Yes I'm guilty. Can we move on now?
Very quietly this week, Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio's attorneys filed papers admitting
that the blowhard and his deputies committed a crime, several in fact.
Arpaio admitted he violated federal court orders that stem from a racial profiling case filed last year. Lawyers for the sheriff want to call off upcoming hearings to examine the violations, but activists strongly disagree.
Unlike the typical Arpaio blustering press conference, there were no TV cameras to capture this latest stunt. Instead, Arpaio's office filed the papers without comment, hoping the sheriff's admission will keep him off the witness stand in a contempt of court hearing Judge Murray Snow ordered
for April 21. Victims of Arpaio's racial profiling and other harassments are having none of it
"Sheriff, this won't fly. Nobody will accept it. You will go to court ... and you will have to stand trial for what you've done," said former county supervisor Mary Rose Wilcox.
Why it "won't fly" over the bump.
Mary Rose Wilcox was one of several county supervisors, essentially the sheriff's bosses, who criticized his police state tactics, especially during the time Arpaio, Senate President Russell Pearce and County Attorney Andrew Thomas were enacting and approving laws that sanctioned Arpaio's discriminatory policies. Because Wilcox spoke out, she and her husband were targeted; she eventually sued the sheriff for "his systematic campaign of intimidation, abuse and malfeasance," and was awarded $975,000.
For his role in this campaign of bullying and threats, County Attorney Thomas was disbarred in 2012 and later ran for attorney general, where he didn't come close in the GOP primary. Sen. Pearce, author of the "papers please" bill, was recalled in 2011 by a very conservative district in Mesa, and then lost a race to reclaim his seat. Last year, the GOP even booted Pearce from his party position for saying over-the-top bullshit about sterilizing poor women. Of the three Amigos, only Arpaio remains. For now.
Mary Rose Wilcox and fellow county supervisor Don Stapley, who was arrested in 2009 by Arpaio on trumped-up charges and perp walked for the TV cameras, are just the most well-known local figures in a long list of elected officials, law officers, public employees, activists and regular families who the sheriff's office has pissed all over—often at a cost to Maricopa County taxpayers.
One less-known victim was Manuel de Jesus Ortega Melendres, a Mexican citizen who was in the country legally in 2007. However, as a day laborer of the brownish complexion, he was targeted by Arpaio's deputies, arrested on bogus charges and held in jail for no reason. He is just one of several plaintiffs in the ACLU case Melendres v. Arpaio, which charged "that Sheriff Arpaio and the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office (“MCSO”) have unlawfully instituted a pattern and practice of targeting Latino drivers and passengers in Maricopa County during traffic stops."
The facts were overwhelming and, once the case came to trial in 2013, Judge Murray Snow, a George W. Bush appointee, ruled that Arpaio's office did indeed use "Hispanic ancestry or race as [a] factor in making law enforcement decisions," the very definition of racial profiling. Judge Snow ordered Arpaio to turn over arrest records, work with a court-appointed monitor and end his infamous "sweeps," where deputies march through neighborhoods and businesses looking for suspects (read: Latinos).
None of Judge Snow's orders was followed; in fact, Arpaio arrogantly bragged to the press that he'd continue conducting sweeps, which he did. After months of stonewalling and noncompliance by Arpaio's office, during which he destroyed evidence, the judge finally had enough and scheduled a contempt of court hearing for April 21. It is that contempt charge, as well as the original profiling indictments, that Sheriff Arpaio admitted to this week.
The Sheriff will personally accept responsibility for himself and for the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office and offer an apology for the violations both to Plaintiffs and the Court.
Sheriff Arpaio's lawyers hope that his public groveling, including an offer to make a personal
$100,000 donation to a civil rights group, will stem the need for a hearing next month. Of course, given Arpaio's war chest for the 2016 race, a Legal Defense Fund
he established to bilk wingers and his own wealth, $100,000 is walking-around change. Victims of Arpaio's vindictiveness and bigotry are not swayed by his cockamamy bribes or confessions:
"Sheriff Joe Arpaio needs to feel some of that humility that our families felt, in front of the court, in front of his jury," said Petra Falcon, executive director of Promise Arizona.
I don't know if "humility" is in Arpaio's vocabulary, but I'll settle for seeing him "in front of a jury."
UPDATE: Tonight attorneys who brought the case against Arpaio urged Judge Snow in a filing to reject the sheriff's offer:
Lawyers who won a racial-profiling lawsuit against Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio's office are urging a judge to reject a proposal to settle civil contempt-of-court proceedings against the sheriff for violating the court's orders.