Friday, September 3, 2010

Maricopa One Again

It's not what we've been waiting for.  
We've been waiting for the Justice Department to sue Sheriff Joe (and Andy Thomas) for abuse of their power, for violating the constitutional and statutory civil rights of the people of Maricopa County.  This, though, is what we got.
What we got is that Justice sued Joe for being contemptuous.  They don't call it that, of course, but that's what it comes to.
One provision of the 1964 Civil Rights Act says that if you take federal money, you have to give the feds access to your facilities and records so they can assure you spend it in compliance with the law.  (I'm oversimplifying a lot.)  Maricopa and Sheriff Joe have taken federal money.  The feds have been investigating since June 2008.  They've been trying to get records since March 2009.
Joe won't give access and won't turn over the records.  He's said so repeatedly, by public statements and in direct communication with Justice.  Justice narrows the request.  Joe refuses.  Justice repeats the request.  Joe refuses.  Justice says pretty please with chocolate sauce and a cherry on top.  Joe holds a press conference and tells them to fuck off.  Justice asks again, on bended knee.  Joe . . . .
You get the idea.
So finally, Justice sues.
Not for violating anyone's civil rights.  Just for being an obstructionist pain in the ass.  For dissing the feds.
Yvonne Wingett, JJ Hensley and Michael Kiefer lay out charges and counter-charges in the Arizona Republic.
The federal investigation dates to 2008 and seeks to determine whether the Sheriff's Office discriminates on the basis of national origin. Arpaio denies any discrimination and said he was surprised by the lawsuit. He has 21 days to respond.
The civil-rights probe is unrelated to a separate abuse-of-power criminal investigation against the Sheriff's Office by the Justice Department, which is connected to long-running disputes with county government and the judiciary and has led to months of grand-jury testimony.
Attorneys for the Sheriff's Office repeatedly have said they were cooperating with the civil-rights probe but set conditions on the breadth of documents they would release and when. Last week, a sheriff's attorney said in a letter to the Justice Department that he had not agreed to their deadlines.
On Thursday, federal officials made good on their threat to sue. Justice Department officials could not point to a case within the past 30 years in which they had to sue a law-enforcement department to provide access to information.
Dennis Burke, U.S. attorney for Arizona, said that Arpaio's behavior is "self-serving" and pointed out that the Sheriff's Office is legally obligated to provide access to records and facilities because the office receives federal money.
"This is about accountability, and the Sheriff Office's lack of it," Burke told The Republic. "They're trying to design their own self-serving, contorted rules, and they expect unprecedented special treatment different than any other law-enforcement agency across the country - or in history. They want to voluntarily comply with what they want to comply with - despite repeated requests over 17 months."
Attorney Robert Driscoll, who has been negotiating with the Justice Department on Arpaio's behalf, denounced the lawsuit as an attempt to undermine Arpaio's immigration enforcement.
Arpaio released a statement saying President Barack Obama's administration "intended to sue us all along, no matter what we did to try to avert it."
But, according to the lawsuit, officials in the Justice Department's civil-rights unit first started looking at allegations of civil-rights violations by the Sheriff's Office in June 2008, during the George W. Bush era. The probe was not revealed publicly until March 2009.
Arpaio, however, contends the inquiry is part of a conspiracy connecting the White House, Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon and local advocacy groups.
Stephen Lemons, the Feathered Bastard blogger for New Times is less even-handed restrained.  He calls the lawsuit what it is, "a trumped-up public records request."  The caption on the photo of Joe not-quite giving the finger says it all.
Forget the lame lawsuit, we want to see Joe indicted.
But you know, substantive lawsuits, let alone criminal charges, those are serious things that require who knows what all.
This is just your ordinary contempt of cop charge, except it's contempt of Justice and doesn't get anyone kneed in the groin or shot with a Taser or arrested.  It's just played out politely by lawyers and press agents.
Maricopa County executives, who can't restrain Joe, wring their hands while they quake because it turns out that the surprise winner of the primary contest to replace Andy as County Attorney is another lapdog for Sheriff Joe.  And Joe gets to prance around talking about conspiracies and witch hunts.
And the people of Maricopa?  They stood up one day.
But they keep voting him in.
The refrain to the Phil Ochs song is "Mississippi, find yourself another country to be part of."
And Maricopa?
Who's singing that story?
And who all cares?

No comments:

Post a Comment