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Joe Strikes Back

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Thing is, Saville never plotted to kill Arpaio. He only made a dud bomb after a sheriff's office undercover agent paid him two grand up front to do it and then led Saville to Arpaio's parked car. Talk about a setup aimed at putting Joe in strobe lights!

This crass, illegal hoax on Joe's part, of course, got him the face time he craved from the broadcast media — up until the truth was revealed by this newspaper. A jury acquitted Saville in '03 because the whole thing was hatched by Joe and his publicity department.

Which brings The Bird back around to Joe's Threat Assessment Squad, a goon patrol that does Arpaio's most despicable deeds, whether they be throwing reporters out of public buildings, spying on opposing political operatives or digging up fake dirt against foes like former Mesa police commander Dan Saban, Joe's rival in the '04 Republican primary. It was Saban who mounted the most serious challenge to Joe's power in recent years, earning the nod of the Maricopa County Republican Party, only to be undone in part by scurrilous rumors spread by Joe's thugs ("Outlaw Joe," July 22, 2004).

Ironically, Arpaio himself is the real menace to his own physical well-being. Remember last year when he smashed his county-owned, 2001 Crown Victoria police cruiser on a big boulder outside the Osco drugstore near his Fountain Hills home? Heh, the 74-year-old badge-wearer's practically the General Augusto Pinochet of Maricopa County. Can't he get the county to spring for his own driver? It's already paying out millions upon millions in damages to the families of those he's allowed to be ravaged in his jails. What's another 40 grand a year for a chauffeur?

So many detainees have been tortured, beaten and murdered in Joe's jails that Arpaio's been condemned by Amnesty International, and held liable in several multimillion-dollar lawsuits. Only this past August did Joe stop using restraint chairs that have been linked to the deaths of three prisoners in the past decade.

What The Bird wonders is, how does Arpaio sleep at night with so many lives on his conscience?

This Yuletide season, it's hard not to think of Joe as Ebenezer Scrooge in an AZ version of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol. Imagine a nightshirted Joe in his bed getting haunted by the ghosts of Scott Norberg and Charles Agster III, asphyxiated in Arpaio's restraint chairs; Deborah Braillard, a diabetic denied insulin who went into shock and died; Brian Crenshaw, a legally blind man beaten to death by sheriff's officers; Phillip Wilson, a sheriff's office snitch attacked by the Aryan Brotherhood (whom he was informing on) and pummeled into a coma from which he never awoke; and Clint Yarbrough, suffocated to death in the restraint chair.

But even if Arpaio can snooze off his evil deeds, his antics should be keeping more than just his victims' families awake at night. Say, the County Supervisors, who're having trouble buying enough insurance to cover his deadly jails.

"All they can buy now is this very expensive excess coverage," attorney Michael Manning told this tweeter. "That means the first five or 10 million dollars is out of county coffers. When we first started suing him, [the county] had a $1 million deductible."

Manning's the lawyer who scored an $8.25 million settlement in the '96 Norberg death, and who in March won a $9 million award from a federal jury in the restraint-chair suffocation of Agster, a mentally retarded man picked up for trespassing. His legal work is largely responsible for Arpaio's relinquishing the use of restraint chairs.

"I think the more the money begins to hurt the county, the bolder this Board of Supervisors will get," stated Manning. "Other than lawsuits, the only thing we've got is going to the Board of Supervisors and urging them to take some action to clean this up."

Manning argued that Arpaio's not the political force he used to be. His deadly buffoonery is finally catching up with him. "Up until this point, [the Supes] wouldn't challenge him because they were afraid of him politically," Manning said. Times have changed.

Or have they? From where this cockatoo sits, Manning may be indulging in wishful thinking. Because as long as the likes of the Pinal County Attorney's Office is around, there will be those who are intimidated enough by Arpaio to keep him keeping on. The Bird can only hope that County Attorney Olson will come to his senses and decide against wading into a dogfight over a nonsensical law. If Olson wises up, he'll see that New Times had a right under the First Amendment to publish an address already published in numerous public records. That we have a duty to re-publish the address on the cover of this paper to point out the stupidity of a law that protects peace officers over the Internet, but offers no refuge to them anywhere in print or on television.

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