FBI recommended felony counts against Joe Arpaio's cronies


The FBI has turned over a redacted set of documents from its investigative archives related to Maricopa County, Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio, a notorious strong-man whose antics have cost the taxpayers millions in civil suit settlements for actions ranging from racial profiling to stealing a defendant's paperwork in open court to arresting newspaper owners who refused to turn over readers' identities to torching a house and killing a puppy in the process of investigating traffic citations.

The FBI archives, which go back to 2008, reveal that the Bureau recommended that some or all of former County Attorney Andrew Thomas, Arpaio and his officers be indicted for felony counts of "obstructing criminal investigations of prosecutions, theft by threats, tampering with witnesses, perjury and theft by extortion." This recommendation was ignored by federal prosecutors, who concluded that there was not enough evidence to proceed.

County officials who tried to rein in Arpaio have had their offices swept for bugs, believing that Arpaio's regime engages in dirty tricks and illegal wiretapping against local politicians that are hostile to his tactics. Arpaio's office filed several charges against hostile local politicians, none of which led to convictions (by contrast, Arpaio's friendly county attorney Andrew Thomas was unable to get reelected and was eventually barred from practicing law altogether).

Arpaio's bid to quash the FBI investigation and his campaign against local politicians have cost Arizona taxpayers over $44M to date.

Due to redactions, it is impossible to ascertain from the FBI records how many county law-enforcement officials were referred for criminal charges, who they were, or what conduct was considered unlawful.

“They should’ve indicted them all,” said former Maricopa County Supervisor Don Stapley, who was among the public officials accused of illegal conduct by Arpaio and Thomas. “I had no way of knowing why they (federal officials) chose not to prosecute. But I think they ... didn’t want to expend the resources and they were afraid they’d lose it because of the popularity of the sheriff.”

The FBI’s abuse-of-power investigation was launched in 2008 at the outset of a vitriolic political war pitting Arpaio and Thomas against the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors and the county judiciary.

County officials swept their offices, suspecting illegal wiretaps. Some said they were followed by sheriff’s deputies. Others refused to talk on their phones, fearing they were bugged. After county law enforcement’s first case against Stapley fell apart, he was arrested without a warrant based on allegations he committed mortgage and campaign fraud. The case eventually was tossed.

Report: FBI had urged charges in Maricopa County inquiry [Wingett Sanchez and Dennis Wagner/The Republic]

(via Sean Bonner)

(Image: Joe Arpaio, a Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike (2.0) image from gageskidmore's photostream)

Notable Replies

  1. I initially thought the headline meant that there was a good chance that felony charges would be brought against Arpaio. My disappointment is severe

  2. Having lived in Phoenix from 1997-2003 I saw a lot of news about Arpaio and it always seemed like he was beating his chest over some new initiative to make prison as horrible as possible for the prisoners or some new get tough on crimonals which usually involved some very "loose" interpretations of the constitution to make the program not seem as questionably legal. He seemed to be very proud of his tent cities in the desert and in interviews he usually came across as some kind media whore with a holier than thou attitude that instantly made me think he was a giant douche nozzle. Having seen him in national news stories a few times since hasn't done anything to change my attitude about the guy.

  3. Sheriff Joe is a piece of work. I was employed by Maricopa County several years ago in a position to meet him, his right-hand man Henderson, and many others (including Jan Brewer and Joe Stapley).

    Arpaio once had bobblehead dolls of himself made and he sat outside the court buildings autographing them. Somehow I neglected to pick one up. The write-up misses several of his other antics, including many of his lieutenants who were smuggling illegal aliens and drugs and his purchase of an anti-aircraft gun in the days after 9/11 (the flight path of planes taking off and landing has them pretty close to the county complex downtown). Oh, his people also choked a mentally disabled man to death and he installed a webcam at the jail's intake so you could watch the brutality live as it happened. I wouldn't piss on him if he was on fire.

    But the citizens of Maricopa County keep on electing him. Of course, they also keep electing criminals and idiots governor... Jan Brewer, Evan Mecham (impeached on obstruction of justice) and Fyfe Symington (convicted of bank fraud). And, of course, such fine Senators... McCain (who would qualify as a North Vietnamese ace for the number of aircraft he lost), John Kyl, and Jeff Flake.

    It wasn't just the blast-furnace heat that caused me to leave.

  4. Best part is the fact that the large majority of inmates in tent city haven't even been convicted yet.

  5. Cory, could you PLEASE fix the main link in this article so that it doesn't point to some guy's Tumbler entry linking to an unrelated Oatmeal coffee article?

    And have more care in the future, please.

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