Sheriff Arpaio Admits He Knew About '08 Fundraising Scheme; Criminal Case Still Open

We're still waiting for the audio and/or video from today's hearing at the Maricopa County Board of Supervisor's Auditorium with Sheriff Joe Arpaio, but we'll post it here when we get it.

Arpaio testified this morning at the appeal proceeding for Joel Fox, the former Sheriff's Office captain fired for his role in a slimy scheme involving big-wigs and top state Republican Party officials to secretly raise money and bend state campaign-finance laws.

According to news reports we've seen, particularly JJ Hensley's story in the Arizona Republic, Arpaio denied involvement in the corruption.

But he also admitted he knew at least a little bit about the fund with the mysterious name, "SCA."

Today, Arpaio "recalled SCA's formation in his office as a way for sheriff's commanders to combat some of the negative press the Sheriff's Office receives," Hensley's article says.

Hold on -- that was just the cover story of Hendershott and Fox. Two law enforcement investigations all but proved that former Chief Deputy Hendershott, who ran the Republican sheriff's 2008 campaign, headed up a corrupt scheme to earmark funds for a sleazy TV ad against Arpaio's then-opponent, Democrat Dan Saban, all the while knowing it was illegal.

And now Arpaio's admitting he knew about the SCA fund-raiser?

Sounds like a checkmate to us. Good thing for Arpaio we're not in the shoes of Ann Scheel, the Acting Arizona U.S. Attorney who's still got this hot-potato criminal investigation on her desk.

Arpaio has said almost nothing about the SCA up till this point. But now that he's starting to crack, we're excited to hear more about who told him and when. Most of his upper-level commanders found out about it from Hendershott, who solicited them to donate to the fund.

The Repub article also states:

Arpaio also said he knew Fox and another deposed commander, Larry Black, were working with trial video from Saban's defamation lawsuit against the Sheriff's Office, though Arpaio said he thought the two commanders were preparing for a legal action. And the sheriff said former Chief Deputy David Hendershott told him that an "exciting" ad was going to air that would target Saban.

Arpaio, who pays staffers to keep up-to-date on all the news about his office, would have known starting in October of 2008 about the allegations of criminal corruption involved with that ad.

The sheriff did nothing.

Fox dangled until the summer of 2009 under threat of a $315,000 fine for failing to divulge who else gave to the SCA.

Arpaio said nothing. He was going to let his deputy pay a six-figure fine, even though -- as he now admits -- he knew about the fund-raising scheme among his top commanders.

If Arpaio knew about the fund-raiser, he knew Fox was lying about the fact that he was working alone.

Yet Arpaio didn't put Fox or Hendershott on leave or begin any sort of investigation.

Fox ultimately divulged the names of the SCA donors, which included Arpaio's top aides and the captain of Arpaio's "advisory posse," local developer Steve Ellman.

Since Arpaio knew his top commanders were holding a fund-raiser -- did he know the donors included Ellman?

The sheriff must have known about Hendershott's Alaska trip with Ellman, which resulted in some fat checks to the SCA fund. After all, Hendershott claims he was nearly attacked by a bear on the trip. Who could resist sharing that yarn with the boss, along with the news that the campaign was coming along just swimmingly? Surely, not Hendershott.

Two weeks after Fox 'fessed up, Deputy Chief Frank Munnell secretly records a staff meeting. Arpaio's top men certainly knew by then that Munnell had been contacted over the SCA matter at that point by criminal investigators with the state Attorney General's Office.

As our March 2011 blog post about the recording points out, Arpaio almost seems coached when confronted by his men about the SCA fund-raiser, which he now admits he knew about:

When Munnell tells him he was talking about that "stupid fund thing," Arpaio responds curtly.

"You didn't donate to me," Arpaio says.

Munnell says the donation was to "support" Arpaio.

"That's bullshit," says Arpaio. "I don't know nothing about this shit."

But wait -- today he says he did know something.

Arpaio's mention of knowing about Black working with the video reminded us of the testimony of Captain Jim Miller, the now-retired former head of Arpaio's internal affairs department. From our April 1, 2011 post on the SCA:

In the months before the election, Hendershott took "weeks" off from work to focus on Arpaio's campaign, which he considered "God's work," according to retired Maricopa Captain Jim Miller, who was interviewed by the FBI.

Miller told investigators that, before the anti-Saban ad was run, Black spent a great deal of time working on it in Arpaio's 19th-floor "video room."

Miller also confessed that it was "common talk/knowledge" around the office that the shady SCA fund "was the method used to 'fund the hit piece on Saban,'" the report states.

Arpaio did eventually do something about Hendershott, Black and Fox. But only after Munnell's now-famous memo was made public, in September of 2010.

At that point, he put the naughty deputies on leave.

Later, he fired them and claimed he'd been "duped."

But duped about what, exactly?

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