And it couldn’t have happened to a more deserving guy. Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio was nearly daily fodder around here for a while, as he was a never-ending source of abuse, irrationality and unconstitutional conduct. For reasons that make sense only to the voters of Maricopa County, he has nonetheless been re-elected Sheriff over and over.
Now, the voters of Maricopa County will pay for their choice. From the Phoenix New Times:
The Maricopa County Board of Supervisors this afternoon voted unanimously to approve a $3.75 million settlement for New Times’ co-founders, whose false arrests in 2007 were orchestrated by Sheriff Joe Arpaio.
Michael Lacey and Jim Larkin were taken from their homes in the middle of the night and jailed on misdemeanor charges alleging that they violated the secrecy of a grand jury – which turned out never to have been convened.
This is an archetypical Crazy Joe story, with all the twists and turns of his shenanigans to manipulate the system to “get” his enemies. The New Times article provides the details, and they’re definitely worth a read, whether for the laugh or the cry. Short story is that after the then-New Times’ publishers, Lacey and Larkin, published a front-page story detailing what they called Crazy Joe’s “breathtaking abuse of the constitution,” Arpaio did what he does best, he arrested the pair in the middle of the night for a nonexistent crime.
That didn’t sit well.
The next day, after widespread public outrage, [County Attorney and Arpaio puppet Andrew]Thomas announced that [special prosecutor and Arpaio puppet Dennis] Wilenchik was dismissed as special prosecutor and that the investigation was over. Judge Baca later declared that Wilenchik’s grand jury subpoenas were invalid, since he’d issued them without notice or approval from a grand jury or from the court.
Arpaio and Wilenchik eventually sought immunity from Lacey and Larkin’s lawsuit, but that didn’t happen, leading to today’s settlement. Thomas escaped potential liability because of protection his county attorney post afforded him when the episode occurred.
Thomas, however, didn’t completely escape his role in prosecutorial abuse, subsequently being disbarred.
The absurdly unlawful arrests, six years ago, have finally resulted in a settlement with Maricopa County for $3.75 million, a not insignificant sum. But the cost of loving Arpaio too much continues to grow with a settlement with former Supervisor Don Stapley, with whom the county also settled another Arpaio and Thomas prosecutorial abuse case for $3.5 million.
As much as the price of Crazy Joe’s outrageous defiance of anything remotely resembling constitutional conduct in Maricopa brings a smile to my face, Lacey and Larkin’s post-settlement statement make a critical and, sadly, accurate point:
“Unlike most of Arpaio’s victims, we had the financial wherewithal to defend ourselves in court, and we were able to speak through the newspaper,” Lacey and Larkin say in a statement. “But the vulnerable and impoverished victims of Arpaio’s ongoing abusive practices have neither the money nor the voice to fight back.”
While Crazy Joe’s hubris knew no bounds, and was amply used against anyone he perceived to be his political enemies, his gravest damage was done to the poor, as he rounded up anyone with Hispanic features under the presumption that they were illegal immigrants. The sheer scope of his abuse of his position against the most vulnerable in Maricopa County was mind-boggling. Worse still, to the extent anything explains his continuation in office, its that he reflected the racial hatred between whites and Mexicans in Arizona, the personification of prejudice.
While the locals were not persuaded to toss Crazy Joe out of office by his constant stream of unconstitutional shenanigans, DoJ investigations, pink-underwear scheme, arrest of his political opponents or round-up of Hispanics, maybe a hit in the wallet will change the voters’ minds. Maybe it’s finally something they can relate to, since they obviously can’t relate to the Constitution or norms of social decency.
In the meantime, Larkin and Lacey have announced that the proceeds of their settlement will be used to help those who weren’t as capable as they were in fighting Crazy Joe:
The co-founders announced that they will use the settlement proceeds to “help those who fight the good fight against government actors who attack the most vulnerable among us.” Included in this list of recipient organizations are the Arizona ACLU, the Florence Project, and Puente. A contribution also will be made to the Electronic Frontier Foundation to help protect Internet free speech.
All in all, a pretty good day in Maricopa County for everyone except Crazy Joe and the voters who support him. And really, it couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy.
H/T Jim Tyre