After all, we had seen the Arpaio-Thomas tag-team wiretap, bully and ultimately file charges against politicians who did not bend over to kiss Arpaio's backside. Journalists were arrested in the middle of the night by Arpaio's goons, because they had written stories critical of the old coot. During the sheriff's illegal "sweeps" of businesses and neighborhoods, Hispanics were rounded up and detained, at the same time Driving (or Walking) While Brown became a crime. Other prisoners in Arpaio's jails, including combat veterans, ended up dead.
Arpaio's key staff members, including his chief deputy David Hendershott, would be fired for their role in building the police state that ran Maricopa County for years – cronyism, threats, perjury, illegal activities, it's all there. County Attorney Andrew Thomas and his deputy, Lisa Aubuchon, would both be disbarred from practicing law for their part in the unethical and illegal shenanigans. Victims like County Supervisors Don Stapley and Mary Rose Wilcox would see their lives turned upside down, their bank accounts drained fighting court battles. The County itself spent $44 million on these lawsuits, adding to the tens of millions that Joe Arpaio has cost Maricopa County taxpayers.
And yet, the Feds refused to file charges against Sheriff Arpaio or any other targets of the probe, which began in 2008. Today we learned, thanks to an Arizona Republic investigation, that the FBI believed they had uncovered enough evidence to bring felony charges against County officials:
Federal investigators concluded there was sufficient evidence to bring charges against public officials during their years-long abuse-of-power investigation targeting Maricopa County law-enforcement agencies, according to heavily redacted records obtained by The Arizona Republic.
The records indicate that FBI agents found probable cause to recommend felony counts of obstructing criminal investigations of prosecutions, theft by threats, tampering with witnesses, perjury and theft by extortion.
When federal officials announced in 2012 that they had ended their three-year investigation, and that they did not find sufficient evidence to prosecute, The Arizona Republic filed a Freedom of Information Act request, asking to see the investigation's records. True, the Republic has been a conservative mouthpiece and often an Arpaio apologist for years, but even they could not deny the reality playing out before them, especially after New Times journalists Michael Lacey and Jim Larkin were arrested in the wee hours of the morning by the sheriff's henchmen. That 2007 incident seemed to be a tipping point in the media's treatment of Arpaio. Now he had attacked one of their own! (Like many of Arpaio's victims, Lacey and Larkin would win their court case against the Sheriff's Office for false arrest, receiving a $3.75 million settlement.)
Nearly a year and a half after the FOIA request, The Arizona Republic received 93 pages of records from the Feds, and even though it is highly redacted,
The report makes clear that FBI agents believed evidence was strong enough to prosecute some of those under investigation....Yeah, they're "unnamed" but everyone knows who they are. Why the Feds did not file charges is anyone's guess, but I'm left wondering the same thing about Wall Street crooks and war criminals. "They should’ve indicted them all," said Don Stapley, former County Supervisor and Arpaio target because he and fellow Supervisor Mary Rose Willcox refused to give Arpaio-Thomas carte blanche to carry out their immigration sweeps and other anti-immigrant tactics. (Stapley settled for $3.5 million, Wilcox received $975,000 – add it to the taxpayers' tab.)
In the newly released FBI referrals, agents said there was evidence to prosecute at least two Maricopa County officials for conspiracy and obstruction. In other segments of the report, agents recommended criminal charges against several unnamed officials for theft by extortion, improperly influencing a public official, perjury and conspiracy.
Perhaps the Obama administration did not want to rile Arizona voters by going after a popular sheriff, but it's not as if Obama and the Dems would've won the state in 2012. And it's also not as if they wanted to keep him in the job because he's so effective: not only is Arpaio costly and divisive, he's just not a good law officer! While crime rates drop in most of Arizona, they've risen here. While Arpaio is so laser-like focused on scary brown people, his office completely dropped the investigation of hundreds of sex crimes against children.
And yet he still has a badge, and has already announced he'll run again for sheriff in 2016 when he is 84, while he also considers entering the race for governor. But first he'll have to beat his former partner in crime Andrew Thomas, the disbarred and disgraced County Attorney, who is also running in the GOP gubernatorial primary. Seriously. The concept of shame is foreign to Arizona Republicans.