J. Edgar Arpaio

I really wanted to see Joe Arpaio get roasted on October 1, during an event to raise money for the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office's animal posse.

I called the MCSO and asked how to buy tickets for the shindig. A posse man who identified himself only as Commander Tom told me to show up at WestWorld in Scottsdale with $100 and that I would be "more than welcome." The posse was expecting 500 guests and hoped to raise $100,000. Everything went well until he asked my name.

"John Dougherty," I said.

"Are you the guy from New Times?" he asked.

"Yeah," I replied.

"I'll have to call you back in a minute," the posse man said.

Half an hour later, Commander Tom left me a voice message: "This is a private party, and they want to pass on you coming or for anybody from New Times [coming]," he said politely, and somewhat regretfully.

This isn't the first time Arpaio's banned New Times from an event. While others in the news media were given the red carpet, he refused to allow me to attend the July 2004 pre-election Tent City concert featuring his lackey Glen Campbell (who owed Arpaio for allowing him to avoid incarceration in a tent following his drunk-driving conviction).

Last September, Arpaio ordered his thugs to force me out the door of the Phoenix Civic Center on the night of the 2004 primary election because I dared to ask him a question.

"Get this guy out of here," he said, as I approached with tape recorder in hand.

Last winter, Arpaio's goons refused me entry to the gala inauguration for his fourth term; deputies turned me away at the door of the publicly owned sheriff's training facility.

All three of the events were covered by more than a dozen local newspapers and radio and television stations who spend more time blowing the sheriff in print and during broadcasts than seriously covering his $400-million-a-year operation.

For a guy who calls himself the "toughest sheriff in America," Arpaio's terrified about coming into contact with anyone other than his staunchest supporters. Fashioning himself as a modern-day J. Edgar Hoover, Arpaio demands complete adulation. I was about to write that Arpaio's a Hoover without the penchant for women's underwear, but his cowardice in dealing with detractors makes me believe he must be just as big a sissy as his hero.

The 73-year-old sheriff's wrath extends to more than just New Times, which has been exposing his incompetence for more than a decade. His public relations peons are now refusing to admit certain other journalists from attending his self-serving events.

For instance, Sonoran News reporter Curtis Riggs, who went to a September 23 press conference in Arpaio's 19th-floor office in the Wells Fargo Building to cover an event featuring Carefree mayor Ed Morgan and the sheriff.

Riggs had every right to be there, since his weekly paper routinely covers Carefree government. But the Sonoran News is the only other paper in the Valley that publishes serious, fair and critical coverage of the MCSO, so Riggs was deemed unworthy.

Riggs tells me he was refused entry to the news conference by one of Arpaio's top media censors -- Lieutenant Paul Chagolla.

"I'm denying you," Chagolla told Riggs twice.

Riggs said he could see about 20 other reporters and photographers in the suite's conference room. Rather than argue with Chagolla, who was surrounded by armed cops, Riggs packed up and left.

"Chagolla was awfully smug about it, and I'm sure Joe Arpaio got his kicks as soon as he heard the story," Riggs said.

Unfortunately, this is far from a laughing matter, though it's just another example of Arpaio's disdain for the constitutional rights of Arizonans.

Stoking a propaganda machine that's turned him into a worldwide celebrity is far more important to Arpaio than protecting our civil rights and deploying a competent police force that can protect the public from crime.

Few have the gall to criticize Arpaio.

After all, he's the only elected official in Maricopa County who's got a police force at his disposal to harass, arrest or incarcerate anyone he perceives to be an enemy. No one wants to end up in his filthy gulags on trumped-up charges, running the risk of getting beaten to a pulp by the jail gangs that dominate inside.

Not content to just violate the First Amendment rights of the principal newspaper covering the Carefree area, Arpaio's also intimidating the small town's government.

Last month, he bullied Carefree into announcing that it will no longer allow members of its own town council to publicly criticize the MCSO, which is under contract to provide police services to the municipality.

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John Dougherty
Contact: John Dougherty