Feathered Bastard

Joe Arpaio Sued By Sal Reza, and JJ Hensley's Love Affair with the MCSO

Phoenix civil rights activist Salvador Reza filed suit two days ago in federal court against Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, and several high-ranking Arpaio henchmen over Reza's false arrest on July 30 by a pack of MCSO thugs.

Reza and his lawyer Stephen Montoya held a press conference in Montoya's offices today to announce the claim for damages regarding, "the violation of Salvador Reza's rights to freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, freedom of association, freedom of movement, and due process under the First, Fourth, and Fourteenth Amendments to the Constitution of the United States."

Reza's seeking unspecified punitive and compensatory damages for his wrongful arrest and imprisonment by the organization he's criticized so fiercely over the years.

The leader of the pro-immigrant group Puente had been arrested July 29 for an act of civil disobedience at the Fourth Avenue Jail protesting SB 1070, along with numerous other demonstrators.

The MCSO asserted that by showing up across the street from its headquarters for an anti-immigrant sweep on July 30, Reza had violated the terms of his release and was subject to re-arrest.

This was, and is, a bald faced lie. During Reza's initial appearance for the second arrest, both the judge and the prosecutor agreed that the MCSO had not demonstrated probable cause for the collar.

Later, County Attorney Rick Romley publicly declined to pursue the charge, agreeing that after watching the video of the arrest that there was no probable cause.

You can see the that video, here. Read my Bird column on this egregious example of the MCSO's police state tactics, here. And read Reza's complaint against Arpaio, here.

Considering the fact that the Arizona Republic almost completely ignored this outrageous violation of Reza's civil rights, Republic reporter JJ Hensley's buried, B6 take on the lawsuit in today's paper is annoying to say the least. Annoying, but not without precedent.

Hensley's ditty masquerades as a news item, but it could have been written by top MCSO flack Lisa Allen herself.

In it, Hensley never mentions that the judge and the prosecutor at Reza's initial appearance agreed that the MCSO did not establish probable cause. Not does he report that Romley echoed their statements when he announced that he would not pursue the charge.

The Hensley piece opens with the smarmiest of leads:

"Sal Reza wanted to get arrested during July protests surrounding the implementation of Arizona's controversial immigration law - he just didn't want to get arrested twice."

Cute, eh? So, according to Hensley, Reza's false arrest is no big deal. And the fact that Reza was plucked off the street like something straight out of a third-world dictatorship? A mere trifle. Never mind that the New York Times thought the arrest heinous enough to describe it at the time as "a scene from another decade or country."

Aside from Hensley's pro-MCSO slant, the story also flubs some facts.

At one point, Hensley claims that, "The report from a deputy also indicates that Reza told a local TV reporter that he wanted to get arrested that day."

But the MCSO's report, which you can read, here, doesn't state that. MCSO flack Brian Lee claims in his supplemental statement that Fox 10 reporter Miriam Garcia approached him that day, telling Lee that Reza had told her to stick around because a protest was about to occur. Lee does not claim Garcia told him that Reza wanted to get arrested.

I called Hensley about the error. To his credit, he acknowledged it and said he would run a correction. He didn't have an answer for why he omitted the statements of the prosecutor, the judge, and Romley regarding the lack of probable cause. When I commented on the smarminess of his lead, he replied, "It's accurate, isn't it."

Hensley has long been the MCSO's favorite journo. If you want to know why, just read his recent puffery, "Maricopa County Sheriff's Office aims to reclaim its image," and you'll get a feel for where Hensley's loyalties lie.

Which is fine. I don't pretend to be impartial, though the Republic certainly does.

Regarding the Garcia issue, Garcia wasn't willing to comment on her mention in the MCSO report when I called her back in September. Lee was using Garcia's alleged statements to prop up a bogus probable cause claim against Reza.

I asked Montoya about this at the presser. He told me he's skeptical of Lee's tale.

"I don't believe she told them that," he explained. "A protest wan't about to occur. In fact a protest was already occurring across the street...Reza had a right to stand across the street and observe the protest...And in fact, he had a greater right than that, he had a right to walk across the street and join the protest. He chose not to."

See, Reza did not initiate contact with the MCSO. The MCSO initiated contact with him.

Here's hoping Reza gets his pound of flesh for this outrageousness and is never harassed by the MCSO again. It's just too bad the ultimate settlement or award won't come out of Arpaio's pocket. Rather, it comes out of ours, the taxpayers of Maricopa County.

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