The Bird revels in Sheriff Joe's decline, slams Mark Spencer's false hysteria, and explains why "illegals" ain't criminals


Why, The Bird's never seen Sheriff Joe Arpaio lookin' so used up and beat as he appeared at the Barnes & Noble in Surprise during a recent Saturday-afternoon book-signing for Joe's Law, which was ripped a new one by the Taloned One's stenographer the other day ("America's Meanest Sheriff Buffaloes Readers," June 26).

With bags under his eyes and an expression on his puss that could give a mule a run for its dolo, poor ol' Joe looked as if he were about to roll over and croak of exhaustion right there amidst a gaggle of adoring, blue-haired colostomy-baggers. The only thing that seemed to pep up the 76-year-old MCSO Methuselah was the arrival of this ticked-off toucan as Nickel Bag Joe was finishing his remarks.

"Here's that guy from the New Times," Joe barked half-heartedly. "That was a very vicious article you wrote about my book-signing, slander and everything else. Keep it up."

Vicious, perhaps, but truer than anything folks will find in Joe's book, this tweeter replied. The oldsters in-house from nearby Sun City booed, shook their wrinkled fists, and ordered The Bird out! Jumpin' Geritol addicts, it was like having to take on the entire casts of The Bucket List, The Golden Girls, and Murder, She Wrote all at once.

Talk about vicious!

Makes The Bird wonder . . . Why are so many Valley oldsters so misguided and so willing to cast ballots for our corrupt top constable?

But, then, some of the best tips this cranky cockatiel gets are from sly silver foxes out there. So The Bird figures the more senile you are, the more apt you are to support mean ol' Uncle Joe. Those retaining their faculties are likely to want to put Joe out to pasture in November.

The Sun City cemetery patrol bought at least 80 books that afternoon, but nothing seemed to raise Joe's flagging spirits. After all, it's been a bad couple of weeks for the dyspeptic septuagenarian.

First, the younger, better-looking Mesa Police Chief George Gascon outsmarted and outmaneuvered Arpaio over Joe's poorly executed anti-immigrant sweeps in that city. As everyone knows, the sweeps are all about Joe's strutting for the press. But the once-fearsome sheriff wussed out, opting to hold his press conference for the sweep at MCSO headquarters on the 19th floor of the Wells Fargo Building in downtown Phoenix, while Gascon and Arpaio enemies like Dan Saban made the scene, garnering cheers from the crowd.

Up on the 19th floor, in full uniform, Joe flailed his arms and bitched about Gascon's "garbage" like a bitter old queen, or an ofay version of Zimbabwe's dictator Robert Mugabe, take your pick.

Instead of setting up a command center for the operation at the Mesa MCSO substation or at some other locale in town, MCSO deputies seemed as though they were the ones on the run, furtively eluding activists hell-bent on recording their every move, like those from the Phoenix-based Copwatch. According to Copwatch, the MCSO would set up a base of operations in a supermarket parking lot, for instance, only to wrap it up and move out to parts unknown once the ad hoc command post was discovered by roaming activists.

This didn't stop the MCSO from making arrests of suspected illegal immigrants, but the damage was already done, PR-wise.

Coincidentally, on day one of the disastrous Mesa dragnet came the Arizona Republic's revelation that Joe's essentially a sheriff for hire, taking $4,000 from Turf Paradise racetrack owner Jerry Simms, Simms' family members, and others affiliated with Simms' track. Simms has been linked to mob frontman Alan Glick in the past, but that didn't stop Joe from taking Simms' scratch or the MCSO from instituting an investigation of Arizona's Racing Department, on Simms' behalf (see the Valley Fever blog post "Meet Joe Arpaio's new best buddy . . ."). Sheriff's Office flack Paul Chagolla said it was because the MCSO got a tip on the Racing Department, and were duty-bound to investigate.

Guess where that tip came from? Simms' lawyer, Gerald Alston. And the MCSO took it up only after two other law enforcement agencies turned the case down.

Joe's recent troubles began as much as a week before these debacles, with the massive anti-Joe demonstrations unleashed on the Board of Supervisors, who, for the most part, continue to back Joe, despite the heat they're getting for doing so.

But the PR nightmare engendered by the sea of demonstrators inside and outside the Supes meeting was not helped by Chief Deputy David Hendershott, who went ballistic outside the meeting on Channel 12 News reporter Joe Dana.

Dana wanted to know why Hendershott had vacationed in China and, while there, stayed in the same hotel as a county contractor that supplies facial-recognition technology to the MCSO. You know, the same facial-recognition technology that the MCSO's ongoing Honduras Operation uses.

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