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

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"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.

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