Sheriff Arpaio Distorts Truth in Ad About Sex-Crimes Investigations

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Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, facing what may be the closest election of his long career, tries to rewrite history in a new ad about his office's poorly done sex-crimes investigations.

Arpaio's campaign ran the ad in a prominent location on the Arizona Republic's Web site, and the main theme is that the newspaper is running a series on the sex-crimes investigations for political reasons.

One look at this fact-challenged ad and you know Arpaio's grasping at straws in what has become the worst scandal of his five terms in office:

-See also: Victims Wonder Why Arpaio Let Sex-Abuse Cases Languish

* Arpaio starts off by whining that the sex-crimes blunder is a "five-year-old story." His theory is that it's only being "resurrected" now because he faces re-election in November.

The truth: This scandal is such a big screw-up, the story has what they refer to in the journalism industry as "long legs." In fact, it's not a "five-year-old story" -- it's a "now" story. That's because, as we pointed out in our in-depth story on the blunder in February, and as the Republic's JJ Hensley has written about in the last week, some of these old cases are still being actively worked. Beyond that, no Sheriff's Office employee has yet been disciplined. The four-year-old investigation into who messed up and why is still sitting on the desks of Sheriff's Office supervisors today.

* Arpaio says "Over 400 sex crimes cases went uninvestigated. (Arizona Republic, 12/7/11)."

The truth: Arpaio's lying again. The Republic article doesn't really say that.

* Arpaio states that two "myths" are that he cares about enforcing illegal immigration more than he cares about sex-crimes victims.

The truth: This is a straw-man argument, since he doesn't identify where these "myths" come from. Yet actions speak louder than words. The record shows that Arpaio didn't boost resources to his sex-crimes detectives even as he misspent more than $100 million in funds that were supposed to go to jail enhancements.

* Arpaio says "Detectives from the sex crimes unit were not moved into illegal immigration enforcement."

* The truth: The public won't know for sure if Arpaio's telling the truth about that until the release of the disciplinary report. But that report isn't expected to be made public until the employees are disciplined and have a chance to exhaust their appeal process -- which will occur well after the election. The facts show that the sex-crimes unit was poorly staffed and funded in 2006 and 2007 while politically expedient programs, like the discredited Maricopa Anti-Corruption Task Force and Arpaio's anti-illegal-immigrant programs, were flush with resources. Arpaio conveniently forgets that sex-crimes detectives were pulled from their unit to work on a project to help train Honduras cops, and also told to work on a politically motivated case involving former Phoenix mayor and Arpaio foe Phil Gordon.

* Arpaio declares this to be a myth: "Sheriff Arpaio hasn't held anyone responsible for this."

The truth: Arpaio's "myth" is actually a true statement, as Arpaio admits in the ad by also stating, "discipline is expected." All the public knows for sure about the potential discipline is that Arpaio himself isn't under investigation by his own department for failing to properly fund and staff the sex-crimes unit, that a couple of lower-level detectives have been criticized publicly by Sheriff's Office staff, and that one of the sex-crimes supervisors, Kim Seagraves, the wife of a former deputy chief, was promoted to lieutenant after the problems with her unit were discovered.

* Arpaio writes that, "In 2007, when we became aware that there was a problem, I immediately ordered that we reopen every case."

The truth: We'd love to see any written proof of this statement. In fact, documents show that the investigations into the sex-crimes detectives and the sex crimes themselves did not begin until May of 2008. We left a message with Arpaio's spokeswoman, Lisa Allen, to see if she could clear this up.

* Arpaio states: "We found that most of the cases were, in fact, worked appropriately. Others, however, did need a certain amount of work to be brought up to standard. But the allegations claiming that over 400 sex crimes went 'uninvestigated' are simply not true and misrepresent the issue completely."

The truth: First of all, the concepts "worked appropriately" and "did need ... to be brought up to standard" are mutually exclusive. If they were worked appropriately, they wouldn't have needed more work. Arpaio continues building his straw-man argument here with the idea that someone is alleging 400 sex crimes went "uninvestigated." He puts that word in quotes -- who's he quoting?

* Another straw-man argument: "I am troubled by the fact that many are voicing their concerns about this issue as a way to discredit me personally because they do not agree with my approach on other controversial issues."

The truth: Who are these "many?" It stands to reason that "many" of Arpaio's critics may be concerned with his handling of illegal immigrants AND sex-crimes -- not either/or. Some of the mishandled sex-crimes investigations involved illegal immigrants, too, conveniently combining both issues for critics.

The only good thing about this ad is where Arpaio describes the shoring up of his sex-crimes investigations -- which should have occurred years ago.

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