In the Crosshairs

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"It's not worth sticking up for [Arpaio] anymore because he isn't sticking up for us," says Bill Norton, chairman of Republican Party District 22 in Gilbert.

Republican officials say Arpaio made a crucial mistake in the election of 2002, when he appeared in a television ad with Democrat Napolitano in the final days of the extremely close gubernatorial campaign.

The last image of the commercial included a statement in bold red lettering quoting Arpaio saying: "Join me in rejecting the attacks against Janet Napolitano."

A former Democrat who switched to the Republican party in 1982, Arpaio has close ties with Napolitano dating back to her days as the U.S. Attorney in the mid-1990s. Arpaio's apparent endorsement of Napolitano late in the gubernatorial race is widely seen as a payback for Napolitano's dropping a criminal investigation of Norberg's death inside his jail.

In October 1997, then-U.S. Attorney Napolitano settled the federal probe into Arpaio's jail operations triggered by the Norberg case without bringing criminal charges against the detention officers and others involved in the incident. It was classic Napolitano, who has always been more politician than tough-minded public servant.

The now-governor's decision stunned the County Attorney's Office, which earlier had begun its own criminal investigation into Norberg's death.

That inquiry was derailed by the actions of former deputy county attorney Jack MacIntyre, the County Attorney's Office says.

MacIntyre, the office says, ignored Romley's orders and provided legal advice to sheriff's employees who were named in the Norberg family's wrongful-death suit.

MacIntyre disputes this account, claiming he had Romley's permission to provide the legal advice to the sheriff's employees.

In either case, MacIntyre's advice in the civil suit created a conflict of interest that made it impossible for the county attorney to pursue criminal charges against Arpaio's officers.

Soon after Romley's criminal probe was thwarted, Arpaio hired MacIntyre as his director of intergovernmental relations for the sheriff's office.

Then, Napolitano, in a joint press conference with Arpaio on her last day in office as U.S. Attorney, slammed the door on any possibility of charges against jailers involved in Norberg's killing.

With the Norberg criminal probe shelved, Arpaio and Napolitano enjoyed cordial relations after she was elected state attorney general in 1998 and through her 2002 campaign for governor. Her narrow victory over Salmon left a bitter taste in the mouths of many members of the GOP.

"Republicans feel we would not have Governor Napolitano had it not been for Sheriff Arpaio," says McGrath.

When New Times asked Arpaio why he appeared in the television advertisement supporting Napolitano just weeks before the election, he became noticeably agitated.

He claims he did it to "defend a lady" who had been unfairly attacked by then-Independent gubernatorial candidate Richard Mahoney.

"I did not endorse Janet Napolitano," he insists. "When I endorse somebody, I put my arms around them in public so everybody can see I'm endorsing this person!"

Despite the uproar, Arpaio says he has no regrets about doing the ad: "I'm proud of it. I did it. And that's the way it goes."

Arpaio's claim that he did not endorse Napolitano is dismissed as ridiculous by Republican leaders.

Immediately after the Napolitano ad appeared, Salmon called Arpaio and asked the sheriff to publicly endorse him. Arpaio refused, leaving Republicans to draw the only logical conclusion -- fellow party member Joe Arpaio, then the most popular politician in the state, was supporting the Democratic standard-bearer for governor.

"It's quite evident he chose sides," says Larry Pickard, the Glendale justice candidate who is also a former GOP district chairman.

County Republican leaders are now poised to make Arpaio pay for his betrayal by asking several thousand precinct committeemen to withdraw their support of him in the September primary. Because of the votes these chairmen influence, their defection could have a devastating effect on Arpaio's chances in the primary.

"He doesn't have the support among the voters like he thinks he does," says Norton.

When all this comes up in the New Times interview with the sheriff, he brings up a recent meeting with George W. Bush in which he claims the president said: "You're solid as a rock."

Arpaio adds, "I'm on Bush's steering committee. I guess if I was in that bad of a condition, I don't think they would want to associate with the sheriff."

It's highly conceivable that the president is too busy with Iraq to have familiarity with Maricopa County politics. But even with what he says is Bush's strong support, Arpaio is afraid to participate in debates with his two Republican rivals.

He amazingly claims he is too busy with his law enforcement duties to have time for politics.

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John Dougherty
Contact: John Dougherty

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