Feathered Bastard

Justice Department Investigators Attend Somos America Meeting, While Joe Arpaio Refuses to Cooperate w/Feds

Remember just a couple of months ago, when Sheriff Joe was saying he "welcomed" a Justice Department probe into the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office, telling the press he intended to cooperate fully with any investigation, and saying explicitly that, "We have nothing to hide"?

Now Joe's squirming like a stuck swine, putting his DC lawyer on point and declaring that neither he nor his employees will cooperate with the DOJ investigation, insisting the federal inquiry is politically motivated. Rather than a law enforcement officer, Arpaio's now acting like the capo of a New York crime syndicate, thumbing his nose -- literally -- at justice. Tuesday, at a news conference in Arpaio's suite of pricey offices in downtown Phoenix's Wells Fargo building, Arpaio told the media that he would not "bow down" to federal authority.

Later that day, nine investigators from the Department of Justice attended the regular Tuesday night meeting of the immigrant rights coalition Somos America. Sources described how two of the DOJ investigators briefly addressed the crowd of 30 to 40, and took questions. The DOJ suits said their investigation had nothing to do with the 287(g) program or Arpaio's federal authority under that agreement with ICE to implement federal immigration law. Rather, they stated that they were in Arizona to investigate allegations of police misconduct and civil rights violations.

A woman by the name of Je Yon Jung was identified as the female investigator who spoke. Her card lists her as  a senior trial attorney of the Special Litigation Section, US Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division. The male investigator who spoke was not identified.

A spokesperson for the DOJ would neither confirm nor deny that DOJers were at the meeting, but the PIO acknowledged that an investigative team for the DOJ was in Phoenix this week as part of DOJ's inquiry into the sheriff's office (a fact Arpaio angrily noted in his Tuesday presser).

I called Somos America President Lydia Guzman for a comment, and she confirmed that the DOJ investigators were at the Tuesday meeting, which lasted from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., about an hour longer than usual Somos assemblages.

"They were mostly observers," she explained. "They mostly listened to what we had to say."

During the gathering, DOJ sleuths spoke one-on-one with some of those racially profiled or in some other way abused by the MCSO. Sources have indicated to me that they think other civil rights organizations in Phoenix have met with the DOJ during this visit, but I have not confirmed this yet.

Additionally, investigators were given potential evidence, such as videos of individuals who have been the targets of racial profiling by the MCSO.

The fact that the DOJ sent a nine person "team" is significant, a sign that the DOJ is taking the investigation seriously. The DOJ's focus is on civil violations of the law, not criminal matters. These particular investigators are not going to be slapping steel bracelets on anyone, but they might join a lawsuit against Arpaio to force him to make changes in the way he does business.

Also, the DOJ is not investigating Arpaio's 287(g) agreement, and they do not have the authority to suspend it. That would be the purview of the Department of Homeland Security, a department run by Arpaio's old crony Janet Napolitano.

See, the Obama administration is investigating our corrupt top cop, while with a wink and a nod indicating that they want Arpaio to round up as many illegals as possible, as long as the gettin's good. What's particularly disgusting is that the very civil rights violations the DOJ is looking into have happened, largely, as a result of Arpaio having a 160-man force of 287(g) trained thugs.

Sure, the decision to strip Arpaio of his 287(g) is not the DOJ's to make. It lays in the lap of Barack Obama, and his apparatchik Napolitano. And until they take it away, all of the damage he does to the lives of innocent human beings with it will be their responsibility. Like the parents of a mean, murderous baby with a loaded gun.

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