Arpaio foes pushing for his resignation

by Yvonne Wingett Sanchez – Dec. 12, 2011 09:37 PM
The Arizona Republic

Critics of Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio say they will pack the chambers of the Board of Supervisors on Wednesday to try to persuade the politicians to ask for the sheriff’s resignation over botched sex-crime investigations.

Members of Citizens for a Better Arizona said they will descend on the five supervisors during their regularly scheduled formal meeting to challenge them about their own “threshold for incompetence.”

“People want to go to the Board of Supervisors to make public their position on what they think about these uninvestigated sex crimes under Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s watch,” said Randy Parraz, president of the group. “We want to ask them, ‘What’s your number?’ If 400 is not enough for you, Supervisor (Max) Wilson, Supervisor (Andy) Kunasek, Supervisor (Don) Stapley, Supervisor (Fulton) Brock, what is your number? Is it 800, 1,000? This is about elected officials holding other elected officials accountable.”

Parraz, whose group is usually politically in line with Supervisor Mary Rose Wilcox, did not mention her name.

The Board of Supervisors only oversee Arpaio’s budget, and because he is an elected official, they cannot fire him.

The Sheriff’s Office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Last week, state Reps. Ruben Gallego and Katie Hobbs, both Phoenix Democrats, called for Arpaio’s resignation, two days after U.S. Rep. Raúl Grijalva, D-Ariz, said Arpaio should resign over the bungled cases.

The calls for Arpaio’s resignation have come after national media outlets recently began to report about hundreds of sex-crime cases the Sheriff’s Office mishandled from 2005 to 2007.

Valley media outlets reported last spring that the Sheriff’s Office failed to adequately investigate more than 400 sex-crime cases, including dozens in El Mirage, over two years because of poor oversight and former Chief Deputy David Hendershott’s desire to protect a key investigator from bad publicity.

According to the Sheriff’s Office, detectives reactivated 432 sex-crime cases from throughout the Valley after concerns about the cases were raised, making 19 arrests. Of the remainder, 115 were determined to be unfounded, 67 were classified as “cold cases” and 221 were “exceptionally” cleared without arrest.

An additional 10 were deemed still viable.

Last week, some members of the Board of Supervisors began to receive complaints from residents about the bungled sex-crime cases. The Arizona Republic obtained some of written complaints through a public-records request.

For example, on Sunday, Steve Yockey e-mailed all five board members complaining about Arpaio. The subject line read: “Force Sheriff Joe Arpaio to resign.”

“He will not go willingly, and he no longer deserves anyone’s trust,” Yockey wrote. “He’s under federal investigation. He has cost the county about $50million in lawsuits. He has ‘misspent’ $100million in taxpayer dollars. He neglected to handle over 400 cases of rape and child molestation while he was busy racially profiling legal citizens with brown skin.”

Other complaints have followed, including one from James Etro, directed to Supervisor Wilson, whose district includes El Mirage.

“Because Mr. Joseph M. Arpaio is elected to do such job, and if his attempt to do such job proves to have failed the city of El Mirage; what say you, sir?” Etro wrote. “Will you continue to support his current professional involvement with the County of Maricopa as sheriff?”

In recent years, many of the same critics have routinely used the supervisor meetings as forums to speak out about Arpaio’s mismanagement of public money, immigration enforcement, emergency-response times and settlements paid out to families of jailed inmates who alleged they were wronged.

Parraz, a vocal critic of Arpaio, led many of those protests. Although he has not been successful in his effort to oust Arpaio, he played an integral role in the effort to recall former state lawmaker Russell Pearce of Mesa, a political ally of the sheriff.

Parraz said protesters Wednesday will attempt to gauge the supervisors’ attitudes about Arpaio now that the botched sex-crime investigations have garnered national attention.

“We’ll see what their attitude is, and if they don’t change their attitudes, we’ll continue to show up,” he said.

Reach the reporter at yvonne.wingett@arizonarepublic com or 602-444-4712.

Critics: ‘Tough’ sheriff botched sex-crime cases

By The Associated Press

Published: December 5, 2011 at 8:02 am

Maricopa, Ariz. Sheriff Joe Arpaio prepares to speak to a crowd in the East Room on the grounds of the Nixon Presidential Library & Museum in Yorba Linda, Calif. on Tuesday, Feb. 8, 2011. (AP Photo/The Orange County Register , Kevin Sullivan)
The 13-year-old girl opened the door of her home in this small city on the edge of Phoenix to encounter a man who said that his car had broken down and he needed to use the phone. Once inside, the man pummeled the teen from behind, knocking her unconscious and sexually assaulting her.

Seven months before, in an apartment two miles away, another 13-year-old girl was fondled in the middle of the night by her mother’s live-in boyfriend. She woke up in her room at least twice a week to find him standing over her, claiming to be looking for her mother’s cell phone.

Both cases were among more than 400 sex-crimes reported to Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s office during a three-year period ending in 2007 — including dozens of alleged child molestations — that were inadequately investigated and in some instances were not worked at all, according to current and former police officers familiar with the cases.

In El Mirage alone, where Arpaio’s office was providing contract police services, officials discovered at least 32 reported child molestations — with victims as young as 2 years old — where the sheriff’s office failed to follow through, even though suspects were known in all but six cases.

Many of the victims, said a retired El Mirage police official who reviewed the files, were children of illegal immigrants.

The botched sex-crimes investigations have served as an embarrassment to a department whose sheriff is the self-described “America’s Toughest Sheriff” and a national hero to conservatives on the immigration issue.

Arpaio’s office refused several requests over a period of months to answer questions about the investigations and declined a public records request for an internal affairs report, citing potential disciplinary actions.

Brian Sands, a top sheriff’s official who is in charge of the potential discipline of any responsible employees, was later made available to talk about the cases. He declined to say why they weren’t investigated. “There are policy violations that have occurred here,” Sands said. “It’s obvious, but I can’t comment on who or what.”

Sands said officers had subsequently moved to clear up inadequately investigated sex-crimes in El Mirage and elsewhere in the county. He said leads were worked if they existed and cases were closed if there was no further evidence to pursue.

Arpaio’s office was under contract to provide police services in El Mirage as the city struggled with its then dysfunctional department. After the contract ended and El Mirage was re-establishing its own police operation, the city spent a year sifting through layers of disturbingly incomplete casework.

El Mirage Detective Jerry Laird, who reviewed some the investigations, learned from a sheriff’s summary of 50 to 75 cases files he picked up from Arpaio’s office that an overwhelming majority of them hadn’t been worked.

That meant there were no follow-up reports, no collection of additional forensic evidence and zero effort made after the initial report of the crime was taken.

“I think that at some point prior to the contract (for police services) running out, they put their feet on the desk, and that was that,” Laird said.

Arpaio acknowledged his office had completed an internal probe into the inadequate investigations, but said, “I don’t think it’s right to get into it until we get to the bottom of this and see if there’s disciplinary action against any employees.”

A small number of cases from El Mirage were handed over to prosecutors, but the El Mirage Police Department said most were no longer viable — evidence dating as far back as 2006 had grown cold or wasn’t collected in the first place, victims had either moved away or otherwise moved on.

Bill Louis, then-assistant El Mirage police chief who reviewed the files after the sheriff’s contract ended, believes the decision to ignore the cases was made deliberately by supervisors in Arpaio’s office — and not by individual investigators.

“I know the investigators. I just cannot believe they would wholesale discount these cases. No way,” Louis said. “The direction had to come (from) up the food chain.”

Louis said he believes whoever made the decision knew that illegal immigrants — who are often transient and fear the police — were unlikely to complain about the quality of investigations. He said some cases also involved families here legally.

El Mirage paid the sheriff’s office $2.7 million for a wide range of police protection from 2005 through mid-October 2007, after the city’s police department had been criticized in an audit as poorly organized, loosely supervised and mismanaged.

Although a small number of El Mirage officers continued working there during the period, Arpaio brought in patrol officers and detectives and managers who ran the department.

El Mirage police files obtained by The Associated Press through public records requests establish a pattern of sex-crimes not actually being investigated after the crimes were reported to Arpaio’s office.

In April 2007, a 3-year-old girl was reported molested by her father, an illegal immigrant who cared for the child while her mother was at work. When the mother confronted her husband about the abuse, he cried and swore he’d never do it again.

Yet a few days later, the mother noticed more signs of sexual abuse on her daughter and called for help. After the initial report, that help didn’t come.

The string of unresolved cases left Elizabeth Ditlevson, deputy director for the Arizona Coalition Against Domestic Violence, shaking her head. “My impressions were anger at the system and concern for the people whose cases weren’t addressed,” she said.

According to both Sands and Scott Freeman, a sheriff’s official who heard complaints from then-El Mirage Police Chief Mike Frazier about the quality of the sex-crimes investigations, more than 400 cases countywide had to be reopened. Freeman told outside investigators examining alleged managerial misconduct at Arpaio’s office that a number of arrests were made in the reopened cases.

The April 2011 report on alleged managerial misconduct said the sheriff’s internal effort to determine what had gone wrong with the sex-crimes investigations was twice derailed.

One delay occurred when the male sheriff’s official leading the inquiry was accused of sexual harassment — this by a female supervisor whose portfolio included some of the mishandled cases, according to the report.

Another internal affairs investigation, launched in May 2008, was stopped after the investigator was pulled away at the direction of David Hendershott, then the top aide to Arpaio, to help with another matter. The internal probe was reopened in December 2010 while Hendershott was on medical leave, according to the 2011 summary.

Hendershott’s account conflicted with others.

Hendershott, who has since resigned amid separate misconduct allegations and declined a request by the AP to comment, told investigators the internal affairs inquiry was still in progress when he went on medical leave in 2010.

Still, Hendershott told investigators that the El Mirage Police Department had good reason to be upset about the sex-crimes handled by the sheriff’s office.

The report of the 13-year-old who had been inappropriately touched by her mother’s live-in boyfriend had been faxed to one of Arpaio’s investigators. El Mirage police, who were given back the case about 11 months later, learned that it hadn’t been worked.

When El Mirage police finally tracked down the mother, she said her boyfriend had moved out and that she no longer had contact with him. She and her daughter were in counseling and didn’t want to bring the case to court.

In their follow-up on the case of the 13-year-old attacked by the man claiming to have a broken car, El Mirage police discovered Arpaio’s office hadn’t interviewed the victim.

An El Mirage detective went to the girl’s home just off the city’s main drag. The girl’s uncle said she and her mother weren’t around and took the investigator’s card with a promise to ask them to call.

The mother never called back. She and her daughter’s whereabouts are unknown.

The case of the molested 3-year-old was returned to El Mirage police unworked five months after the initial report. The family’s beige tract home was deserted, the phone disconnected.

High court to review tough Arizona immigration law

By MARK SHERMAN, Associated Press – 8 hours ago
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court stepped into the fight Monday over a tough Arizona law that requires local police to help enforce federal immigration laws — pushing the court deeper into hot, partisan issues of the 2012 election campaign.

The court’s election-year docket now contains three politically charged disputes, including President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul and Texas redistricting.

The debate over immigration already is shaping presidential politics, and now the court is undertaking a review of an Arizona law that has spawned a host of copycat state laws targeting illegal immigrants.

The court will review a federal appeals court ruling that blocked several provisions in the Arizona law. One of those requires that police, while enforcing other laws, question a person’s immigration status if officers suspect he is in the country illegally.

The case is the court’s biggest foray into immigration law in decades, said Temple University law professor Peter Spiro, an expert in that area.

The Obama administration challenged the Arizona law by arguing that regulating immigration is the job of the federal government, not states. Similar laws in Alabama, South Carolina and Utah also are facing administration lawsuits. Private groups are suing over immigration measures adopted in Georgia and Indiana.

“This case is not just about Arizona. It’s about every state grappling with the costs of illegal immigration,” Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer, a Republican, said following the court’s announcement Monday.

Fifty-nine Republicans in Congress, including presidential candidate Michele Bachmann, filed a brief with the court backing the Arizona law.

The immigration case, like the challenge to Obama’s health care overhaul, pits Republican-led states against the Democratic administration in an argument about the reach of federal power. The redistricting case has a similarly partisan tinge to it, with Republicans who control the state government in Texas facing off against Democrats and minority groups that tend vote Democratic.

In the immigration arena, the states say that the federal government isn’t doing enough to address a major problem and that border states are suffering disproportionately.

The issue has been widely discussed by the Republican candidates for president. They have mostly embraced a hard line to avoid accusations that they support any kind of “amnesty” for the some 12 million illegal immigrants estimated to be living in the U.S.

Newt Gingrich was most recently criticized by his opponents for saying he would grant legal status to some with longstanding family and community ties, and Gingrich has since endorsed the South Carolina law that allows police to demand a person’s immigration status. That law is among the four state laws that have been challenged by the administration.

Brewer signed the Arizona immigration measure into law in April 2010. The administration sued three months later to block it from taking effect.

In April, a three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco upheld a federal judge’s ruling halting enforcement of several provisions of the law. Among the blocked provisions: requiring all immigrants to obtain or carry immigration registration papers; making it a state criminal offense for an illegal immigrant to seek work or hold a job and allowing police to arrest suspected illegal immigrants without warrants.

In October, the federal appeals court in Atlanta blocked parts of the Alabama law that forced public schools to check the immigration status of students and allowed police to file criminal charges against people who were unable to prove their citizenship.

Lawsuits in South Carolina and Utah are not as far along.

The administration argued that the justices should have waited to see how other courts ruled on the challenges to other laws before getting involved. Still, following the court’s announcement Monday, White House spokesman Jay Carney said, “We look forward to arguing our point of view in that case when the time comes.”

Spiro, the Temple University immigration expert, said the court easily could have passed on the Arizona case for now. “They could have waited for the more extreme case to come from Alabama, which really outflanked the Arizona law,” Spiro said.

He predicted the court would uphold the police check of immigration status but perhaps not the measure making it a crime to be without immigration documents.

Arguments probably will take place in late April, which would give the court roughly two months to decide the case

Justice Elena Kagan will not take part case, presumably because of her work on the issue when she served in the Justice Department in the Obama administration.

The case is Arizona v. U.S., 11-182.

Copyright © 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.