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Gulag-Rolling

We've said it all along, and now it's official: Sheriff Joe Arpaio is a liar. And not much better can be said about his simpering cheerleader, former U.S. attorney Janet Napolitano, who hopes to be Arizona's next attorney general.

Can there be any other interpretation of the content of a report on conditions in Arpaio's jails, compiled by an investigator agreed to by Arpaio?

Corrections consultant George E. Sullivan completed the report on May 14. Sullivan had been chosen "to serve as a mutually agreeable expert consultant" by Arpaio and Napolitano in the "ongoing investigation into certain aspects of conditions of confinement in the Maricopa County Jails." You'll recall that Sullivan was hired after Arpaio protested an earlier U.S. Justice Department report that said conditions in Arpaio's jails are barbaric.

On Halloween, something sinister happened. Arpaio and Napolitano held a joint news conference. It was Napolitano's last day in office, and she was at the time considering running for governor. Although New Times had asked for a copy of Sullivan's report in August, neither Arpaio nor Napolitano had made it available to the public.

Because it was kept under wraps, Arpaio could get away with claiming that it exonerated him. And, in a craven political move, Napolitano agreed with him.

It wasn't hard to see why. Anyone with aspirations for holding statewide elective office would think twice about antagonizing the most popular politician in the county. A person with such aspirations might even consider keeping quiet on the issue. But a person with any integrity, having thought twice, would speak out and tell the truth.

Napolitano didn't. And she didn't just keep quiet, either. She said a lawsuit the federal government had brought against Arpaio was "a lawyer's paper" and "a technicality."

When a reporter suggested that she was kissing up to Arpaio for the sake of her own political future, she accused the reporter of cynicism. When journalists asked about the contents of Sullivan's report, Napolitano brushed their questions off, saying she wasn't going to discuss it.

Now that the report has been released, we know that it exonerates Arpaio in the same way that a jury recently exonerated Timothy McVeigh. The report condemns Arpaio's gulag on every possible level.

As usual, Arpaio is trying to lie his way out of the corner he now finds himself in. Instead of claiming exoneration, he now says that the report is based on "innuendo."

Here is some of Sullivan's "innuendo" (emphases are his):
* "All OC Pepper Spray/Foam devices (should) be immediately REMOVED from all staff and any further use be strictly prohibited."

* "There is also evidence which can be read to reveal the use of Stun Guns and OC Pepper Spray/Foam after restraint had been achieved, for no apparent justifiable reason."

* "I would not have one of these Restraint Chairs on the property. I cannot suggest any justifiable value to be derived from the Restraint Chair."

* "The Inmate Grievance System is dysfunctional."
* "Staffing was below levels needed for safety and humane operations of the jails."

* "(The jails are) a very unmanageable, dangerous environment."
* "(Inmates entering Intake) have probably been subjected to varieties of force--stun guns, pepper spray, billy clubs, hog-tying, fists, etc."

* "Use of Force was unprovoked, unnecessary, and, consequently, unjustified and excessive."

If this is Arpaio and Napolitano's idea of exoneration, they'd probably consider crucifixion to be mild but constructive discipline.

And these are not isolated quotes pulled out of an otherwise benign report. Most of the document--which is 50 pages long--is like that.

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Sullivan states that, although the Sheriff's Office denies that inmates are hog-tied, "reports of 'Hog-Tying' within MCSO Jails persist to a level of credence." In other words, Sullivan believes the sheriff and his merry men are lying.

True to form, of course, quotes from Arpaio in the report contradict each other, telling different stories at different times. He's quoted as telling his staff (on videotape), "Part of this tough job is to act responsibly in your position--to never abuse your authority by abusing inmates." Later, he's quoted as saying to inmates, "It's lucky you are even eating. . . . It's lucky you have food. . . . If you want to be treated like a human, go out, don't commit the crime and don't come back." The man admits that inmates won't be treated like human beings, while saying they won't be abused!

As Sullivan dryly remarks, "It is not surprising that litigation was invited and that the image of the MCSO became tarnished in some professional circles."

I called to ask Napolitano about her veneration of Arpaio. She didn't return my phone call. But one of her flunkies, Mario Diaz, called me to deny that she had claimed exoneration for Arpaio. This only proves that Napolitano is a politician of a similar stripe as Arpaio. Whatever offices Napolitano might run for in the future, voters need to forget her spirited advocacy of Anita Hill and remember her political prostitution on Halloween 1997.

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