonable suspicion that they had violated the law."

If you want to read it all, E.J., here's a link to the document on the ACLU Web site.

Montini says that ICE's guidelines under the 287(g) program "were straightforward and strict." Yet, Montini either ignores or is unaware of a recent report from the Government Accountability Office, the investigative arm of Congress, titled, Immigration Enforcement: Better Controls Needed over Program Authorizing State and Local Enforcement of Federal Immigration Laws. As the subtitle indicates, ICE's oversight of participants in the 287(g) program has not been all it should be..

E.J. also cites County Attorney Andrew Thomas as a civil rights watchdog, as laughable as that is, saying that Thomas' office issued guidelines to the MCSO "meant to ensure that deputies did not violate the civil rights of any potentially illegal immigrants caught in the sweeps."

Hey, E.J., is this the same County Attorney whose office was involved in the MCSO's nighttime arrests of New Times founders Mike Lacey and Jim Larkin? I nearly spit milk through my nostrils on reading that one. Who suggested that line of reasoning to you, E.J., MCAO flunky Barnett Lotstein?

E.J. could also read Lacey's recent column, "Are Your Papers in Order?" if he needs more proof that Hispanics are having their rights violated on a regular basis. There's more than enough evidence extant that Arpaio is running an outlaw organization, one defiant of the U.S. Constitution, the U.S. Department of Justice, the U.S. Congress, and other law enforcement entities.

But E.J., as an "honest critic" of Joe, would rather hunker down in the bunker with him, instead of taking note of his mounting human rights violations. The Department of Justice is correct to investigate Joe, and the House Judiciary Committee is correct to hold hearings on him. Joe's 287(g) authority should be immediately suspended, as well. Doing so is not a "witch hunt." Rather, it's a matter of keeping watch on a man with immense power and a penchant for doing only as he pleases.

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