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Opinion

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What the Devil won't tell you

By Joe Arpaio's logic, it's time to make an example of him

Why wait to convict America's most despotic sheriff of the charges he faces?

I'm not going to give America's Most Famous Sheriff the benefit of the doubt and neither should you.

He got famous and popular for his utter lack of empathy.

As of this week, nothing in his legal condition separates him from the thousands of human beings he has persecuted in the cause of seeking his own personal glory.

A big part of a county sheriff's job is to maintain the jail, where misdemeanor offenders do time for petty crime and the accused await the wheels of justice to turn, where Arpaio's inmates are presumed innocent by everyone but their jailer. That's exactly where Arpaio finds himself now. U.S. District Court Judge Murray Snow ordered Arpaio to cease and desist racial profiling. Arpaio refused. He broke the law. Snow has referred the case for criminal prosecution.

By Arpaio's own reasoning, he's a criminal and needs to be made an example of, so kids can see.

He told the New Yorker he created chain gangs for one reason. “I put them out there on the main streets. So everybody sees them out there cleaning up trash, and parents say to their kids, ‘Look, that’s where you’re going if you’re not good.’"

Arpaio ran his jail in ways that subjected inmates to unconstitutional treatment, which meant he treated his inmates with unusual cruelty before they had their day in court.

He didn't just torment inmates. He bragged about it. He wrote books showcasing his lack of human empathy. And, of course, he became a superstar because of it and not in spite of it. If you don't know a prison from a jail, then you figure Arpaio's victims had it coming. If you do know the difference, then you are left shaking your head at the absurdity of Arpaio.

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It's too easy to make him a joke and anyone supporting Arpaio but arguing Hillary Clinton or, even Donald Trump, are corrupt reveal their own hypocrisy. Arpaio isn't like any other politician in Arizona or the 21st century. He's so much better at being so much worse than the rest.

In 2010, Arpaio and his toady co-conspirator Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas launched a police war against Arpaio's political adversaries. Arpaio would use the county police power to arrest ... fucking arrest ... those who stood in his way. He arrested journalists. He sought the indictment of judges and Maricopa County supervisors in both parties. He sought the prosecution of his political opponent.

Even that pales to his most egregious, soulless move. In 1999, Arpaio's deputies tipped off the press about an arrest that supposedly pre-empted an assassination attempt on the sheriff. James Saville, 18 years old at the time, spent four years in jail awaiting trial before news broke that Arpaio's investigators bought the bomb for Saville, and egged him on to say that he was going to kill Arpaio. The whole thing was staged by the Arpaio's office and they were perfectly fine letting Saville rot in prison as collateral damage in the sheriff's campaign to build his defiant public image. Small price to pay.

Arpaio was easily re-elected, though Saville won an undisclosed settlement with the county — the total cost of Arpaio's malfeasance to taxpayers has been millions of dollars.

How was this not abuse of power?

We will never know because U.S. Attorney John Leonardo refused prosecute a case brought to him by the feds. Leonardo kept with convention and didn't tell us why he made his decision. Arpaio received the greater graces of the feds in ways Hillary Clinton did not when FBI Director James Comey ranted and raved about her case.

We do know Thomas and his chief deputy Lisa Aubuchon got themselves disbarred over colluding with Arpaio. A panel of the Arizona Supreme Court wrote that Arpaio and Thomas' jihad was about using their sacred duty to charge opponents with crimes.

They pretended to see “corruption” in everyone who disagreed with them and declared that vision as a noble cause.

Motivated by such declared revelation they compounded their corruption by embracing duplicity, deceitfulness and deception. For them, the destruction of their enemies apparently justified their actions. They ignored the law and rules to achieve their objective.

Each of these cases involved "tips" from concerned citizens of course. That's what despots do. From Mao Tse Tung to Joseph Stalin, they rely on "ordinary people" to rat out neighbors and associates for phony crimes to justify reigns of terror.

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Somehow, this hideous abuse of police power barely budged the needle against his political prospects. Voters seem to think Arpaio is just doing his job without understanding his job or reconciling how any of his antics are the work of a legit law man.

America loves a scandal and politically everything is scandalous. If the system is rigged, then the whole damned system is scandalized. Our outrage gets numbed and fatigued. Maybe that's why Arpaio's actions were met with a collective shrug and a vote to re-elect him. We are just used to the "gate-i-fication" of politics. When a mind-blowing scandal comes along, we are immune to having our minds blown.

Now that Arpaio faces criminal prosecution, his whole phony bravado is just blatant hypocrisy.

The scariest thing about Arpaio's is that people love him. They think, wrongly, that he's doing his job being tough on crime when he has a dismal record investigating and clearing cases that are the purview of the county sheriff. Arpaio chose to grandstand, squandering millions upon millions of dollars and avoiding even the most basic of responsibilities — even failing to investigate hundreds of sexual assault cases.

Instead, he's decided to be the avenging angel of immigration because he's singularly devoted to his own celebrity.

He is the danger the Founding Fathers feared. A man enabled by normal people who become a mob on his behalf, voting for him and supporting him with compassionless id in the secrecy of the voting booth. He's a one-man police state, who but for age could have been governor of Arizona and used that as a platform for national office.

Trump is too obviously a buffoon to be that scary. He has yet to figure out how to use the power of the state to terrorize his opponents. Arpaio gains points for coming off mean, angry and without compassion. And he routinely ranks among the most popular figures in Arizona.

No, it can't be chalked up to him being a Republican and voters just refusing to ticket split. If Len Munsil can lose Maricopa County — as he did in 2006 against Gov. Janet Napolitano — Arpaio could have lost at any time during the past 24 years.

If Arpaio's supporters love him for his convictions, they shouldn't wait for his conviction to turn on him. They should fit him for shackles so that we can point to him and tell our kids "this is what happens when you are evil."

Blake Morlock covered Arizona government and politics for 15 years, including 11 in the Tucson Citizen. He also worked on Democratic Party campaigns in the field of political communications. Now he’s telling you things that the Devil won’t.


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1 comment on this story

1
1770 comments
Aug 29, 2016, 11:58 am
-0 +0

No, it can’t be chalked up to him being a Republican and voters just refusing to ticket split.

Are you sure? Look at all the corruption and stagnation that has permeated indefinitely right here at home. An outsider would reasonably and easily assume that the people here would be sick to death of it, and voted for change a long time ago, but no…the people here are just told to hate Republicans, and Dems keep getting reelected no matter how scummy or incompetent they are, or how bad their history is. Hell, around here, you can even call for an economic boycott of your own state and look like a walrus and get reelected.

An identical, but reverse, situation exists for our neighbors to the North. Voting is the most fundamental, prestigious right granted Americans. Unfortunately, it is also the most unappreciated and abused. Mr. Morlock, I think you grossly underestimate the stupidity and apathy of a garden-variety voter, where ever they may exist or what party they may have registered under.

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Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio poses in this file photo taken in his office in 2008.

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