THIS BLOG is NOW RETIRED

I began this blog in May 2009 following the death of Marcia Powell at Perryville State Prison in Goodyear, Arizona. It is not intended to prescribe the path that leads to freedom from the prison industrial complex.

Rather, these are just my observations in arguably the most racist, fascist, militaristic state in the nation at a critical time in history for a number of intersecting liberation movements. From Indigenous resistance to genocidal practices, to the fight over laws like SB1070 and the ban on Ethnic Studies, Arizona is at the center of many battles for human rights, and thus the struggle for prison abolition as well - for none are free until all are. I retired the blog in APRIL 2013.

Visit me now at Arizona Prison Watch or Survivors of Prison Violence-AZ

David Rovics: We Are Everywhere

To my fellow activists now struggling through life - let this be a reminder that you are not alone and that we desperately need you here. All the injustice, grief, war, and human suffering calls for us to stay and do everything we can about it - you can't help us anymore when you're gone. Don't give up the fight - your last shred of hope may just keep someone else alive, too.
BLOG POSTS

Friday, October 30, 2009

Sources: FBI Investigating Joe Arpaio




The FBI is looking into accusations that Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio is using his position to settle political vendettas.

Over the past year, 5 Investigates examined more than two dozen complaints against the sheriff from business owners, government workers, mayors and law-enforcement officials.

They claim they spoke out against Arpaio, and shortly after, deputies paid them unwelcome visits.

Mayor: 'I Was Targeted'

Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon said he's found himself in the sheriff's crosshairs on multiple occasions.In April 2008, Gordon wrote to the Justice Department, asking it to investigate complaints of racial profiling against the sheriff's office stemming from Arpaio's well-publicized crime-suppression sweeps.Less than a month later, sheriff's deputies demanded copies of all the mayor's e-mail, phone logs and appointment calendars.It "definitely was" retaliation, Gordon said. "It was multiple inquiries and investigations acknowledged by some of the sheriff's own people."

Police Chief Finds Himself Under Fire

Former Mesa Police Chief George Gascon was openly critical of the sheriff's crime sweeps.In October 2008, deputies conducted midnight raids on Mesa City Hall and the public library, ostensibly to search for illegal immigrants working as janitors.Mesa city leaders and Gascon said the show of force, dubbed "Operation Clean Sweep," was extreme."I believe the activities took place by the sheriff's department yesterday put people at risk," Gascon said at the time.Arpaio shot back."You know what this is all about," the sheriff said. "I'm going to tell you what this all about. It's embarrassment. Don't go around accusing my office and my deputies about risking the lives of the Mesa citizens."

Politicians, Journalists Targets

The list of people subjected to the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office investigations reads like a Who's Who of the Valley, and it includes people who have authority over the sheriff and people who challenged his authority:
  • Dan Saban, who ran against the sheriff in 2004 and 2008
  • Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard
  • Maricopa County Manager David Smith
  • The Maricopa County Board of Supervisors
  • Superior Court Presiding Judge Barbara Mundell
  • ACLU attorney Daniel Pochoda
None of the investigations resulted in convictions; however, they cost the targets hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees and tarnished reputations.Many of the targets were never charged with a crime."He knows he never has to prove anything," said Gordon. "He just raises the issue, and then he hides behind the badge -- and the damage is done."In 2004, former Phoenix New Times reporter Dougherty found himself under criminal investigation after he had been working on a story about the sheriff's hidden land investments -- a story that was potentially embarrassing for Arpaio.At one point, deputies told the journalist that he had approached Arpaio "in a threatening manner with a silver, metallic object," Dougherty said."They know that I was a reporter for the New Times, and they knew for sure that I was just showing him a tape recorder," he said. "I think it was clearly retaliation because they wanted to stop us from pursuing our investigation into his offices."Despite the investigation, the New Times continued to report on the land story, and on the night of Oct. 18, 2007, the paper's publisher and executive editor were arrested and jailed.County Attorney Andrew Thomas dropped all charges the next day, saying the investigation had spun out of control."It has become clear to me that this investigation has gone in a direction that I would not have authorized," Thomas said at the time."I believe (Arpaio) did everything in his power to weaken our ability to report the news," Dougherty said.

A Pattern Emerges

Perhaps no other investigation has played out as publicly as that of County Supervisor Don Stapley.Stapley was indicted on 118 charges relating to the nondisclosure of a variety of land deals, business associations and business assets.At the time, the county supervisor said he was falsely accused. Fifty-two of the charges were thrown out in August, and prosecutors requested the rest be dropped in September.Three days after the request was made, deputies arrested Stapley on 100 new counts -- 93 felonies and seven misdemeanors.According to Stapley's attorney Paul Charlton, the county supervisor made himself a target when "he opposed the sheriff's budget.""(Stapley) insisted that there be someone placed in (Arpaio's) office that audits the budget," Charlton said.Charlton, a former U.S. Attorney for the District of Arizona, said a pattern begins to emerge when he looks at a list of the people the sheriff has targeted."Every single one of those individuals has in common their opposition to Joe Arpaio for a legitimate political issue," he said.Charlton's conclusion?"When you cross this guy for legitimate reasons, you're going to find yourself under criminal investigation for completely illegitimate reasons," he said.

'I've Never Seen Anything Like This'

Sources tell 5 Investigates that the FBI's investigation into the sheriff's activities began more than a year ago, when President George W. Bush was in office.The FBI has a policy of not commenting on open investigations; however, 5 Investigates took its research to an unbiased source: former U.S. Attorney for the District of New Mexico David Iglesias.Iglesias, who is the real-life military lawyer portrayed by Tom Cruise in the movie A Few Good Men, has a national reputation for putting principle above politics. He has no connection to the current FBI investigation into Arpaio, who he has never met."I've been in and around law enforcement for about 20 years -- state, local and federal level (and) even some military prosecution work. I've never seen anything like this," Iglesias said after he looked through 5 Investigates' research and did some on his own.If he were handling the case, Iglesias said, "I would work very closely with the civil rights division in Washington, D.C., and based on the information I have, I would seek an indictment."An Arpaio defense consisting of, "I had a reason to investigate that person," wouldn't work, Iglesias said."It's a defense, but the question is, 'Is it a winning defense?' And I think the answer to that is, 'No,'" he said.It's unknown whether the FBI investigation will result in criminal charges. 5 Investigates' sources said investigators may be trying to turn a trusted deputy against the sheriff.Nevertheless, if they can't, Iglesias indicated the pattern of cases might be enough to take the sheriff to court."(Arpaio's actions are) absolutely unacceptable," Iglesias said. "We don't do think kind of thing in America -- in this country -- without some kind of consequences.Arpaio refused repeated requests for an interview regarding this story, but the sheriff's office provided a statement."The Maricopa County Sheriff's Office does not retaliate against any specific individual or agency," it reads. "The Sheriff's Office provides the citizens of Maricopa County with professional and efficient law enforcement services." 

Copyright 2009 by KPHO.com.

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