See also: Andy Thomas Needs a Perp Walk With His Papi, Sheriff Joe Arpaio See also: No Charges for Arpaio: U.S. Closes Criminal Investigation of Maricopa Sheriff and Former County Attorney Andrew Thomas See also: The Feds Have Evidence That Joe Arpaio Broke the Law -- When Will The Indictments Come? See also: Joe Arpaio Joins Lawyer Dennis Wilenchik on the Hook for 2007 Arrests of VVM Executive Editor and CEO
So if Sheriff Joe Arpaio's deputies knock on your door this evening and arrest you on ginned- up charges because you happen to be a critic of the way the MCSO does business, the U.S. Attorney's Office and the FBI will look the other way.
If you're a law-abiding civil servant who just happens to work for a politician who opposes Joe and you're harassed by MCSO bullies because of it, count on the U.S. Department of Justice to sit on its hands.
You could be a state attorney general or a newspaper editor or a powerful county supervisor, but Arpaio and his henchmen have carte blanche to intimidate you or to pull you handcuffed into an unmarked car in the middle of the night or perp walk you on bogus allegations that are no more than political payback.
Maybe you're an average Hispanic citizen, sitting in your house, minding your own business when Joe's goon squad searches your home without a warrant and zip ties you and your 12-year-old son just because you're brown and live in the wrong neighborhood.
What will the guardians of your civil liberties do as law enforcement officers, operating under the color of law, conspire to deprive you of your rights under the U.S. Constitution?
Sure, they might take your complaint. Heck, if they get enough complaints from enough high-ranking politicos, they might even crack open a federal grand jury and drag in some witnesses from the law enforcement agency in question.
But don't count on them to actually make a case or bring charges. That's the kind of stuff that only happens in movies.
It's enough to make you want to go Ron Paul on 'em. What good are the FBI, the U.S. Attorney's Office, and the U.S. Department of Justice, of which the FBI and the USAO are both a part, if they cannot protect citizens from the repeated, criminal violations of rogue police agencies?
That's the main conclusion you can draw from the bomb dropped by the Arizona U.S. Attorney's Office at 5 p.m. on a Friday before a three-day weekend that it was ending its four-year investigation into "allegations of criminal conduct by current and former members of the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office and the Maricopa County Attorney's Office."
The cowardice of this press release, signed off on by Assistant U.S. Attorney Ann Scheel, is colossal.
Recently appointed U.S. Attorney for Arizona John Leonardo had recused himself from the investigation supposedly because he had been critical of Arpaio in a 2010 ruling.
But now I'm beginning to believe that it has more to do with avoiding uncomfortable questions.
After all, in that 2010 ruling, the former Pima County Superior Court judge found that now-disbarred, disgraced ex-County Attorney Andrew Thomas had formed "a political alliance with the Maricopa County Sheriff who misused the power of his office to target members of the [Board of Supervisors] for criminal investigation."
Gee, that sounds a lot like a violation of federal statute 18 U.S.C., Section 241,"conspiracy against rights," which makes it a crime if,
"[T]wo or more persons conspire to injure, oppress, threaten, or intimidate any person in any State, Territory, Commonwealth, Possession, or District in the free exercise or enjoyment of any right or privilege secured to him by the Constitution or laws of the United States, or because of his having so exercised the same."
It also sounds like a violation of 18 U.S.C., Section 242, which makes it illegal if a law enforcement officer, or, anyone,
"[U]nder color of any law, statute, ordinance, regulation, or custom, willfully subjects any person...to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured or protected by the Constitution or laws of the United States, or to different punishments, pains, or penalties, on account of such person being an alien, or by reason of his color, or race, than are prescribed for the punishment of citizens."
So it's understandable that U.S. Attorney Leonardo would not want to hold a press conference and explain why, after four years of investigation and the impanelment of a federal grand jury, the feds could not indict Thomas, Arpaio, or any of their willing minions for these statutes.
Instead, Scheel, whose Facebook page suggests that she is a supporter of Democratic-candidate-for-sheriff Paul Penzone, is made to put her name to this press release.
What about U.S. Attorney for Arizona public information officer Bill Solomon, whose job it is to talk to the press, the fella who sent out the press release at 5 p.m. on a Friday before the Labor Day weekend?
If you call Solomon's cell number or e-mail him, this is the message you get:
"I will be out of the office through Monday, September 3, 2012. If you are inquiring about the Maricopa County investigation, our office will not comment beyond the press release issued on Friday, August 31. If you are inquiring about another matter, I will respond as soon as possible."
Nice. Even a federal flack paid to take flak gets to dodge flak on this one.
To add insult to injury, in the press release, Scheel "commended the joint investigative efforts of the prosecutors and the FBI special agents who conducted the investigation."
What, for investigating a case that resulted in zero charges, much less successful prosecutions?
From the bogus indictments and arrest of Maricopa County Supervisor Don Stapley to the nighttime abductions of Village Voice Media executives Jim Larkin and Michael Lacey, to false charges brought against Superior Court Judge Gary Donahoe, to the false charges against county Supervisor Mary Rose Wilcox, to the coercion and threats against people just unlucky enough to work in county government (on and on, ad nauseam), there was enough to seek indictments.
Even the disciplinary panel of the Arizona Supreme Court, in its disbarment earlier this year of Thomas and his henchwoman, ex-Deputy County Attorney Lisa Aubuchon, and its suspension of ex-deputy County Attorney Rachel Alexander,mentioned the false charges against Judge Donahoe as a possible violation of the federal statutes cited.
Furthermore, I'm reminded of KPHO Channel 5's 2009 interview of former U.S. Attorney for New Mexico David Iglesias, a Republican, mind you, who told reporter Morgan Loew that based on the evidence of abuse of power that he'd been presented with, he would bring charges.
"I would go to a grand jury," said Iglesias at the time. "I would work very closely with the civil rights criminal division in Washington, DC. And, based on the information that I have, I would seek an indictment."
This was in October 2009, about three years and presumably a lot of man hours ago. Which is why you should not buy malarkey that the mainstream, local press inevitably will write that "sources say" the U.S. Attorney just didn't think it had enough to win in court against Arpaio and Thomas.
What about corrupt former Chief Deputy David Hendershott and all of the other bad actors pointed out in the "Munnell Memo," the self-serving yet highly incriminating report to Arpaio from MCSO Deputy Chief Frank Munnell? Well, they get a pass, too.
Nope, the U.S. Attorney's Office could have made the case against these ne'er-do-wells, and some in the Arizona office may have even wanted to, but the Obama administration made a very obvious political decision not to proceed, not to go after Arpaio in an election year.
To be truthful, I always figured the feds for weak sisters who didn't have it in them to go after our local mafia, headed by Teflon Don Arpaio. Eliot Ness and the Untouchables, these current feds are not.
But by making this announcement a little more than two months before the election, the feds have given Arpaio perhaps the biggest gift of his political career, spitting in the face of everyone in this county and state who yearns for that little thing called "justice."
And, yes, that decision and that contempt comes directly from the top of the political food chain: U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and President Barack Obama.
But if the White House feared the right-wing's wrath if it went after Joe -- a dumb fear but one that Obama and Company have demonstrated more than once -- at the very least they could have saved this pusillanimous announcement until after the November election, in which Joe is facing his toughest foe ever in Paul Penzone.
The feds have done nothing for four years. Why couldn't they have waited two more months?
Instead, they give Arpaio an election-year talking point, wrapped up in a bow and delivered on a silver platter.
You can almost hear Arpaio saying, "The Obama administration has been investigating me for four years, and it couldn't find nothing on me."
Of course, the criminal investigation began during the administration of former President George W. Bush, but Joe will gloss over that. To be truthful, I don't think the Obama administration would have had the huevos to start that investigation on its own.
Yes, the U.S. Department of Justice's Civil Rights Division is suing the MCSO on the grounds that it racially profiles and violates other civil rights of citizens and non-citizens. But the most we can expect from that legal action is a consent decree or the appointment of an independent monitor by a federal judge.
And the DOJ's case could take years to reach fruition. Arpaio could be retired or pushing up daisies by the time the DOJ's case gets any traction.
It's more likely we'll see some action on the racial-profiling front from the recently concluded federal civil trial in Melendres v. Arpaio, where Judge G. Murray Snow could issue a decision any day now.
The result in Melendres could be a monitor and a court order with which the MCSO must comply. That will be something. This suit, which took years to work its way to trial, is being litigated by the ACLU and various pro bono attorneys and civil rights organizations.
We Believe Local Journalism is Critical to the Life of a City
Engaging with our readers is essential to Phoenix New Times's mission. Make a financial contribution or sign up for a newsletter, and help us keep telling Phoenix's stories with no paywalls.
Support Our Journalism
Snow's decision will in all likelihood be appealed, and the criminal abuse-of-power allegations are not at issue.
But we all know crimes were committed. That is as plain as the bulbous Mr. Magoo nose on Joe's aged face. The feds have shown themselves unwilling and impotent to take on the biggest criminal in Maricopa County, the one who sits in a tony office on the 19th Floor of the Wells Fargo Tower.
Indeed, it is left to us, the citizens of this county, to drive Arpaio and his cronies from office come November.
A tall order, to be sure, but we have no choice but to give it our all. The feds will not save us, something many of us feared all along. We must either save ourselves and the innocents who suffer from the MCSO's malfeasance and abuses. Or endure four more years of tyranny.