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)