Feathered Bastard

Joe Arpaio Subject of Federal Grand Jury, Channel 5 Reports (w/Update)

According to KPHO's 5 p.m. newscast, the station has confirmed that a federal grand jury is looking into Sheriff Joe Arpaio's abuses of power, and his retaliatory investigations of his political enemies.

Reporter Morgan Loew just broke the story that two county officials have received subpoenas ordering them to testify before the grand jury.

"Maricopa County Manager David Smith and County Budget Director Sandi Wilson both said they had been subpoenaed to appear before a grand jury next week to testify about their interactions with the Sheriff's Office," reads a short report on the station's Web site.

The online piece also noted that, "The Sheriff's Office launched criminal investigations into Smith and Wilson as negotiations over its budget heated up in February 2008."

Loew said in his televised report that Channel 5 has a copy of one of the subpoenas, and he promised there would be a follow-up on its 6:30 p.m. and 10 p.m. broadcasts.

A high-ranking federal official -- who wished to remain anonymous -- suggested to me at the time that the feds would be "taking a critical look into the shenanigans going on in Maricopa County" within a matter of weeks, possibly involving a grand jury.

Of course, we know that the Department of Justice has been investigating the Sheriff's Office for civil rights violations, and that the FBI has been probing the MCSO over criminal matters, such as abuse of power.

Channel 5 first broke ground with this story in October, when it broadcast an overview of Arpaio's history of retaliations against his critics and political opponents. In it,the station interviewed former U.S. Attorney David Iglesias, who stated that he would work closely with a grand jury, and, "based on the information that I have, I would seek an indictment [of Arpaio]."

Joe may not be doing the perp walk, yet. But the report is promising. Indeed, if it shakes out, it could be the beginning of the end for Sheriff Joe and his corrupt minions.

UPDATE:Morgan Loew's interviews with subpoenaed officials Maricopa County Manager David Smith and County Budget Director Sandi Wilson aired as a follow-up to the original KPHO report. Both Wilson and Smith indicated that they were now federal witnesses, and that they had been investigated by the MCSO because they were looking to cut the sheriff's budget because of the down economy.

"We had a lot of discussions with the sheriff," Wilson said in the interview. "They did not want to cut their budget, and I think as the economy worsened -- and they knew it was inevitable that we were going to [cut] it -- they became more and more angry with me."

County Communications Director Cari Gerchick called me before the 10 p.m. KPHO broadcast to confirm that both Smith and Wilson had indeed received subpoenas, and had met with lawyers at the U.S. Attorney's office this week.

The scuttlebutt I'm hearing is that the feds were concerned that Arpaio and Thomas would attempt to arrest and indict Wilson and Smith, and urged them to go public with the news of their being federal witnesses, as a means of warding off an indictment. This is just a rumor, and I cannot confirm it at this time. But it is an intriguing speculation.

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

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