Feathered Bastard

Joe Arpaio Stages Jail Shakedown for Steven Seagal (w/Response from MCSO's Brian Lee)

So it's Friday --traditionally a slow news day -- which means time for another Sheriff Joe Arpaio media stunt, this one to help his buddy Steven Seagal's A&E reality series Steven Seagal: Lawman. (Please see updates below.)

Although the media has been told to "embargo" this one for "jail security" till 5 p.m. I'm giving it to you right now. Here's the e-mail MCSO flack Brian Lee just sent out:

Please embargo this information until 5:00 PM for Jail Security purposes!! Media Advisory for Friday March 11, 2010 Maricopa County Sheriff's Office Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio will be conducting a large scale shakedown operation within all county jails this afternoon.

As a sidebar, Sheriff Arpaio will also be joined by one of his better known Posseman, Actor Steven Seagal Media is invited to the Tent City Jail at 5:00 PM this afternoon where the Sheriff will explain the purpose behind a full jail shakedown.

Sheriff Arpaio will address the media outside of the large main gate at the Tent City Jail off of Gibson Lane.

It is easiest to access Tents by turning East on Gibson Lane off of 35th Avenue and following it straight back to the Tents Jail.

Lt. Brian Lee
Maricopa County Sheriff's Office
Public Information Officer

"As a sidebar"? Give me a freakin' break. This jail "toss" is obviously staged for the express purpose of being filmed by Seagal's TV crew, just as was the "cockfight" bust recently where scores of MCSO SWAT and other deputies showed up at a Laveen property to bust one dude.

How much money is the MCSO wasting on PR stunts to assist Seagal, whose show was run out of Jefferson Parish, Louisiana because of allegations of sex trafficking on Seagal's part?

The lawsuit those allegations were in was later dropped, but the Jefferson Parish Sheriff had already shut the A&E production down because of them.

I've put in public records requests with the MCSO for everything to do with Seagal, but I'm not holding my breath waiting for them.

What needs to happen is that the Maricopa County Supervisors need to step in and put the smack down on this waste of resources during a recession and a budget crisis.

Of course, if they do, Joe might send Seagal over to arrest them, seeing that Joe's deputized the aging, stone-faced "actor." What a pathetic joke. One entirely in character for Arpaio, I might add.

UPDATE: I e-mailed MCSO flack Brian Lee to ask if I would be allowed into Arpaio's presser. When he didn't respond, I published this item and sent him a link to it. Here's what he had to say, and my response.

From Brian Lee via e-mail:

No, as usual you will not be allowed in. I honestly do not understand why you insist on doing things like this when it affects the safety and security of our employees. You may not believe that but it does. I understand you may take issue with the Sheriff but I do not understand what you have against rest of our employees?

If you want New Times representation at our news conferences, feel free to send James King or Ray Stern and I will be happy to let them in. 

My reply:

Interesting, so you block only me. I feel honored...As for a jail shakedown, you can protect the safety of employees by NOT calling a news conference. It is the MCSO publicity machine that's putting corrections officers at risk. Not me.

2nd UPDATE: The MCSO allowed in my colleague Jim King, but not without giving him grief for my blog post breaking this dumb "embargo" the MCSO had asked for in its press alert.

Local TV gave the story short shrift, and for good reason. First, it's not a story. A jail "toss"? Jails and prisons do this sort of thing all the time. The only thing potentially newsworthy would've been the presence of Steven Seagal. But according to King, Seagal wasn't around.  Or at least he wasn't made available to the press.

Second reason, the tsunami. Even the local news lead with it. Arpaio may have counted on a normal, slow Friday news day, but this was not the norm. I saw Channel 5, and they didn't mention the Arpaio stunt de jour till around 15 minutes or so into the broadcast. 

Maybe next week, Joe. And make sure Seagal's around, OK? Otherwise, what's the point in showing up?                                                             

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