|Former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio|
A 2015 investigation by the Phoenix New Times showed that of the 157 who died in Sheriff Joe Arpaio's jails, 24% of the deaths were identified as suicides. The second highest jail suicide rate was 14 percent in Philadelphia jails over a comparable period. In addition, the cause of 73 deaths was listed as unknown by county authorities. The lawsuits over the deaths in Joe Arpaio's jails cost Maricopa County $140 million.
People, naturally do not have a lot of sympathy for criminals. But Sheriff Arpaio ran a JAIL not a prison. Most people in jail are awaiting trial and have not yet been convicted. Prisons, on the other hand, are occupied by prisoners who have been convicted of crimes, usually felonies. Sheriff Arpaio was using his jail to punish people for simply being accused of a crime. The Constitution does not allow for that.
At the same time Sheriff Arpaio was expending enormous resources to target Latinos and settle lawsuits, he was failing to adequately investigate hundreds of sex crimes committed in Maricopa County. During a three year period ending in 2007, it was alleged that more than 400 sex crimes reported to Arpaio’s office, most from El Mirage, a suburb of Phoenix with a large immigrant population, were inadequately investigated or not investigated at all. Those cases included 32 reported offenses against children. In 2015, Maricopa County officials settled a multi-million dollar lawsuit in which it was claimed Sheriff Arpaio had failed to properly investigate the rape of a 13-year-old girl.
When any politician dared cross Sheriff Arpaio they often became a target of a criminal investigation launched by Sheriff Arpaio. In 2004, Dan Saban announced he would run against Arpaio in the Republican primary. Arpaio responded by opening a criminal investigation into a 30-year-old allegation that Saban, then 17, had raped his adoptive mother. Saban claimed he was the victim and relatives backed him up. Of course, it didn't matter because the statute of limitations had long since run out and the case was dismissed. But the slander worked to ensure Arpaio the nomination.
Between 2008 and 2010, Arapaio and former Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas began a number of government corruption investigations targeting Arpaio's political opponents, including judges, county supervisors and administrators. Several criminal charges ended up being filed against the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors as well as four judges and attorneys who worked with the county. A grand jury, however, declined to indict any of the defendants. Over 11 of the individuals targeted by Arpaio and Thomas' criminal investigations filed lawsuits, costing taxpayers millions of dollars to settle.
The episode resulted in Thomas being disbarred by a disciplinary panel of the Arizona Supreme Court which found that he "outrageously exploited power, flagrantly fostered fear, and disgracefully misused the law." The panel found "clear and convincing evidence" that Thomas brought unfounded and malicious criminal and civil charges against political opponents, including four state judges and the Arizona Attorney General. "Were this a criminal case," the panel concluded, "we are confident that the evidence would establish this conspiracy beyond a reasonable doubt." It takes at least two people for a "conspiracy," and that not-named conspirator in abusing political power was none other that Sheriff Joe Arpaio.
In his over two decades of being Maricopa Sheriff, Arpaio showed himself to be a bully, a two bit thug no better than many of the people his officers were arresting. Arpaio targeted people because of their skin color, in violation of the Constitution and court orders. When political opponents government officials crossed him,, Arpaio abused his powers making them a target for criminal investigation. In short, "America's Toughest Sheriff" thought he was above the law and the Constitution he swore to uphold as Maricopa County Sheriff. I wish I could say Sheriff Arpaio learned otherwise. Unfortunately, Sheriff Arpaio had a kindred spirit in the White House, another man who fancies himself as being above the law, a man who was more than willing to give him a "Get Out of Jail Free" card, i.e. a pardon.