This week’s prestigious Idiot of the Week award is going to a member of law enforcement, none other than the infamous Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Maricopa County, Arizona! Congratulations, Sheriff!
Sheriff Joe Arpaio has been the sheriff of Maricopa County, Arizona, since 1993. He is currently 84 years old and in this already contentious election year, he is running for his office yet again. I am certain you have heard of Sheriff Arpaio, but for those who may not remember, let me refresh your memory.
Sheriff Arpaio calls himself “America’s Toughest Sheriff,” though the New York Times has aptly dubbed him “America’s Worst Sheriff.” He has been accused of abuse of power, misuse of funds, failure to investigate sex crimes, improper clearance of cases, racial profiling, unlawful enforcement of immigration laws, and election law violations, among others. Arpaio is also known for his investigation of President Obama’s birth certificate. Today, even after Trump finally admitted that he knew Obama was born in the U.S., Arpaio claims that Obama’s birth certificate is a forgery and claims he is continuing his ‘investigation’.
In 2008, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) brought suit against Arpaio for unconstitutional jail conditions, charging that “Arpaio routinely abused pre-trial detainees at Maricopa County Jail by feeding them moldy bread, rotten fruit and other contaminated food, housing them in cells so hot as to endanger their health, denying them care for serious medical and mental health needs and keeping them packed as tightly as sardines in holding cells for days at a time during intake.” In 2008 and again in 2010, Arpaio was ordered by the courts to end the overcrowding and to ensure all detainees receive necessary medical and mental health care, be given uninterrupted access to all medications prescribed by correctional medical staff, be given access to exercise and to sinks, toilets, toilet paper and soap, and be served food that meets or exceeds the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s dietary guidelines. Arpaio made the statement that even if he had a billion dollars he wouldn’t change the way he runs his jails. Arpaio has said his jails are meant as places for punishment, and that the inhabitants are all criminals.
During a three-year period ending in 2007, more than 400 sex crimes reported to Arpaio’s office were inadequately investigated, or not investigated at all. Many of the victims were children of undocumented immigrants. In 2000, two young girls, ages 14 and 15, were raped. The cases were cleared with only minimal investigation, and no arrests were made in either case. In one of the cases, it was closed because a suspect “declined to come in for questioning.” It later came to light that 82% of all cases in Maricopa Country were cleared or closed without an arrest being made. On March 7, 2007, a 13-year-old girl was raped by her uncle. A rape kit was obtained and sent to the state lab, but before the results were completed, the detective assigned to the case told Sabrina and her family that there were no obvious signs of sexual assault and the case was dropped. The uncle continued to sexually abuse the girl, and it was only four years later that the girl, after becoming pregnant as a result of the ongoing rapes, came forth again and eventually the uncle was arrested based on the DNA evidence from 2007. Arpaio’s ‘apology’ stated “If there were any victims, I apologize to those victims.”
Between 2008 and 2010, Arpaio used his position to target various political opponents, filing criminal charges against judges, county supervisors and administrators. There were eleven cases, and Arpaio lost all eleven at the cost of some $45 million to taxpayers.
In 1999, Arpaio instructed his deputies to purchase parts to construct a pipe bomb. The deputies then, as directed by Arpaio, coerced 18-year-old James Saville to build a bomb. They then arrested Saville, who spent 4 years in prison for “attempted assassination” of Arpaio. Eventually one of the deputies involved in the plot came forward with the truth and Saville was exonerated. The plot was an elaborate publicity stunt to boost Arpaio’s reelection bid. Saville’s suit against Arpaio cost taxpayers $1.6 million.
Since 2005, Arpaio’s main focus has been to “stop illegal immigration.” His methods have been controversial, to say the least. Arpaio has taken racial profiling to a new level, targeting businesses that employ Hispanics, performing ‘saturation patrols’ in Hispanic neighborhoods, arresting day laborers, randomly stopping vehicles driven by Hispanics, and more.
After being detained for more than nine hours, Manuel De Jesus Ortega Melendres, a Mexican tourist who was a passenger in a car stopped by Arpaio’s deputies, filed suit in the United States District Court for the District of Arizona against Sheriff Arpaio. The suit was quickly joined by others who had been victims of Arpaio’s profiling. The plaintiffs were represented by the ACLU, the Mexican-American Legal Defense and Education Fund (MALDEF), and the law firm of Covington & Burling. In his September 2009 deposition in the case, Arpaio testified he had never read the complaint in the case, was unfamiliar with the details of the allegations of racial profiling therein, didn’t know the content of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, and had never read the Department of Justice’s guidelines concerning the use of race in investigations. I guess he never heard that ignorance of the law is not a valid defense!
In a December 2011 order, Judge Snow sanctioned Arpaio and the MCSO, for acknowledged destruction of records in the case. Judge Snow also stated:
“Sheriff Arpaio has made public statements that a fact finder could interpret as endorsing racial profiling, such as stating that, even lacking … authority, his officers can detain people based upon ‘their speech, what they look like, if they look like they came from another country.’… Moreover, he acknowledges that MCSO provides no training to reduce the risk of racial profiling, stating ‘if we do not racial profile, why would I do a training program?'”
Judge Snow expanded the complaint into a class-action lawsuit, including all Latino drivers stopped by the Sheriff’s Office since 2007, or who will be stopped in the future. On May 24, 2013, Judge Snow issued a decision, finding the policies and practices of Arpaio and his office discriminatory, in violation of the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments and Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. In June 2013, the DOJ filed a Statement of Interest in the case, recommending the appointment of an “independent monitor to assess and report on MCSO’s compliance with the remedial measures ordered by the Court.” Judge Snow issued a 59-page final order, giving the MCSO a list of reforms and requirements to institute and follow. In January 2014, Judge Snow appointed Robert Warshaw, former Rochester, New York, police chief, to act as monitor over the MCSO.
After much back-and-forth, with Arpaio violating the court orders repeatedly and mocking the Judge and his decisions, then being charged with contempt, in 2015 Judge Snow announced that Arpaio would face a contempt hearing in April 2015, for violating court orders. On May 13, 2016, the court held Arpaio in contempt on three counts. On August 19, 2016, the court asked the federal government to file criminal contempt charges against Arpaio and some of his subordinates over his failure to follow the court’s instructions.
Which brings us to the present. On Monday (17 October), Federal prosecutors charged Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Maricopa County with criminal contempt of court, saying he willfully defied a judge’s orders to stop targeting Latinos — including citizens and legal immigrants — in traffic stops and other law enforcement efforts, behavior the judge said showed a pattern of discriminatory policing. If convicted, Arpaio could face up to six months in jail. The authorities were still weighing a charge of obstruction of justice, which could carry more severe punishment.
As I mentioned at the beginning of this rather lengthy post, Arpaio is seeking re-election next month. Even before the charges were filed, he was polling around 10% behind his opponent, Paul Penzone. Perhaps the good people of Maricopa Country have finally tired of having a sheriff who does not do his job, but instead has consistently shown bias and used underhanded tactics? Not to mention the millions of dollars the taxpayers have spent to cover lawsuits against Arpaio! But my question is, how has this man stayed in office for 23 years??? Why have people elected and re-elected this man? And another question … can one serve as sheriff from inside a prison cell? I think not. Bye-bye Sheriff Arpaio!
In July, Arpaio said that “my most important mission is to elect Donald Trump.” Need I say more? That one statement alone would earn him the IOTW award, but coupled with everything else … he is definitely an Idiot Extraordinaire! Enjoy your award, Sheriff … I’m not sure if they will allow you to have it in your prison cell or not, though.