“Report: FBI had urged charges in Maricopa County inquiry”

by Walter Olson on March 14, 2014

After 17 months the federal government has released heavily redacted information in response to a FOIA request, shedding new light on the probe into the systematic abuses committed by Sheriff Joseph Arpaio and allied county D.A. Andrew Thomas. We’ve been covering them for years. [Arizona Republic, auto-plays]

{ 7 comments }

1 Swampleg 03.14.14 at 9:37 am

Although I have no sympathy for Sheriff Arpaio, the record of this administration’s Department of Justice makes me deeply suspicious of any investigation by any of its subunits of the administration’s real or imagined political enemies. The most telling thing is that they did not bring charges and this administration is willing to bring even the most flimsy charges against its enemies. Ask Dinesh D’Souza. It makes me suspicious that there is a lot more smoke than there is fire.

2 John Rohan 03.14.14 at 12:59 pm

Swampleg,

There’s certainly enough corruption to go around. While Sheriff Arpaio plays fast and loose with the law, he’s one of the only (sometimes the only) official in Arizona who seriously cracks down on illegal immigration. So any prosecution of Arpaio would also expose the government’s mismanagement of the border in court.

After all, one can’t help wondering, why would a federal govt report about Arpaio’s abuses be “heavily redacted” when it’s well known that the Obama administration wants to get rid of him? If it contained information embarrassing to Arpaio, they would gleefully publicize it for all to see. So it’s a safe bet that it contains information embarrassing to the Obama administration, specifically Eric Holder and the DOJ.

3 Jazzizhep 03.15.14 at 1:18 am

Being fairly new to the site I had to go back and look at the systematic abuse of power by Arpaio and D.A. Thomas reported by Overlawyered.

It appears the people of Maricopa Co. should have stop electing this guy years ago, and the D.A. should have never been elected. Of course I could say the same thing about Marion Barry, Jesse Jackson Jr., and a gaggle of other corrupt politicians. No, bad behavior doesn’t excuse other people bad behavior, but I’ll take my cues for how outraged I should be from how the media treats the double,super-secret, do not disclose contents under penalty of law warrants in Wisconsin. And then apply that standard to mug shots being plastered on county websites for tasteless amusement.

Obviously no sane person can excuse, or even secretly enjoy, journalists being arrested on false grand jury indictments for reporting on what a government body is doing. I should probably read a little more than the reporters accounts of publishing Arpaio’s home address before offering an opinion, but I don’t really like it on its face. Regardless of how easy it is to find online, it was probably done to intimidate Arpaio, and not to “inform the people.” It is just like publishing gun owners, in my opinion. I don’t like what either chose to do, but Arpaio as an elected official should never act in such a manner.

That brings us to the other big case involving the couple–the investigations into other county officials. Obviously the redacted files hold more information, but without their contents we are left with county officials “sweeping offices for illegal wiretaps”, “thinking they are being followed”, and “fearful of phones being bugged.” All of which sounds exactly like what the sheriff and his minions claim the DOJ was doing–political targeting. Unless I am mistaken, all accusations have amounted to diddly. Considering the outcome of the probes by Arpaio and Thomas are effectively the same as the outcome of the probes by the FBI, who am I to believe–the corrupt sheriff, or the FBI who seems to have predetermined outcomes, without talking to plaintiffs, based on whether the President thinks there is a smidgeon of corruption to be found?

As far as the FBI urging charges to be brought, surely the alleged crimes of Arpaio and Thomas, law enforcement officers, reaches the level of federal civil rights abuses. Why can’t the FBI file federal charges and just skip the county BS? Seriously, if they urged the charges, is there something that might prevent them from a federal filing?

I haven’t touched on the various other complaints like obstruction because it seems that anybody, sheriff’s deputy or county official, who feels they are getting railroaded would be less than forthcoming with details when questioned, and would suggest others do the same.

In short, Arpaio shouldn’t be in office and Thomas got what he deserved, but I can be no more confident in the reporting of county politics from a media hostile to Arpaio, than I can be in a heavily redacted report from a seemingly politicized justice department. The sad part is, if it were Albert Gonzales with a complete whitewash I would be equally as jaded–no trust in government anymore.

4 JTW 03.16.14 at 6:14 am

The main reason they never moved openly against Arpaio is no doubt that he’s TECHNICALLY within the law, and certainly well closer to the law than the Obama administration itself.
The only thing they have against him is that he’s “not nice” and that he doesn’t play ball with the illegal practices DOJ and the administration as a whole employ when it comes to border enforcement, drugs trafficking, and illegal arms dealing.
And going public with that only exposes what crooks they themselves are, so they’re bending over backwards trying to create the flimsiest of legal cases.
Meanwhile, the people of the county have a period of relative peace and quiet, relatively low crime for a high crime area, and don’t see their houses ransacked and their daughters raped by hordes of illegals and druggies.
Can’t blame them for voting for the guy, he gets the job done even if it’s in a way that’s maybe “not nice” according to the soft sentiments of the California and New England city dwellers in whose mind being deprived of one’s morning latte is a gross violation of their civil rights.

5 Walter Olson 03.16.14 at 8:18 am

So apparently only soft California and New England city dwellers who don’t care if their daughters get raped object to armed raids in the middle of the night to arrest critical journalists. Duly noted! Except that it’s not “technically within the law,” to the great detriment of Maricopa county taxpayers who have had to shell out for huge settlements.

6 Jim Collins 03.16.14 at 4:24 pm

Walter,
Were these “settlements” a result of a judicial decision or were they to avoid going to court? I’ve seen Counties and Municipalities pay out a settlement even when they were in the right, just to avoid publicity that might interfere with the chances of those in charge getting re-elected. I’m not taking sides here, because I don’t know. I just think that if they had anything on Arpaio, they would have used it.

7 Walter Olson 03.16.14 at 5:25 pm

Jim — Although, as we know, defendants often settle without clear liability, these were very pricey settlements as civil rights violations go where there has been no death or grievous injury ($3.75 million for arresting two critical journalists in the middle of the night; $1.4 million for ransacking a businessman’s office in search of dirt on political opponents). That’s one clue. D.A. Andrew Thomas, Arpaio’s partner in the raids, surrendered his law license. That’s another clue. But the broader fact is that the whole trail of abuses, including Thomas’s filing of trumped-up criminal charges against county supervisors and even against a judge who’d ruled against the pair, is in plain sight for those who care to check the reporting on this issue in the Arizona press, as occasionally linked in this space.

Even if the FBI career guys saw probable cause to prosecute, as this latest clip confirms, I am *not* blaming DoJ for dropping the case. It is not the federal government’s job to prosecute every local rogue official, especially when a viable federal case requires much more than just a violation of state law, when other remedies (such as the successful suits by raid victims) are available that accomplish some of the same deterrence objectives, and when your main prospective target adopts a blanket “I can’t remember” stance that would make him harder to prosecute. But it amazes me that we still can’t get agreement that Arpaio’s behavior has been that of a rogue official.

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