Victims Wonder Why Arpaio Let Sex-Abuse Cases Languish

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She then filed another suit in December 2009, claiming that her constitutional rights had were violated by the county and Arpaio's office. The case is pending.

In early 2007, Joe Arpaio approved an agreement between his office and the Central American country of Honduras to help train police officers. That year, a few dozen deputies and commanders — including Chief Deputy Dave Hendershott — spent weeks on the country's Roatan Island, a popular scuba-diving destination. At least $180,000 in public funds was used for the trips during a time of extreme budget shortfalls.

Ward and Weege wrote in their letter to Babeu that one of their supervisors, Lieutenant Hank Brandimarte, told all the MCSO sex-crimes detectives that one of them would have to "volunteer" for duty in Honduras.

"It was pointed out to Brandimarte that the unit was being inundated with cases, that we were already short [on] detectives, and that we couldn't keep up with the caseload — and that this was a foreign country," they wrote.

Nevertheless, a detective agreed to go, which further crippled the unit's ability to work rape and molestation cases. The number of full-time detectives in the sex-crimes unit was back down to four in 2007.

Also in early 2007, Arpaio and his ally, former County Attorney Andrew Thomas, started a new task force that would handle cases similar to the one against Dowling. Lisa Allen, Arpaio's spokeswoman, coined the acronym "MACE," for Maricopa Anti-Corruption Enforcement.

The organization handled a few legitimate cases in 2007, but it mostly targeted Arpaio's political foes. And Thomas was more than willing to go along with the investigations.

Former Attorney General Goddard was an early MACE target, for a crime he didn't commit. The Sheriff's Office accused him of taking a payoff of $1.9 million from the state Treasurer's Office and transferring it to the Attorney General's Office in return for reducing charges against former Arizona Treasurer David Petersen, who had pleaded guilty in 2006 to knowingly filing a false or incomplete financial-disclosure statement, a misdemeanor.

In fact, the payment was mandated by state law, and Goddard personally didn't receive a penny. There was no evidence that Goddard had committed a crime, but Arpaio's office kept the investigation open for years. Arpaio's own command personnel told the sheriff about their doubts regarding the case. MACE Sergeant Brandon Luth later told Babeu's detectives that he believed Arpaio was using the Goddard investigation as "a way of having leverage over the AG's Office."

Petersen, whose case was investigated by MACE in April 2007, had been convicted of failing to disclose about $4,000 in earnings. But this wasn't anywhere near as egregious as an MCSO scheme to violate campaign-finance laws in 2007 and 2008:

Arpaio's two top men, Hendershott and Deputy Chief Larry Black, conspired to raise more than $100,000 from wealthy Arpaio supporters to secretly fund a smear ad against Arpaio's 2008 opponent, Dan Saban.

There's no reason to believe Arpaio didn't know about the plan. Days before the TV ad about Saban aired, Hendershott was "like a kid in a candy shop," telling people that something big was about to happen, Lisa Allen told investigators. From the Babeu report, it appears that all the top officials in Arpaio's headquarters on the 19th floor of the Wells Fargo building in downtown Phoenix knew what was up.

Goddard's office, which had received complaints about the undercover fundraising work, conducted a criminal investigation that uncovered evidence of potential fraud, operating an illegal enterprise, and obstruction of justice. New Times detailed the case, which involved apparent corruption at both the Sheriff's Office and the state Republican Party, in an April 14 article, "Love Connection."

State Attorney General Tom Horne transferred the investigation to the U.S. Attorney's Office in early 2011. The feds have yet to charge anyone.

Under the supervision of Arpaio and Thomas, MACE plowed ahead with investigations against three county supervisors: Don Stapley, Mary Rose Wilcox, and Andy Kunasek.

The bogus charges of failing to disclose financial information against Stapley and Wilcox later were dismissed. No charges were filed against Kunasek, who was accused of wasting $14,000 in county funds to sweep for bugs believed to have been illegally planted by Arpaio's office in its war against county officials.

It appears that Thomas' underling, Deputy County Attorney Lisa Aubuchon, tried to extort Kunasek.

Thomas left office in 2009 after his unsuccessful run for state attorney general, and Aubuchon — a transcript of an interview with Kunasek shows — suggested to the supervisor that the criminal case against him would be dropped if he would agree to help pick a new county attorney acceptable to Thomas.

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Ray Stern has worked as a newspaper reporter in Arizona for more than two decades. He's won numerous awards for his reporting, including the Arizona Press Club's Don Bolles Award for Investigative Journalism.
Contact: Ray Stern