Joe Arpaio Fail: DOJ Cancels Racial-Profiling Talks, Describes Sheriff's Lawyer as Cheat and Liar

Few would be surprised to know that Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio's office is lying about about its negotiations with the federal government over accusations of widespread racial profiling by deputies.

Both Arpaio and his ally, County Attorney Bill Montgomery, have accused the U.S. Department of Justice of lying about the evidence in its December finding that Arpaio's office practices routine discrimination against Hispanics. That could be true -- it wouldn't be a shock to find out the federal government has lied.

But we don't know the folks at the DOJ as well as we do Arpaio and those who work for him. Arpaio, as we've learned over the years, is a habitual liar.

For example, Arpaio lied to the public in 2009 when he announced that a campaign-finance scandal had "nothing to do with the Sheriff's Office." Arpaio lied about the 2010 arrest of County Supervisor Don Stapley. Arpaio apparently lied about his lack of memory during the Andrew Thomas hearings. The examples could go on and on.

Now the DOJ is accusing Arpaio's lawyer of lying and cheating in their negotiations to resolve the racial-profiling problem.

Arpaio and his representatives are such forked-tongue scoundrels, to paraphrase a new letter by DOJ deputy assistant Attorney General Roy Austin, the federal government is giving up on him.

See you in court, Austin tells Arpaio in the April 11 letter to Joseph Popolizio, Arpaio's lawyer.

"Your characterization of the terms of our Agreement is inaccurate and clearly designed to mislead," Austin tells Popolizio.

Popolizio did not immediately return calls by New Times for comment. But the accusation is quite harsh -- lawyers are supposed to be bound by ethical rules that should prevent the sort of intentional dishonesty Popolizio is accused of here. Just ask former County Attorney Andrew Thomas.

Austin's complaining in his letter about the characterization by Arpaio's office of the responsibilities of a federal "monitor" that was part of the negotiations to rid the Sheriff's Office of what the DOJ described in December as a "culture" of discrimination.

Last week, Arpaio announced he would not "surrender" his office to the monitor, which he claimed would usurp his power.

Austin says in his April 11 letter it would be "silly" for Arpaio's Office to "pretend that I or any other DOJ employee defined exactly what duties the monitor would have at the end of negotiations. Nothing of the kind was ever said and you know it."

Austin says the demands by Arpaio and Montgomery for "evidence" that supports the DOJ's findings are mere attempts to litigate the case before it gets to court. This makes sense to us: It just seems unlikely that when the DOJ claims that Valley Hispanics are "four to nine times" more likely to get pulled over by sheriff's deputies than by city police officers, the agency didn't pull that figure out of the air. They've got evidence, and they'll share it with Arpaio in court -- where the DOJ's racial-profiling case is now headed.

Austin writes to Popolizio:

It is clear that DOJ's concerted effort to attain voluntary compliance by your client has failed. It is also clear that we should not discuss anything else by telephone because you will not accurately portray those conversations. At this point, it is best to let a court determine the appropriateness of appointing an independent monitor as well as imposing other relief in order to address MCSO's constitutional and federal statutory violations.

According to JJ Hensley's story today in the Arizona Republic about the matter, the federal government won't say when it will sue Arpaio's office.

Another reason for not releasing info about witnesses in the racial-profiling investigation -- who include some of Arpaio's deputies -- is because of Arpaio's well-known penchant for retaliating against his enemies, Austin says. Examples of this retaliation, he writes, can be found in the case that led to the disbarment of Andy Thomas and Monday's damning ruling by U.S. District Judge Neil Wake, which we wrote about on Tuesday.

In that ruling, Wake declared that a lawsuit against them could proceed, in large part because Arpaio and Thomas did not enjoy legal immunity from all of their actions against political enemies.

Add this pending court action to Arpaio's other court dates: On the Melendres racial-profiling civil lawsuit, the malicious prosecution lawsuit before Judge Wake, and the Thomas Lovejoy trial coming up on April 17.

Click here for Roy Austin's letter to Joe Arpaio's lawyer.

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Ray Stern has worked as a newspaper reporter in Arizona for more than two decades. He's won numerous awards for his reporting, including the Arizona Press Club's Don Bolles Award for Investigative Journalism.
Contact: Ray Stern