Feathered Bastard

Joe Arpaio in the Feds' Crosshairs: Dennis Burke's Team To Be Sworn In as Special Deputy County Attorneys

It's not lookin' good for Maricopa County's corrupt top constable, Sheriff Joe Arpaio, and that bottomless pit of iniquity known as the MCSO.

You'd think things were bad enough with a federal grand jury probing the sheriff's office on criminal abuse of power allegations, and intertwining investigations by the FBI, the state Attorney General, and U.S. Attorney for Arizona Dennis Burke. Not to mention the U.S. Department of Justice's inquiry into the MCSO's civil rights abuses.

But now interim County Attorney Rick Romley will be deputizing six Assistant U.S. Attorneys from Burke's office to be Special Deputy County Attorneys, with the power to investigate and prosecute state crimes, as well as federal.

According to an agenda item for the next Board of Supervisors meeting, the Supes will be voting on approving the appointments Monday. My sources tell me its a done deal. And none too soon, as Arpaio's bought-and-paid-for-ally Bill Montgomery will be sworn in as the new CA as soon as Tuesday's election is certified by the BOS.

The BOS agenda item makes it clear that these new cross-deputized law dogs will be looking into "any state related charges that may arise in connection with the current federal investigation" into the MCSO.

Also, the team will be investigating state crimes possibly committed by the MCSO as outlined in an October 6 letter to Burke from County Manager David Smith.

That letter details a laundry list of alleged felonies under state law, from destroying documents and outright theft, to forgery and fraudulent schemes. (You can read the letter, here.)

I'm being told that these six AUSAs -- some of whom are former Deputy County Attorneys -- have already been working on the grand jury investigation of the MCSO. The mere fact that there are a half-dozen of them indicates the seriousness of the U.S. Attorney's probe, and the U.S. Attorney's clear intent to secure indictments.

These six untouchables include the following top members of Burke's staff: Rachel Hernandez, the Executive U.S. Attorney for Burke's office;Patrick Cunningham, Burke's "criminal chief"; and John Lopez, chief of the financial crimes and public integrity section.

In other words, this is no joke. Burke's office is targeting the MCSO in a very high-profile way. And recently Burke has been more outspoken concerning the MCSO's nefarious deeds. 

In a letter dated October 22 to Rick Romley, Burke stated there was a "total lack of evidence" to back up the bogus RICO suit that Arpaio and his former fellow Sith Lord, ex-County Attorney Andrew Thomas, ginned up against the county. 

And in a  letter to county Supervisor Mary Rose Wilcox dated October 5, Burke confirmed that allegations of wrongdoing in the leaked memo by MCSO Deputy Chief Frank Munnell were being "fully investigated" by his office and the FBI.

When Burke was sworn in last year, I wondered openly if Burke had the stones to be this state's Eliot Ness when it came to cracking down on the Sand Land version of Al Capone; i.e., Joe Arpaio. 

I admit, I had my doubts, but they've been allayed by Burke's recent statements and by the pending swearing in of these six federal prosecutors as special deputy CAs. I simply urge Burke and his people to keep their eyes on the prize in all this: the indictment of Sheriff Joe Arpaio himself.

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Stephen is a former staff writer and columnist at Phoenix New Times.
Contact: Stephen Lemons