Goon Squad

Cops call it "building the jacket."

If you've got a guy you want to ruin, you start throwing crazy allegations at him or start listening to crazy allegations about him. Then you conduct sham "investigations." Then you make sure the allegations and investigations start piling up in his personnel file -- his jacket -- or on his arrest record.

Once there's enough paper, it doesn't matter if each allegation can be proved to be ludicrous. It's the thickness of the file that kills.

"Look at this guy's file. It's huge. This guy clearly is trouble."

As New Times archives will show you, Sheriff Joe Arpaio is the master at building jackets. He has destroyed the careers of at least a dozen department whistle-blowers with groundless investigations, skewed lie-detector tests and false reports, and he has used the trick many more times to discredit and harass his political enemies outside the office.

In several instances in the last decade, deputies have admitted that they participated in attempts to create damaging information on Joe's detractors inside and outside the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office. The harassment has even included illegal wiretaps.

This is called "corruption." Everybody but Joe Arpaio gets indicted for it.

Joe's latest enemy is Jon Beydler, the new mayor of Fountain Hills, which happens to be Joe's home.

So, Joe is trying to fit Jon with a nice new jacket.

Beydler, a longtime Washington, D.C., public administrator turned successful Valley businessman, became mayor on a reform platform. Earlier this year he argued, and voters clearly agreed, that it was time for Fountain Hills to stop paying the sheriff's department $1.5 million a year to police the city.

Instead, under Beydler's plan, Fountain Hills would use the money to expand Fountain Hills' own police force.

Considering the abysmal job MCSO does of providing law enforcement to the outlying areas of Maricopa County, there is little doubt that Fountain Hills residents would get better service for their $1.5 million with a stronger town marshal system.

Arpaio, in contrast, has been strongly backing several town leaders who have worked to neuter the local police force. Until Beydler showed up, it looked as though Arpaio would have complete control of Fountain Hills' law enforcement, and its budget, within a year or so.

In August of 2001, before the election, Arpaio paid Beydler a visit. Beydler says Arpaio told him not to run for mayor.

Beydler told Arpaio to crawl back in his hole.

Now, as mayor, Beydler has become the enemy of every Fountain Hills old-guard, company-town lackey that Arpaio has ever supported.

All this sets the stage for what appears to be a setup of Jon Beydler by Arpaio and his cronies.

"I had been told by people in town to watch out, people are watching you,'" Beydler told me. "My wife and I aren't paranoid people, so I just took that as a figure of speech.

"Now we've got good reason to believe it was more than that."

Beydler and his wife own a Fountain Hills art gallery.

About a month ago, a woman in her late 50s or early 60s with short gray hair began regularly showing up at the gallery. Employees and other witnesses noticed her because she seemed to linger around the business and nearby businesses.

August 12 was the first day of school in Fountain Hills. Besides needing to get his 9-year-old daughter to school, Beydler, as mayor, had to help school administrators and town marshals in fine-tuning traffic flow around the schools.

At lunch time, Beydler took his 3-year-old daughter with him to pick up his oldest at school. They went and had lunch together, then drove back to the gallery.

Beydler's cell phone rang a few blocks from the gallery. It was an attorney needing to discuss a lawsuit against the city.

Beydler pulled up in the parking lot in front of the gallery. His 9-year-old jumped out. Beydler jumped out and walked 50 feet from the vehicle as he continued his conversation on the cell phone.

His 3-year-old daughter, though, was mad at her sister. Pouting, she remained in the car. Beydler, engrossed in his conversation, didn't notice immediately that his daughter had remained in the vehicle, a vehicle she has proven many times she can exit on her own.

Within two minutes, the woman with short gray hair ran into the gallery saying a child was locked in a vehicle out in the heat.

A man who was accompanying the woman immediately said, "Call the police."

Beydler's wife immediately walked from the gallery and realized it was her child inside her husband's car.

The Beydlers walked over together and got the girl out of the car. Cheryl Beydler wiped the girl off with a cool washcloth and then the family went next door for ice cream.

It was a slight and common mishap, an utterly normal family occurrence. End of story.

But two days later, Beydler got a call from a local newpaper reporter. The reporter, Beydler says, had been contacted by the sheriff's office to tell him that Beydler was being investigated for child abuse.

"I couldn't even relate what they were telling me to that incident," he says. "It was such a non-event I couldn't make the connection."

Interesting that Arpaio had made it a media event before Beydler was even aware there was an investigation.

Apparently, the gray-haired woman had called Child Protective Services about 24 hours after the incident. Interesting that she would wait 24 hours if she was so interested in protecting children.

Soon after the phone call, six MCSO detectives and deputies arrived at the Beydlers' gallery.

Interesting that similar non-emergency calls are lucky to get one MCSO deputy.

Deputies took cash receipts, security videotapes and other items from the gallery. They took Beydler's car for "heat testing."

They took the Beydler girls out of school and preschool for questioning. They took both the girls and Cheryl Beydler for four hours of questioning at Child Protective Services.

CPS quickly determined the case was a non-event.

But not Joe. He said this issue needed a "world-class investigation."

Yeah, it was so world-class, his deputies didn't interview many witnesses at the scene who would have quickly explained that this was an idiotic thing to investigate.

"It was all Gestapo tactics," Beydler says.

Carried out by the Valley's Keystone Kops.

On September 5, after three weeks of dragging Beydler's name through the mud, the sheriff's department finished its investigation.

The county attorney, too, determined he was guilty of absolutely nothing.

But the first pages of the false jacket are in the books. Joe knows that headlines such as "Mayor investigated for child abuse" stick in voters' heads.

And now, one of Arpaio's boys on the town council, John Kavanagh, has proposed that Beydler be "censured" because of the non-incident.

Beydler, to his enormous credit, says he is unbowed by the stunt.

In Beydler, Fountain Hills residents clearly have a mayor who is strong enough to face down those apparently conniving thugs standing in the way of progress.

"We're strong, tenacious people," Beydler says. "And stuff like this just makes us stronger."

He'll need to be. Because if history is any indication, Joe will try every dirty trick in the book to break him.

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Robert Nelson