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Should Sheriff Joe Arpaio Get a Pass When the Indictments Come Down? Hell, No

INDICTMENT TIME

I have a simple question for U.S. Attorney for Arizona Dennis Burke and Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard: Where are the ever-lovin' indictments?

Indeed, you can be sure of one thing in the wake of MCSO Deputy Chief Frank Munnell's 63-page memo outlining the corruption and alleged criminal activity in Sheriff Joe Arpaio's office: Both the feds and the AG have all this information and then some.

Munnell admits he's been talking to both federal and state investigators about the Sheriff's Command Association, the group funded by millionaires and high-ranking deputies that paid for a sleazy TV ad against Arpaio's 2008 foe, Dan Saban.

The deputy chief refers to the SCA as a "politically motivated political-action fund," claims that he was asked to contribute to it by Arpaio's chief deputy David Hendershott, and alleges that Hendershott encouraged him not to cooperate with investigators and coached him on how to respond to their questions.

He also asserts that Hendershott threatened him with retaliation because he spoke with the FBI and the AG's Office. In fact, Munnell's putative reason for writing the memo was that Hendershott was seeking to remove him from his assignment as chief of patrol.

In blasting Hendershott and his two top cronies, MCSO Director Larry Black and Captain Joel Fox, Munnell observes that there's "more than enough reasonable suspicion" of law-breaking.

Beyond the SCA scandal, the alleged intimidation of witnesses, and cover-up of criminal activity, Munnell lays out a blueprint for possible federal indictments of Hendershott and others in regard to MACE, the anti-corruption unit formed in 2007 by Sheriff Arpaio and then-County Attorney Andrew Thomas.

MACE has mainly targeted Arpaio's enemies in what Munnell refers to as "politically motivated investigations." MACE probes have focused on the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors, specifically Don Stapley, Mary Rose Wilcox, and Andrew Kunasek.

Stapley had been critical of the MCSO's budget woes and ended up arrested twice on trumped-up allegations of fraud. Wilcox, a longtime Arpaio critic, was indicted on bogus forgery and perjury charges. In both cases, the indictments were thrown out.

In July, the MCSO accused Kunasek of swiping $15,000 from the county. His apparent sin was questioning the conflicts of interests in MACE inquiries into the Board of Supervisors. Nothing came of the phony claim.

Then there's the racketeering case brought in federal court by Thomas and Arpaio alleging a conspiracy against everyone they'd been investigating and against the judges who had ruled against them in various cases. Thomas and Arpaio ultimately dropped this asinine RICO suit.

Though Munnell never delves into the RICO stunt, if you add it to the pyre, there's more than enough to begin indicting culprits under two federal statutes, 18 USC 242 (depriving someone of his or her rights under the "color of law") and 18 USC 241 (conspiring to deprive someone of his or her rights).

About a year ago, KPHO interviewed former New Mexico U.S. Attorney David Iglesias after he had reviewed all the information available concerning Arpaio's possible abuses of power in retaliating against his political opponents.

Iglesias, a Republican and the model for Tom Cruise's character in A Few Good Men, did not stutter when he told KPHO what he would do if he were in Dennis Burke's shoes.

"I would go to a grand jury," Iglesias said. "I would work very closely with the civil rights criminal division in Washington, D.C. And, based on the information that I have, I would seek an indictment."

Remember, Iglesias made his statement in late 2009. An FBI probe of the MCSO began in 2008, in the waning months of George W. Bush's presidency.

A federal grand jury was impaneled in December 2009 and has, so far, questioned numerous county employees, alleged victims, and MCSO staff, including, according to my sources, Munnell himself.

The state Attorney General's Office began a probe of the SCA scandal and other matters in November 2008, and if we take Munnell at his word, the AG's Office is still looking into MCSO wrongdoing.

So any way you shove it into the blender, indictments are long overdue. And that's not even getting into the numerous allegations — none of them news — of Hendershott making bank as Arpaio's right-hand man.

Munnell has Hendershott profiting from the sales of pink underwear — his son even gets a commission on each pair of boxers for the logo, which Hendershott Jr. designed, according to Munnell.

Munnell says Hendershott had a business interest in the facial-recognition technology he was pimping in Honduras and China. You remember all those treks at county expense to Honduras to supposedly train the police force there? I first revealed them in January 2008 in my Feathered Bastard blog ("Hendershott in Honduras?" January 12, 2008).

The real reason behind the Honduran escapade, it was later revealed, was to make it a test case for the facial-recognition technology sold by Hummigbird Defense Systems, whose CEO was good buddies with Hendershott and traveled with Hendershott to China.

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