When I heard Sheriff Joe Arpaio was up at Glendale Avenue and 7th Street raiding a Pei Wei, I had to turn the car around. I was hoping Machete-star Steven Seagal was helping him bust a fast-food joint for Seagal's A&E reality series.
See, Seagal's cop show was given the boot last year by Jefferson Parish Sheriff Newell Normand, after Seagal was accused of sexual harassment, trafficking in women for sex, and wrongful termination in a civil complaint filed by a former swimsuit model named Kayden Nguyen.
The suit was ultimately dismissed, but not before nuggets like this were reported by TMZ.com and other outlets:
"Mr. Seagal had been keeping two young female Russian 'Attendants' on staff who were available for his sexual needs 24 hours a day, 7 days a week."
That was a little too much for Normand, who cut ties with Seagal's show following the allegations. Steven Seagal: Lawman followed Seagal, a reserve deputy chief in Jefferson Parish, as he chased alleged bad guys with other deputies.
Unlike Normand, Arpaio is shameless, so now Seagal lives in Maricopa County and is shooting season three of his COPS-like production with the assistance of the sheriff's office. Seagal is also a "special deputy" with the MCSO.
But Seagal was a no-show at the Joe-show today, as Arpaio's boys in beige spent their time collaring Pei Wei workers who'd used fake ID's to score jobs. Can't say that I blame him. I mean, Pei Wei, Joe? Restaurant workers? What's next, McDonald's?
Actually, Arpaio's already been there. He's raided a McDonald's, a car wash, Sizzler steak house, the Mesa library, and on and on. Each time, these supposedly big tough-guy deputies end up arresting moms and dads here illegally, struggling to feed their kids.
At the media scrum outside the Pei Wei, which the MCSO hit at lunch time, BTW, Arpaio and his stone-faced Deputy Chief Brian Sands defended this waste of taxpayer resources to me.
When I wondered why Arpaio didn't have his men and women out chasing kidnappers, rapists and murderers, Arpaio kept barking that using a fake ID is "a class four felony" and that Arizona is number one in ID theft.
Still, I don't see them hustling down to Tempe on a Friday night to collar all the college kids using bogus licenses to score booze. After all, it's a class four felony.
He and Sands were claiming 121 "victims," but I'll believe that when I see it. Most people working illegally have made-up identities. And the forgery statute says someone has to have the intent to defraud. Who are undocumented workers defrauding? Themselves, since they'll never see the money taken out of their paychecks for Social Security?
I asked Joe why the MCSO never arrests the employers. He told me the MCSO had arrested three. That was news to me, so I asked him who, when and where.
"What, do you think I have a computer mind around here?" he said, later adding, "I don't have it in my mind. This was [in] the last three years."
Sands, for some weird reason, decided to add his two cents, telling me I should go talk to the "victims" if I didn't think ID theft was a serious crime. Yeah, but busting Pei Wei? Couldn't the dozen or so deputies on hand be out doing real police work?
"We've got other people out doing real police work," Sands shot back.
Thanks for the quote, dude.
He kept telling me "It's a felony," but I reminded him there were worse felonies, like, um, murder and stuff.
"It doesn't matter," Sands told me.
In other words, a felony is a felony, a victim is a victim.
I replied that the victims of assault, rape, murder, child molestation, etc., might see it a little differently.
Joe had walked away and was holding court with some middle-aged fans. I walked up to him and asked him if he'd arrested any white people today.
"White? I don't look at the color," he responded. "How the hell do I know what they are?"
I had to ask him about the rumor that he was going to retire in 2012 and back state Senate President Russell Pearce as his replacement.
"If I don't run for U.S. Senate, I'm running for sheriff [in 2012]," he announced. "I'm going to stay sheriff as long as you work for the New Times."
If that's all it would take, Joe, I'd tender my resignation tomorrow.
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I should mention that Arpaio hit four Pei Wei's total, as well as Pei Wei's corporate office. His press release crows about nabbing 26 workers. Big whoop. The Phoenix Police Department gets double that sometimes in one drop house raid.
This would all be a joke if there weren't little kids out there whose parents won't be coming home tonight.
I know, I know, their parents were working "illegally." But Arpaio himself is still being investigated by a federal grand jury for criminal abuse of power allegations, and he gets to go home tonight, eat Ava's meatloaf and sleep the sleep of the conscience-less.
And in the grand scheme of things, the MCSO's corruption, malfeasance, overspending, witch hunts against political enemies, inmate deaths, and so forth far outweigh whatever harm is done by someone working in this country with a fake ID. One thing is certain: The wrong people sit in jail tonight.