Lemons: Dropping the Mic, Heading South, and Some Parting Shots

Just the thought of Arpaio being booked makes me smile.
Just the thought of Arpaio being booked makes me smile. Tom Carlson
Arpaio is history, and so am I. Well, at least in Arizona, for now.

That's right, Wednesday officially was my last day as a reporter and columnist with Phoenix New Times.

I'm leaving due to an offer from another outlet, as the grown-ups say, an organization that sues the pants off racists and gives their property to minorities.

Specifically, the Southern Poverty Law Center in Montgomery, Alabama.

As I've been living and working for the last 13 years in Ari-bama, I expect I'll feel right at home.

I will miss all the friends and enemies I've made, and the surfeit of villains that populate the landscape here: everyone from neo-Nazi-hugger Russell Pearce and wingnutty bottom-feeder Andy "Candy" Thomas to desiccated ditz Jan "Bruja" Brewer and media whore extraordinaire Joe Arpaio.

Arpaio and his ancien regime have offered a particularly fat vein of stories over the years. To its credit, Phoenix New Times gave me carte blanche to wreak as much havoc as possible on the octogenarian autocrat.

Funny story: Years back, Joe blocked New Times reporters from his press conferences, which he can do on county property for some weird legal reason.

But he can't block us on public property. So we'd catch him at the kickoff of one of his Hispanic-hunting sweeps of Latino communities.

I recall asking him during one of these pressers if he thought his boys in beige would collar any white folks for a change.
click to enlarge Arpaio: making the world safe for hypocrisy by arresting cooks, cleaners, and landscapers here sans papers. - STEPHEN LEMONS
Arpaio: making the world safe for hypocrisy by arresting cooks, cleaners, and landscapers here sans papers.
Stephen Lemons

He didn't have much of an answer for that
, because, of course, the whole point of his racist-ass sweeps was to harass, scapegoat, and arrest as many brown people as possible.

These sweeps were quite popular with the public at the time. Now, not so much, as the county has had to raise property taxes to pay for the Melendres v. Arpaio lawsuit, litigated by the ACLU.

As part of Melendres, in 2013, Arpaio and the MCSO were found guilty of racial profiling, following a bench trial by federal Judge G. Murray Snow. Snow's decision was upheld on appeal.

Subsequently, Arpaio was found guilty of civil contempt of Snow's orders. He now faces a criminal contempt charge because he thumbed his nose at a 2011 preliminary injunction issued by Snow in the case.

It's only a misdemeanor, with a maximum of six months in the slammer. The bench trial before U.S. District Court Judge Susan R. Bolton currently is scheduled for next month.

If that goes off without a hitch, Arpaio likely will be convicted and hit with a fine.

I seriously doubt he'll do one minute in jail.

Nevertheless, according to the folks at the U.S. Marshals Service I've spoken with, Arpaio may be booked upon conviction, even if he does no time.

And if he's booked, there will be a mug shot, something Arpaio — who has spent his entire life in law enforcement — deathly fears.

It's not nearly the punishment he deserves for the evil he's done during his 24 years as sheriff — the wrongful deaths in his jails, the busting up of immigrant families, the squandered jail funds, all of which has cost taxpayers around $250 million to date — but it's something. 

Wingnut bloggers for Breitbart and others are screaming their heads off
, asking for the U.S. Department of Justice, now headed by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, to cut Arpaio some slack.

But I've got bad news for 'em: According to Rule 42 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure, a court trying a criminal contempt case must request that it be prosecuted by an attorney for the government.

"If the government declines the request," the statute says, "the court must appoint another attorney to prosecute the contempt."

Seems there's no easy way for the once-toughest sheriff in the country to weasel out of this one.

Unless Arpaio's new attorneys Dennis Wilenchik and Mark Goldman pull a rabbit out of a hat or Arpaio cuts some deal with the DOJ — we will have that mugshot in the foreseeable future.

I plan to frame mine and hang it next to my computer in Montgomery.

Update: Arpaio had some parting words on Twitter.
There are a lot of other bad actors in Arizona who have been spanked for their ill deeds. [image-5]

Though Russell Pearce has a cushy, well-paid job with Maricopa County, the former state Senate President's political career has been kaput for many years, thanks in no small part to his fellow East Valley Mormons, who despised the bad rep he gave their religion and worked hard to recall Pearce in 2011 and keep him out of office thereafter.

Pearce's onetime political ally, former County Attorney Andy Thomas, was disbarred in 2012 and ran a lame and losing bid for governor in 2014 — with the use of public money, ironically. Last I heard, he was penning online screeds for some right-wing group.

Stick a fork in him.

Ditto former Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne — whose vehicular hit and run during a midday rendezvous with a woman he appointed as an Assistant Attorney General turned him into a laughingstock.

He was defeated in the 2014 GOP primary by current Attorney General Mark Brnovich, and now earns a living as a private attorney in town.

Minuteman, scumbag, and ex-U.S. Senate candidate Chris Simcox currently is doing about 20 years in the state pen for child molestation. A fitting end for someone alleged to have sexually abused his own daughter. 

Sleazy ex-sheriff Paul Babeu? He's a GOP pariah after losing big time in 2016 to Democrat Tom O'Halleran in Arizona's First Congressional District, done in by an old home video — unearthed by his sister Lucy — wherein he is seen praising the abusive practices of a Massachusetts boarding school for troubled teens where he was headmaster and executive director.  
click to enlarge Paul Babeu, Sheriff Scumbag. - VIA NEW TIMES' FILES
Paul Babeu, Sheriff Scumbag.
via New Times' files

However, one local reprobate has escaped Yahweh's wrath: former Governor Jan "Bruja" Brewer, who signed Russell Pearce's bigoted, anti-immigrant State Bill 1070 into law in 2010 in a grotesque fit of political opportunism that forever branded this state as a nativist stronghold.

This pathetic, grizzled, uneducated boob still appears on Fox News when she can. She scored some face time last year by endorsing Donald Trump for president.

I hope the 72-year-old lives a long and healthy remainder of her life.

After which, I plan to return to Arizona to dance on her grave, much in the same way I did before the tombstone of racist U.S. Senator Jesse Helms when I returned to my home state of North Carolina many years ago.

Sometimes, cutting a jig over the corpses of mean-spirited, race-bating troglodytes — once they've passed of natural causes — is the best you get in this life.

And I'll take it.

For everyone else, haters and lovers alike, my Facebook and Twitter accounts will remain the same, if you need to contact me.

Meanwhile, to borrow a line from an old song,

Danke schoen, darlings, danke schoen ... Thank you for all the joy and pain
KEEP PHOENIX NEW TIMES FREE... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Stephen is a former staff writer and columnist at Phoenix New Times.
Contact: Stephen Lemons