Sherrif Joe is Protecting Our Vital Bodily Fluids

You know those movies where the populist politician is revealed slowly over time as an insane paranoiac taking increasingly over-the-top actions?  Welcome to Maricopa County, Arizona, home of Sheriff Joe Arpaio.

Sheriff Joe is not really big on restrictions on his power and authority.   When he is not busy arresting folks for breathing while Mexican (he once managed to make a crime sweep through the 99% Anglo neighborhood of Fountain Hills and arrest 75% Mexicans), he likes to haul folks off to jail whose only crime is speaking out against the Sheriff, who spends a lot of County money to maintain his public image.   He arrested newspaper reporters and editors who wrote critically of him.  This is a man who in his paranoia invented an assassination plot (against himself, of course) and got the city to spend $500,000 protecting him.

If his deputies want to see a defense attorney's working papers, they just take them.  If he can't get a judge to release computer records, he has his posse storm into the County computer center and take it over at gunpoint.  And if he doesn't like a judge's ruling, he and his sidekick County Attorney Andrew Thomas file a series of bogus charges against the judge until he recuses himself from the case.

This last and most recent story is almost impossible to summarize.  The Valley Fever blog makes an attempt here and the AZ Republic, who is generally in the tank for Arpaio, is even fairly incredulous here.

The short version is that Arpaio and Thomas are mad that some of Judge Gary Donahoe's past decisions did not go their way in a probe that have been conducting into the construction of the new county court tower.  There was another important hearing scheduled for today, and I suppose Arpaio and Thomas wanted the Judge out before the hearing.

last week, Thomas' office filed a "racketeering" lawsuit in federal court, which bizarrely accused the supervisors, their lawyers, and the judges of being a criminal enterprise under RICO laws.

Thomas gave away the purpose of this suit yesterday:

Because of that pending suit, Thomas said, Donahoe should have recused himself from considering Irvine's legal argument in court today.

"That's how lawless this behavior was," the County Attorney said. "Nobody is above the law."

Pot-kettle, and all that.  But Thomas as much as admits his expectation was that after he filed this really, really bizarre RICO suit, the judge would recuse himself from a case Thomas wanted him off of.  When the judge did not (the judge said, effectively, that the RICO suit was so goofy it hardly merited his stepping down) Thomas and Arpaio fired again.

Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas this afternoon struggled to explain his decision to charge the county's presiding criminal court judge, Gary Donahoe, with three felony counts -- including bribery, obstructing a criminal investigation, and hindering prosecution.

But Thomas couldn't offer any evidence to the assembled media scrum that Donahoe actually had accepted a bribe of any sort. Instead, he and Sheriff Joe Arpaio (who stood next to Thomas at the lectern) offered the same vague allegations they have made for nearly a year regarding the county's planned court tower, currently under construction.

In fact, the county attorney said no evidence exists that the veteran judge personally has received anything in the way of a personal financial benefit during the flap over the $347 million construction project

Arizona has a "very broad" definition of bribery, Thomas said in response to requests for specificity.

Thomas seems to be alleging that the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors, the county's Superior Court bench, and their "shared" outside counsel, Tom Irvine and Ed Novak of Polsinelli Shughart, are an unholy "triad" working to block his and Arpaio's legitimate investigation into the tower's construction.

But today's announcement that Donahoe now faces felony charges -- when the only evidence of "wrongdoing" on the judge's part is a series of rulings that Thomas and Arpaio vehemently disagree with -- is unprecedented even in Maricopa County.

And again:

Yesterday two county supervisors, Mary Rose Wilcox and Don Stapley, were revealed to be facing criminal indictments.

Just for extra style points

Donahoe also is the same judge who ordered detention officer Adam Stoddard to jail last week for swiping a defense attorney's notes -- drawing Sheriff Joe's ire.

A decision, by the way, the Sheriff's office is still petulantly protesting by refusing to do their jobs at the county courthouse:

The Maricopa County Sheriff's Office has apparently stopped delivering inmates to the courtroom where a one of its detention officers was caught in an uproar that landed him in jail.

In a statement released late today, Superior Court Judge Lisa Flores said the sheriff's office has flat-out stopped bringing inmates to her courtroom for their scheduled appearances.

None was delivered Monday or today, Flores said in the statement, causing major delays in ongoing criminal cases. That follows several days last week when the sheriff's office either delivered inmates more than an hour late or not at all, she said.

The stonewalling comes after sheriff's detention officer Adam Stoddard was thrown in jail for contempt in an incident where he was caught taking confidential documents from the file of a defense attorney in Flores' court.

Another judge, Gary Donahoe, ordered Stoddard to apologize for the incident or go to jail. Last week, Stoddard chose the latter. He surrendered to his own agency on Dec. 1 and is being kept in an undisclosed location.

I can't resist ending on this Lady MacBeth moment

But Thomas insisted that he wasn't pursuing a criminal case against Donahoe as a preemptive strike hours before the judge was set to hold a hearing that could have ended with Thomas being barred from prosecuting any county supervisor.

He later told the gaggle, "If I'm not explaining this well, I hope you'll help me."

Unfortunately, based on past experience, the Phoenix media probably will.


  1. roger the shrubber:

    IANAL, but maybe someone could use arpaiao's own tactics against him? since he's obviously out of control; ignores all legal & statutory limitations on his power/authority; and - most importantly - accepts 'gifts' from celebrities he's busted and then put into the 'spa' jail rather than the 'tent city' one....(as you noted he's done on several occasions. you also noted he "allowed" recently-arrested glen campbell to perform at a fundraiser for him)....AND "arizona has a *very broad* definition of bribery"....

    why doesn't the state go RICO on arpaiao's ass? my experience with all strata of government is that they're 90% left/liberal, and any abuse of power that *doesn't increase taxes or the power of bureaucrats & regulators* makes them violently ill. arpaiao's clearly not one of THEM. ergo, THEY hate his guts, and want him out of power. and i'll betcha the state - the same state that elected the idiot loon janet napolitano - has more lawyers on staff than arpaiao & maricopa county does. i'm also pretty sure the feds would cheerfully pitch in in a fight against the last elected official in america who tries to stop illegal immigration, since open borders & amnesty is obviously a priority for them.

    as for the deputies who "refuse to bring the inmates to court".....judges have almost unlimited power in their courts. if she orders them jailed for contempt, arpaiao may fight it, but he'll lose in the end.

    the tools are there, but they don't do anyone any good if they're left hanging on the wall.

  2. Dr. T:

    Why haven't the governor and the state attorney general acted? They should have filed multiple charges against Sheriff Asshole a few years ago and then arrested him, stripped him of his authority, and told the county to hold a special election for a new sheriff.

  3. DrTorch:

    The state that put Ev Meecham in office, and Rose Mofford, and eventually, Janet Napolitano; the state who actually had Fife Symington as one of its better candidates in the past 25 years is NOT a state that has a well-functioning government.

    Curiously, as a former AZ resident, the thing that disturbs me most about this list is that Ohio's governors have arguably been worse.

  4. mahtso:

    "Why haven’t the governor and the state attorney general acted? They should have filed multiple charges against Sheriff Asshole a few years ago and then arrested him, stripped him of his authority, and told the county to hold a special election for a new sheriff."

    I assume it is because the hyperbole does not match reality. (And, again, the crude and juvenile nature of the comment says more about Dr. T than anyone else.) For argument's sake, I will accept as true the allegation that the Republic is in the tank for the Sheriff. But, in my opinion, Newtimes (which is the source of much of the information) is too biased against the Sheriff to be considered a credible source.

    On another blog, I commented that there is dysfunction in Maricopa County to be sure, but it is wrong to blame it all on the Sheriff. He, the County Attorney, the Judges, and the Board of Supervisors have been at odds for a long time. Allocation of the Sheriff’s resources to get prisoners to court has long been a part of this. (For what it is worth, I saw that the Sheriff’s Office says that 65% of all delays in Court are due to Court personnel, not the Sheriff's Office.) Allegations of corruption (and now, Grand Jury Indictments) against several Supervisors is also an issue.

  5. mahtso:

    A couple of additional points: (1) I do not have enough information or knowledge to analyze the charges against Judge Donahoe, but, to me, it appears that people are saying: the Sheriff has been wrong before, so he must be wrong now. I don’t think that holds up as a matter of logic, but more importantly, it was the County Attorney, not the Sheriff who filed the charges. Time will tell if he overreached. (2) The Az Republic has an editorial today arguing (in essence) that some of the pending criminal charges and associated investigations related to the Supervisors should be dropped because these are crimes that are rarely prosecuted. I read that to mean that corruption exists, but the County Attorney and Sheriff should turn a blind eye. In my opinion, the fact that they appear unwilling to do so, accounts for some of the dysfunction in Maricopa County.

  6. Phil Jones:

    Yellow journalism comes to Coyote Blog? Come now, sir, you are better than this. What about the relevant economic news being ignored for this simply offal semblance of reportage?

  7. JC:

    RICO has always been bad law - I've argued against it since its inception in the 70s as a high school debater. The presumption of innocence is abrogated. The essence of law is perverted through this extra-constitional set of regulations.

  8. Gene Pool:

    Kinda don't like the Sheriff do you? Don't let that hold you back.