Landscapers and lawyers. Cops and candle makers. Reporters and corn vendors. Undocumented immigrants and ordinary schmucks. You.
What does everyone (The Bird included) have to fear in Maricopa County? Trumped-up charges. Getting arrested and having to cool your heels in stir. Bogus allegations costing thousands of dollars in legal bills. Being detained en masse with fellow employees while armed thugs sort through the lot of you and decide whom to collar and whom to release.
Or you could enter Joe Arpaio's roach motel of a jail on some flimsy rap and never come out. Maybe you are diabetic, and you don't get your medicine on time. Or maybe you get beaten to death by the guards, or fellow inmates.
Them's the breaks in Joe's medieval gulags.
What The Bird's saying is that as long as Arpaio's sheriff, and Andrew Thomas remains County Attorney and Arpaio's willing ally in his extra-constitutional shenanigans, no one's safe from the MCSO boot. Rich or poor, white or brown, powerful or meek, it doesn't matter. You might think you're an upstanding citizen, a pillar of your community, following the letter of the law, but the boot will still find your blemish-less neck and grind it mercilessly into the ground.
Take Dan Pochoda, 66, the legal director of the Arizona ACLU. Back on November 3, he stopped by M.D. Pruitt's Home Furnishings to meet activist Salvador Reza, who was then leading a peaceful protest against Pruitt's decision to use off-duty sheriff's deputies as security. As a result, the MCSO was patrolling that area of Thomas Road, busting anyone suspected as an illegal immigrant.
Pochoda parked in Pruitt's parking lot. He passed sheriff's deputies on his way to the sidewalk where Reza was. Their chat took less than 10 minutes, and he walked back to his car.
Sheriff's goons called after him, and jogged to where he was, yelling for him to stop. He complied with their order, and they flanked him on either side. He told them who he was, and that he was about to leave. Though Pochoda was seconds away from hopping in his car and motoring off, the deputies arrested him for trespassing.
"The whole concept of being commanded to stop on your way out so they can tell you that you have to get out is so beyond surreal," Pochoda told The Bird.
Yeah, surreal like a scene out of Franz Kafka's The Trial. A third-degree misdemeanor is usually something for which police just cite and release you. So, of course, the MCSO bulldogs cuffed him and bundled him off to the Fourth Avenue Jail. Days before, Pochoda had been to his orthopedic surgeon for serious back trouble. When they slapped the steel bracelets on him, he was in agony.
"As soon as they handcuffed me behind my back, it was excruciating pain," Pochoda recalled. "I told them that, but the deputy said, 'These are not meant to be comfortable.'"
Pochoda was in jail for 10 hours 'til a pal bailed him out. His car was impounded. Since he was on ACLU business at the time, the civil liberties organization hired two hotshot legal beagles from Osborn Maledon to defend him. That firm donated $10K, and the ACLU picked up the rest. Total bill: Just over $30K.
Candy Thomas sicced his finest Doberman on Pochoda — Deputy County Attorney Lisa Aubuchon, the MCAO's Office Bureau Chief, even though a small-potatoes case like this is usually handled by some fresh-from-law-school punk still moist behind the head-handles.
Four MCSO deputies sat in court for about five hours to testify against Pochoda when they could've been off, like, fighting crime or something. Aubuchon still lost the case, despite all of the wasted resources.
Aubuchon also fumbled the case of Sergeant Thomas Lovejoy, the Chandler cop Arpaio pursued after Lovejoy accidentally let his K9 dog Bandit die in a hot police vehicle. Lovejoy was found not guilty in the doggy's demise. Shortly thereafter, he filed a notice of claim against the county for $350K. Pochoda's filed a notice of claim, too, for $400K. In this falcon's eye, they deserve every penny.
They didn't ask for the boot to fall on them, for these cases to hang over their heads for months, or to be arrested, booked, and jailed. And they're not the only ones who've found themselves in similar straits.
Before Thomas took office, Arpaio already had a exacted a roll call of persecutions, from former Arpaio aide and sheriff hopeful Tom Bearup and Joe critic Jim Cozzolino to current Joe foe Dan Saban. They've all had to face false charges, smears, or harassment. Their stories were documented by this beaker's colleague Sarah Fenske in her story "Enemies List" (November 29, 2007).
Together Thomas and Arpaio have added to the dragnet, pulling in this blackbird's bosses, Village Voice Media Executive Editor Michael Lacey and VVM CEO Jim Larkin, rousting them in the middle of the night on misdemeanor charges that Thomas had to abandon less than 24 hours later.
Still under the steel toe: New Times reporter Ray Stern, cited by members of the same MCSO Selective Enforcement Unit that dragged off Lacey and Larkin last October. His crime? Wanting to photograph public documents in the office of the sheriff's taxpayer-supported private lawyer, Michele Iafrate.
Now that's what this sapsucker calls selective enforcement.
For Thomas and Arpaio, immigration has become yet another way to put more bodies under the heel of the county's Doc Martens. These bodies are largely brown and are subject to the MCSO's racial-profiling tactics. Profiling tactics, this pecker might add, that are currently under investigation by three federal agencies: the FBI, the GAO and ICE, with which the MCSO has a memorandum of agreement for the use of its federally trained 287g officers.
Using his federal authority, Arpaio has conducted numerous unconstitutional sweeps through Valley neighborhoods, causing widespread anxiety and terror. He's raided Valley water parks and a Mesa landscaping company, and collared corn vendors in Maryvale.
Most recently, his shock troops descended on Chandler's Gold Canyon candle company. With a warrant for only about 20, the MCSO executed a military-style raid with hooded SWAT team members wielding assault rifles. Effectively, they held 200 employees of the company hostage for five hours, while Joe's Gestapo decided whom to hold and whom to let go.
"They quarantined everybody in a conference room," complained company spokeswoman Rebecca Clyde. "Office employees, the IT department, customer service, secretaries, people like that. Everybody including executives, everybody at every level was held."
Get the picture? So just being Caucasian or having a white-collar job doesn't excuse you from boot time. People were not allowed to go to the bathroom without a police escort, said Clyde. There were not enough seats for everyone, so some people had to stand. Sounds like a remake of that '70s TV flick Raid on Entebbe, dramatizing the hijack of an Air France jet to Uganda, with Joe Arpaio playing Idi Amin.
The company's lawyer wasn't allowed into the building or access to the list of names of the MCSO's suspects. Hey, so much for your right to counsel in Maricopa County, much less freedom from unreasonable search and seizure.
The raid occurred even though Gold Canyon boasts revenues of $100 million a year, employs 300 Arizonans, around 75 of them white-collar, and participated in the federal E-Verify pilot program even before the employer sanctions law became effective in January.
Think you're off the hook 'cause you follow the law? The owners of Gold Canyon now know better.
Even if you have no sympathy for those whose mother or father (sometimes the sole breadwinner of a family) has been carted away for immigration violations — perhaps never to be seen on this side of the border again — this warbler thinks you should at least worry about your own skin.
'Cause if you live in Maricopa County under the Uncle Joe and Candy regime, the flesh of you or yours could bear the boot print before it's all over.
Will someone please tell Howie Fischer of Capitol Media Services to stick a day-old sock in it? The winged wonder was watching this full-of-himself gasbag on KAET Horizon's journalists roundtable the other day, when he spewed forth the dumbest statement since Jesse Jackson was caught saying he wanted to cut Barack Obama's nuts off.
"How many weeks have we sat around this table," smarmed the fatuous know-it-all to his fellow Fourth Estaters, "talked about Sheriff Joe, talked about things going on, talked about multimillion-dollar judgments against him. Talked about protests. And every poll, the guy's in the 70 and 80 percent [range]. I mean, even after this candle factory thing."
WTF? Nickel Bag hasn't been in the 80th percentile for years. In fact, as was first documented by the Taloned One's blogging bro Feathered Bastard (and later ripped off by several journalists in town), even a poll listed on Joe's own site of sheriffjoe.org showed nearly 70 percent of those voting online choosing "Absolutely Not!" when queried if they were gonna pull the lever for Joe come November.
Joe's flunkies jerked down the poll not long after FB's blog item was posted, but not before revealing the IP addresses of some of those who voted, and how they voted, a blunder even the Horizon dunderheads picked up on.
That poll wasn't scientific, of course. It's the kind you see on the Web site of KTAR and elsewhere, ones usually used by Joe fanatics to tout the crusty top cop's popularity.
But as this worm-wrangler's mentioned time and time again in this column, real polls have shown a steady decline in Arpaio's approval ratings over the past year and a half, from 64 percent in March 2007 to 54 percent at the end of July, according to Phoenix polling firm Rocky Mountain/BRC.
Horizon host Ted Simons quickly corrected Fischer's flub, telling him what he should already know if he'd pull his head out of his rear — that Joe's numbers are nowhere near the 80th percentile. But Fischer didn't seem to care that he'd effed up on camera, and persisted in his moronic malarkey.
"But we're still down to the other half of the question," replied Fischer. "So let's assume he's down to 60; let's assume he's down to 55. Dan Saban has yet to make a concise case of why to eject him. Simply saying, 'I'm different' . . . If you're gonna replace the horse you know with the horse you don't know, you better have a damn good reason."
The Bird can give you more than 43 million reasons, Howie. That's as in the $43 million-plus in lawsuit payouts Joe's cost the county.
Then there's the incompetence of Joe's regime, the 40,000 unserved felony warrants, the still-unexplained adventures of underling Chief Deputy David Hendershott in Honduras, the retribution against Joe's enemies, the cruelty in his jails, the unconstitutional sweeps targeting Latinos.
Jumpin' jaybirds, what do you have to do, catch Joe gnawing the heads off bambinos?
Plus it's particularly asinine for some blather-mouth like Fischer to kvetch that Dan Saban hasn't made his case when little if any media is following Saban on the stump as he speaks several times a day, attacking Joe. This bark-scratcher caught Saban speaking to a Sun City group recently, and the former Mesa commander and Buckeye police chief offered a withering appraisal of Joe's misdeeds in office and the hits county coffers have taken because of it.
Saban's even challenged Joe to a series of debates, sending Arpaio a registered letter to this effect in June. Joe's response so far? Silence.
"He's a coward," Saban told this tweeter, referring to Arpaio. "Clearly, when you watch his tactics and the way he operates. He's not man-to-man. Come out; let's go. You're the self-appointed 'toughest sheriff in America.' Why would you fear a mere mortal like me?"
The Bird asked Arpaio about Saban's challenge at one of Joe's recent book-signings for his prevarication-friendly tome Joe's Law. Joe shrugged it off, said he gets lots of letters, and refused to answer any follow-ups.
Is there any reason Fischer and the other deans of the local journo pool here in the PHX haven't questioned Arpaio directly as to why he won't debate Saban? Could it be that Howie is afraid of losing his precious media access to our corrupt county constable? New Times isn't afraid to ask the sheriff anything. As a result, its scribes are banned from MCSO press conferences.
At the very least, Fischer, et al. have a duty to get their facts straight and not just repeat Joe's propaganda. Read something other than your own articles for a change, Fischer. That is, if you want people to think you're anything other than Howie the Hack.
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