Video of Deadly Beating in Arpaio's Jail Gets National Coverage

By John Dickerson

A video that shows the brutal killing of an inmate in Sheriff Joe Arpaio's jail has garnered attention from news outlets across the country. The footage, released last week by KPHO Channel 5 shows one inmate brutally beating another inmate to death in Arpaio's jail. The sheriff refused to release the video, but KPHO sources were able to secure the footage by other means.

Click to watch the video from Channel 5.

The video, produced by Channel 5 investigative producer Gilbert Zermeno, has now aired on WNBC in New York and on ABC affiliates in Denver and Seattle. The story also made the CNN crime page. Two different Youtube posts of the video have also been viewed over 3,000 times. CBS News now has the video, and is considering a national story on it, Zermeno tells New Times.

Since the story broke, Channel 5's investigative team has also posted internet access to a 500-page internal sheriff's report about the death, as well as a 69-page supplemental report.

The video directly contradicted the sheriff's press release about the May 1 incident. The footage shows it took the guards about 20 minutes to intervene. By that time, victim Robert Cotton had been beaten to death. Cotton was not a member of the Aryan Brotherhood gang behind the beating, nor was he a violent offender. The video shows inmate Pete Van Winkle, 26, beating Cotton and then stomping on his head. Channel 5 quoted a member of Cotton's family saying he was awaiting trial for auto theft. His family is suing Arpaio for $2 million.

Two days after Channel 5 aired the story, Arpaio called a press conference and accused Channel 5 of altering the video by zooming in on the cell where Cotton was beaten. Arpaio's accusation led to a flurry of local coverage by literally every TV news station in metro Phoenix. Channel 5 replied by standing by its story of Cotton's death.

Arpaio has long operated on the principle that no publicity is bad publicity. The brutal killing of Robert Cotton may prove to be an exception.

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John Dickerson
Contact: John Dickerson