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


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.

"In fact," Munnell writes, "Chief Hendershott was quoted by [an] MCSO employee associated with the project as stating that, upon their retirement from the Sheriff's Office, they were going to make lots of money."

Though Hendershott's income from the MCSO — including his double-dipping from having "retired" and been rehired — reportedly exceeds $240,000, his avarice is insatiable, according to Munnell. He's allegedly used the sheriff's posse to score paid security gigs, used the posse's baseball team to finance a trip to Alaska for himself, his family, and his pals, and had MCSO employees write misleading letters to credit bureaus on his behalf.

If neither Terry Goddard nor Dennis Burke can produce indictments leading directly to Hendershott, his lackies Black and Fox, other sheriff's command staff, the County Attorney's Office under Thomas, and even Arpaio himself, then I suggest they hang up their law degrees and open a bait shop in Lake Havasu City.

Goddard has said in the past that he's excluded from the investigation into Arpaio, but that's a little too convenient. In any case, Thomas has since stated that Goddard was not implicated in the MACE probe of a plea agreement the AG's Office scored with former state Treasurer David Petersen.

The MCSO's said that it has turned over its sham case to the feds, who will do zilch with it because nothing's there.

So Goddard should forget about conflicting himself out of the investigation into the MCSO. He's supposed to be the state's top prosecutor, not just another do-nothing politico.

But as with his shuffling gait in the Colorado City polygamy case, which former New Times staffer John Dougherty handed to him on a pristine platter ("The Wages of Sin," April 10, 2003), Goddard's first instinct with the MCSO allegations is to shy away from prosecutorial hardball, like a pimply faced geek avoiding the junior prom.

You want to be governor, Terry? Prove you've got the stones. With the outing by Munnell, you have nothing to lose.

Ditto for Dennis Burke and the U.S. Attorney's Office. Burke would be ill-advised to imitate the past performance of his mentor and former employer, ex-Governor Janet Napolitano, now Homeland Security czar.

As Village Voice Executive Editor Michael Lacey revealed in a cover story two years ago ("Janet Napolitano's Sorry Service," November 27, 2008), Napolitano ignored evidence of a cover-up and destruction of evidence by Arpaio and his minions in the 1996 jailhouse killing of Scott Norberg.

Mike Manning, the attorney who scored an $8.25 million settlement for the Norberg family, turned over files suggesting Arpaio's criminal misconduct to the FBI, and submitted to interviews by assistant U.S. Attorneys who then took the evidence to Napolitano.

Napolitano, a Democrat, square-filed the case, as Arpaio would prove to be a valuable political ally for her. In 2002, Arpaio, a Republican, even crossed party lines to defend Napolitano's run for governor.

I don't know Burke's political aspirations, but suffice it to say that Arpaio's endorsement doesn't carry nearly the same weight these days. Moreover, if Burke could secure indictments leading to the prosecution of Arpaio and his underlings, he'd not only be doing his job, he'd be Sand Land's lawyer version of Iron Man, minus the metal duds.

There's no reason not to follow the trail all the way to Arpaio's tennis court-size office on the 19th floor of the Wells Fargo tower. Because that's where it leads.

Think of Munnell's memo in Watergate terms as a "modified limited hangout," as in the famous quote from John Ehrlichman, a Watergate conspirator and adviser to President Richard Nixon.

A "limited hangout" is a classic bit of subterfuge in which a party under investigation admits to certain transgressions, even proffers some new information, to divert the investigation itself, promulgate misleading theories, and massage the media.

All of which already has happened. Munnell's memo has been leaked to local news outlets, and those same outlets have followed its narrative, suggesting that, as the memo does, Arpaio has been betrayed by a nefarious faction in his office, led by Hendershott.

Although Munnell asked for an investigation by the Arizona Department of Public Safety, Arpaio instead turned it over to his political ally, Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu. (See my colleague Paul Rubin's "Pinalcchio" cover story in this issue to see how Babeu operates when it comes to a law enforcement colleague.)

Munnell publicly agreed with Babeu handling the probe, and the members of the faction that Munnell has identified as villainous — Hendershott, Black, and Fox — have been placed on paid administrative leave pending the investigation's outcome.

Thus, the investigation would never reach Arpaio, and should Goddard or Burke follow through with indictments of the sheriff's underlings, to the public's eye, Arpaio already has acted to weed out the corruption in his ranks.

If Arpaio is saved, so are the jobs of those identified by Munnell as the white hats, those who've supposedly warned Arpaio of Hendershott's insidiousness. They include such longtime Arpaio hacks as Deputy Chief Jack MacIntyre, top flack Lisa Allen, and, naturally, Munnell himself.

Problem is, Munnell and the others in this white-hat faction have been hip-deep in the MCSO landfill for decades. To suggest that they've suddenly been born again is laughable.

As I've explored in a recent blog item ("Arpaio Knows All," September 17), Arpaio's always been the jefe. According to former high-ranking MCSO employees, such as Tom Bearup, Hendershott serves at the pleasure of his master Arpaio. And Arpaio is intimately aware of what's going on in his department and what his chief deputy is up to.

Bearup, who used to be Arpaio's right hand before Hendershott usurped that position, says Arpaio was in on the pink underwear scam, urged him to lie to those investigating Norberg's death, and was the real bully in the office. Hendershott was simply his enforcer.

"Joe knows everything that goes on," Bearup tells me. "Because I've been there. And I know that nothing goes on in that office without [Joe's approval]."

In public statements, Arpaio claims total control over his operation. But when he's under oath, he sloughs off his responsibilities onto Hendershott and others. It's a tactic meant to insulate Arpaio from legal consequences.

However, the MCSO's criminal activity, malfeasance, and corruption have gone all the way to the top for 17 years now. Arpaio must not be spared when indictment time comes around.

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