CBS 5's nearly 10-minute segment on Sheriff Joe Arpaio's abuse of power last night did not disappoint. Essentially, reporter Morgan Loew and producer Gilbert Zermeno laid out all of the major cases of retaliation by the MCSO against the sheriff's political opponents: Maricopa County Supervisor Don Stapley, Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon, ex-New Times staffer John Dougherty, Village Voice Media Executive Editor Michael Lacey, VVM CEO Jim Larkin, and so on.
CBS 5's damning report from last night's broadcast
Then they put it before a no-nonsense ex-prosecutor: former U.S. Attorney for New Mexico David Iglesias. He's a Republican, was part of the team from the Navy's Judge Advocate General Corps that inspired the Tom Cruise film A Few Good Men, and has more integrity than Arpaio has enemies. Iglesias was one of several U.S. Attorneys purged by the Bush Administration because they would not pursue politically motivated prosecutions. He has never met Arpaio, and has no ax to grind with him.
So what did Iglesias say he would do based on the evidence and his own research? Basically, he'd make Arpaio do the perp walk.
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"I would go to a grand jury," said Iglesias. "I would work very closely with the civil rights criminal division in Washington, DC. And, based on the information that I have, I would seek an indictment."
Iglesias was aghast at what he saw in CBS 5's file on Arpaio detailing the sheriff's history of political payback.
"I thought, `This is remarkable, I can't believe this happening in the United States,'" stated Iglesias, who with his buzz cut looks like he stepped out of an old episode of Dragnet. "This is something that I have seen in South America, Africa, Eastern Europe, and Asia. Absolutely unacceptable. We don't do this kind of thing in this country without some kind of consequence."
As for 18 USC 242, that's "deprivation of rights under the color of law." The statute makes it illegal for anyone "under the color of any law, statute, ordinance, regulation, or custom" to deprive someone of "any rights, privileges, or immunities secured or protected by the Constitution or laws of the United States, or to different punishments, pains, or penalties, on account of such person being an alien, or by reason of his color, or race, than are prescribed for the punishment of citizens."
I called the office of Arizona's new U.S. Attorney Dennis Burke for a comment on Iglesias' assertions in the CBS 5 newscast, and I'm waiting for a response. Will Burke -- who was Janet Napolitano's chief of staff while she was governor -- do something about Arpaio? Or will he follow Napolitano's example, and sit on his hands for the remainder of his tenure?
CBS 5 also confirmed that the FBI has been investigating Arpaio since the Bush Administration, and Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon stated in the piece that he has been interviewed by the FBI. Thing is, if they've been looking into Arpaio for over a year, and Iglesias is saying that based on stuff in the public domain that he would indict, then it is long past time for Burke, or his boss, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, to act.
In another interesting revelation, former U.S. Attorney Paul Charlton, who is representing county Supervisor Don Stapley, gave a motive for Arpaio's revenge against Stapley, which has involved Stapley being re-arrested by the MCSO after the first round of corruption charges were dropped.
"He opposed the sheriff's budget," Charlton told CBS 5. "He insisted that there be someone placed inside his office that audit the budget. He disagreed with the sheriff on his use of funds to do the [immigration] round-ups."
The segment also included an interview with former New Times columnist John Dougherty concerning his investigation into Arpaio's land holdings. And the piece used file footage of a 2004 confrontation between Dougherty and some of Arpaio's henchmen, who later claimed Dougherty was attempting to assault the sheriff with a "silver, metallic object." That object? A tape recorder.
Kudos to CBS 5 for an eye-popping hunk of TV journalism. You should take a look at CBS 5's Web site for full-length interviews with Charlton, Iglesias, and Gordon. Also, CBS 5 has the full segment up on its Web site, here.