Amer­ica’s most fa­mous — and con­tro­ver­sial — sher­iff

The rise and fall of Ari­zona’s Joe Ar­paio, who now faces a stint in jail

Los Angeles Times - - NEWS - By Matt Pearce matt.pearce@la­times.com Twit­ter: @mattd­pearce

On Mon­day, one of the na­tion’s most fa­mous law­men, for­mer Mari­copa County, Ariz., Sher­iff Joe Ar­paio, be­came a crim­i­nal. The 85-year-old was found guilty of crim­i­nal con­tempt of court for ig­nor­ing a fed­eral judge’s or­der for­bid­ding his depart­ment from tar­get­ing Lati­nos. Here’s a look at Ar­paio’s long and con­tro­ver­sial ca­reer in law en­force­ment.

June 14, 1932: Joseph M. Ar­paio, the son of Ital­ian im­mi­grants, is born; his mother dies dur­ing child­birth. (“They came through El­lis Is­land legally,” Ar­paio later told New Yorker mag­a­zine.) He grows up in Spring­field, Mass., where his fa­ther runs a gro­cery store.

1950: Ar­paio en­lists in the Army af­ter he turns 18, but doesn’t see com­bat in the Korean War. He serves in the Med­i­cal De­tach­ment Di­vi­sion, “where re­port writ­ing skills and in­ter­view­ing tech­niques were crit­i­cal,” he later wrote.

1954: Ar­paio be­comes a po­lice of­fi­cer in Wash­ing­ton, D.C., where he serves three years as a beat cop. He then serves a short stint in the sher­iff ’s depart­ment in Clark County, Nev., where he claims to have stopped Elvis Pres­ley for a traf­fic ci­ta­tion.

1957: Ar­paio joins the U.S. Bu­reau of Nar­cotics, the pre­cur­sor to the Drug En­force­ment Ad­min­is­tra­tion. “The bu­reau was in need of Ital­ian Amer­i­cans will­ing to work un­der­cover and ar­rest fel­low Ital­ians,” Ar­paio later wrote on a cam­paign web­site, adding, “I was up to the task.” Ar­paio worked around the world in lo­cales in­clud­ing Tur­key, Le­banon, South Amer­ica and Mex­ico.

1982: Af­ter a ca­reer span­ning more than two decades, Ar­paio re­tires from the DEA as the agency’s top of­fi­cial in Ari­zona. He and his wife, Ava, open a travel agency in Phoenix.

1992: Ar­paio runs for Mari­copa County sher­iff and de­feats in­cum­bent Tom Ag­nos, whose depart­ment was un­der fire for ex­tract­ing false con­fes­sions in the mas­sacre of six Bud­dhist monks, two young initiates and an el­derly nun in 1991. Ar­paio prom­ises to serve only one term.

1994: Ar­paio starts gain­ing the na­tional lime­light for his brash tech­niques. He mo­bi­lizes a 2,200-mem­ber vol­un­teer posse, which in­cludes lawyers, doc­tors, politi­cians, cor­po­rate ex­ec­u­tives and re­tirees, to pa­trol for pros­ti­tutes and mall crime. He bans cof­fee and movies in the county jail and erects a tent city for in­mates sur­rounded by con­certina-wire fence.

“I’ve got a method to my mad­ness of pub­lic­ity: I want to send a mes­sage to the bad guys,” Ar­paio tells the Los An­ge­les Times in a front-page story. “I want them to know that it is so bad in my jail that they won’t want to com­mit crimes here.”

1995: Ar­paio forces in­mates to wear pink un­der­pants and rein­tro­duces chain gangs. The U.S. Jus­tice Depart­ment starts in­ves­ti­gat­ing jail con­di­tions un­der Ar­paio’s watch.

1996: Polls show Ar­paio, who is run­ning for the first of his many re­elec­tions, is the most pop­u­lar politi­cian in the state. He starts win­ning the at­ten­tion of na­tional Repub­li­cans, in­clud­ing pres­i­den­tial can­di­date Bob Dole, who vis­its the tent city and praises it. “This idea may spread in other sec­tions of the coun­try,” Dole says. “I talked to one of the in­mates who said, ‘I don’t want to come back here. I’ve learned my les­son.’ ” Two months later, hun­dreds of in­mates riot in protest of con­di­tions at the camp.

1997: The Jus­tice Depart­ment sues Mari­copa County, al­leg­ing the use of ex­ces­sive force and mis­treat­ment at the jail, but the suit is dropped.

1999: Mari­copa County set­tles a wrong­ful-death law­suit by pay­ing $8.25 mil­lion to the fam­ily of an in­mate who died af­ter a strug­gle with guards in 1996.

2000: Ar­paio launches a “jail cam” web­site show­ing live-streams of in­mates from in­side the jail. The site re­ceives 3 mil­lion visi­tors and crashes on the first day.

2001: Fol­low­ing com­plaints, Ar­paio turns off one of the jail cam­eras that showed fe­male in­mates us­ing the toi­let, which had been picked up by porn web­sites.

2002: De­spite fa­vor­able polls, Ar­paio de­cides not to run for gov­er­nor of Ari­zona, say­ing, “I just want to go out into the sunset as a law en­force­ment of­fi­cer.”

2004: A court rules that Ar­paio’s jail cam­eras vi­o­late the rights of pre-trial de­tainees, who have not been con­victed of crimes.

2006: With help from his posse of cit­i­zens, Ar­paio uses a state hu­man-traf­fick­ing law to start go­ing af­ter smug­glers bring­ing im­mi­grants into Ari­zona il­le­gally — and also to ar­rest the im­mi­grants. “Let them go to Cal­i­for­nia,” Ar­paio said.

2007: A Mex­i­can ci­ti­zen vis­it­ing the U.S. legally sues Ar­paio af­ter he is de­tained. The lit­i­ga­tion would even­tu­ally be­come a class-action law­suit, one of sev­eral le­gal ac­tions to be taken against Ar­paio in the com­ing years.

2008: Fol­low­ing a law­suit by the Amer­i­can Civil Lib­er­ties Union, a fed­eral judge rules that con­di­tions in Ar­paio’s jail are un­con­sti­tu­tional.

2010: The Jus­tice Depart­ment sues Ar­paio, say­ing his depart­ment was re­fus­ing to co­op­er­ate with an in­ves­ti­ga­tion of whether it dis­crim­i­nated against Lati­nos while try­ing to catch il­le­gal im­mi­grants. Re­ports note that some of Ar­paio’s deputies and vol­un­teers stop peo­ple for mi­nor in­frac­tions and then ask them for their cit­i­zen­ship sta­tus. Fed­eral of­fi­cials say Ar­paio was the first lo­cal law en­force­ment of­fi­cial in 30 years to refuse to pro­vide doc­u­ments in a fed­eral civil rights in­quiry. Ar­paio turns over the in­for­ma­tion af­ter a set­tle­ment a year later.

2011: A fed­eral judge or­ders Ar­paio and his deputies not to racially pro­file Lati­nos.

2012: The Jus­tice Depart­ment sues Ar­paio again, al­leg­ing a pat­tern of il­le­gal dis­crim­i­na­tion against Lati­nos. Ar­paio wins re­elec­tion by only a few per­cent­age points. Also, Ar­paio an­nounces that vol­un­teer in­ves­ti­ga­tors work­ing for him have con­cluded that Pres­i­dent Obama’s birth cer­tifi­cate is not le­git­i­mate.

2013: In re­sponse to a class-action law­suit filed by the ACLU, a fed­eral judge rules that Ar­paio’s deputies il­le­gally pro­filed Lati­nos.

2015: The Jus­tice Depart­ment and Ar­paio par­tially set­tle some of the claims in the 2012 law­suit.

2016: Ar­paio en­dorses Don­ald Trump for pres­i­dent, and Trump re­sponds that he has “great re­spect” for the sher­iff. A fed­eral judge finds Ar­paio and some of his top deputies in civil con­tempt of court on sus­pi­cion of con­tin­u­ing to tar­get Lati­nos, and fed­eral pros­e­cu­tors charge Ar­paio with crim­i­nal con­tempt of court. Ar­paio loses his bid for re­elec­tion af­ter six terms in of­fice to for­mer Phoenix Po­lice Sgt. Paul Pen­zone.

2017: In a crim­i­nal bench trial, Ar­paio is found guilty of de­fy­ing a fed­eral judge’s or­der to stop racially pro­fil­ing Lati­nos. He plans to ap­peal, say­ing he was wrong­fully de­nied a trial by jury, which he be­lieves would have found him in­no­cent. He faces up to six months in jail. His sen­tenc­ing is later this year.

Ross D. Franklin As­so­ci­ated Press

SHER­IFF JOE AR­PAIO in Phoenix in 2008. “I’ve got a method to my mad­ness of pub­lic­ity: I want to send a mes­sage to the bad guys,” he said in 1994.

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