Feathered Bastard

Joe Arpaio, Paul Babeu and the Garrity Rule

One misconception out there is that the inquiry into MCSO Deputy Chief Frank Munnell's memo by Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu could result in criminal charges being filed against those Sheriff Joe loyalists now suspended with pay: Chief Deputy David Hendershott, Director Larry Black, and Captain Joel Fox.

Though Munnell alleges criminal activity in his love letter to Joe, he makes it clear that he's asking for an "administrative investigation," as opposed to the criminal ones being done by the FBI and the Arizona Attorney General's Office.

An administrative investigation is just what Babeu is doing, not a criminal one, as his spokesperson Tim Gaffney confirmed to me yesterday. Even if Babeu -- oddly, both a rival and an ally of Arpaio's -- were so inclined, his interviews of Hendershott and other MCSO employees cannot become the plaything of prosecutors in the course of a trial.

Why? It's because of something called the Garrity Rule, the result of the 1967 U.S. Supreme Court decision Garrity vs. New Jersey, which held that if a police department orders an officer to cooperate with an internal investigation, the officer's statements cannot be used against him or her in criminal court.

So, essentially, if Babeu orders Hendershott and the others to answer questions as part of his probe, they will have immunity from prosecution for any statements made during their interviews. Hendy could sing his face blue to Babeu, knowing full well it can't come back to bite him. At least not in a way that will put him in the pokey.

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