How Trump Just Took a Dump on Amer­ica

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Trump’s par­don of Joe Ar­paio is a hor­rific crime against Amer­ica.

While much of the United States watched in hor­ror as one of the most cat­a­strophic hur­ri­canes in his­tory was to make land­fall in Texas, Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump par­doned one of the worst state crim­i­nals Ari­zona has ever seen. That was Au­gust 25, 2017.

Di­rect dam­age from Hur­ri­cane Har­vey could end up cost­ing many lives and as much as $180 bil­lion in dam­age, ac­cord­ing to cur­rent es­ti­mates. The par­don of Joe Ar­paio, while it won’t cost as many lives or as much money, will also have far-reach­ing and dam­ag­ing im­pli­ca­tions.

Joe Ar­paio was and is one of the United States’ worst racists ever to be elected to pub­lic of­fice. While serv­ing as the Sher­iff of Mari­copa County, Ari­zona over a pe­riod of 24 years, his con­sis­tent abuse of power was well­known, not just lo­cally but across the coun­try. He also rev­eled in that abuse of power, re­fer­ring to him­self as “Amer­ica’s Tough­est Sher­iff”, a self-pro­claimed moniker that for him seemed to jus­tify any­thing he did – and to give him the right to op­er­ate out­side the bound­aries of the law. His most no­to­ri­ous prac­tice was that of racial pro­fil­ing, which the U.S. De­part­ment of Jus­tice had con­cluded was the worst record of racial pro­fil­ing in U.S. his­tory.

Th­ese in­cluded al­most two decades of go­ing af­ter po­ten­tial il­le­gals in the 2000s and 2010s. They in­volved con­duct­ing traf­fic stops which Ar­paio’s of­fice claimed were only to en­force immigration laws, stop­ping peo­ple only be­cause they ap­peared to be Latino. In re­lated sweeps, Ar­paio’s po­lice would con­duct raids tar­get­ing just His­panic neigh­bor­hoods, again on the pre­text that they were pre­vent­ing il­le­gals from stay­ing in the coun­try. Then, with no au­thor­ity to hold those his peo­ple had ar­rested, he kept them in jail with­out charges, then had his deputies turn over those he had il­le­gally seized to Fed­eral Immigration and Cus­toms En­force­ment or Bor­der Pa­trol Of­fi­cials, who would then take steps to pros­e­cute them.

The Amer­i­can Civil Lib­er­ties Union sued to de­fend many of those Ar­paio and his deputies had gone af­ter as part of the pro­fil­ing. Those peo­ple in­cluded many U.S. ci­ti­zens who were il­le­gally stopped or ha­rassed just be­cause they looked His­panic, in a grotesque abuse of Con­sti­tu­tional Rights.

A num­ber of civil law­suits found Ar­paio and his peo­ple

guilty of racial pro­fil­ing in many of th­ese cases. There were also other law­suits. Most of the cases were set­tled through pay­offs and with no ad­mis­sion of guilt. The ev­i­dence of guilt in the pay­offs put out by the state to pro­tect Ar­paio and al­low him to con­tinue his wrong­do­ing, how­ever, was high. The Phoenix New Times es­ti­mates that over $140 mil­lion of state funds were used to pay fines and cover lit­i­ga­tion ex­penses just for th­ese types of cases alone.

Ar­paio’s crimes were not lim­ited to th­ese alone.

In­ad­e­quate In­ves­ti­ga­tion and Pros­e­cu­tion of Sex Crimes

There were over 400 cases of sex­ual as­sault, many in­volv­ing vic­tims who were the chil­dren of un­doc­u­mented im­mi­grants, that Ar­paio’s of­fice some­how could not take the time to look into prop­erly --- be­tween 2005 and 2007. Th­ese cases were brought up by both The East Val­ley Tribune and the As­so­ci­ated Press. Many of th­ese crimes were re­ported in El Mi­rage, a mid­dle-class sub­urb of Phoenix which had lost its own Po­lice De­part­ment in 2015 and Ar­paio’s Sher­iff’s De­part­ment was sup­posed to han­dle polic­ing. When the lo­cal po­lice force was put back in place, those who took over found that many sen­si­tive cases there, with a sig­nif­i­cant per­cent­age filed by il­le­gal im­mi­grants, had never been looked into at all. Among those cases was the bru­tal as­sault on a 13-year old girl who opened the door to a stranger look­ing to make a phone call, was knocked un­con­scious and raped. There were also at least 32 re­ported child mo­lesta­tions, in­clud­ing one in­volv­ing a vic­tim around 2 years old.

Even­tu­ally a ma­jor case was filed against Ar­paio, re­lated to the March 7, 2007, rape of Sab­rina Mor­ri­son, a 13-year old girl suf­fer­ing from a men­tal dis­abil­ity, by her un­cle. The ter­ri­fied girl re­ported the case the next day to her teacher, who then called in the Mari­copa County Sher­iff’s Of­fice (MCSO). A rape kit was taken at the time, but the de­tec­tive as­signed to the case said that there were no ob­vi­ous signs of sex­ual as­sault, no se­men or signs of trauma. Branded a liar by the po­lice and her fam­ily, she ended up be­ing raped many times more by the un­cle, who said he would kill her if she did any­thing. She even­tu­ally be­came preg­nant from the as­saults and, via a se­ries of events, the orig­i­nal rape case she had filed was re­opened. It was then dis­cov­ered the orig­i­nal rape kit did show the pres­ence of se­men, in di­rect con­tra­dic­tion to the de­tec­tive in Ar­paio’s of­fices. In Au­gust 2012, Sab­rina Mor­ri­son filed a no­tice of claim against Ar­paio and Mari­copa County for gross neg­li­gence for $3.5 mil­lion.

Not long af­ter, an in­ter­nal memo sur­faced from one of the de­tec­tives as­signed to the girl’s case, blam­ing its mis­han­dling on a high case load, only three de­tec­tives be­ing avail­able, and those three of­ten be­ing pulled off to in­ves­ti­gate other things. County su­per­vi­sors re­sponded with more than $600,000 to fund six ad­di­tional de­tec­tives for the sex crimes squad. Later Sher­iff’s ad­min­is­tra­tors could nei­ther ex­plain where those hires were even­tu­ally made or even what hap­pened to the money which had been al­lo­cated for the ad­di­tional sex crime staff.

Sher­iff Joe Ar­paio’s re­sponse, when ap­proached by the press about th­ese sex crimes, was sim­ply that, “If there were any vic­tims, I apol­o­gize to those vic­tims.” No apol­ogy or ac­cep­tance of any re­spon­si­bil­ity in th­ese mat­ters was ever made.

Abuse of In­mates Un­der His Ju­ris­dic­tion

Ar­paio also made a name for him­self for his in­hu­mane treat­ment of in­mates in jails un­der his do­main.

Among his many crit­i­cized ac­tions were the cre­ation of a “Tent City”, which Ar­paio set up start­ing in 1993 to be used for con­victed and sen­tenced pris­on­ers of the Mari­copa County Jail. Ar­paio proudly de­scribed as a “con­cen­tra­tion camp”, where tem­per­a­tures reached as high as 145 de­grees F dur­ing a 118 de­grees F heat wave in Phoenix. Some in­mates com­plained that fans near their beds were not work­ing and their shoes were melt­ing from the heat. Ar­paio’s re­sponse was to tell them, “"It's 120 de­grees in Iraq and the sol­diers are liv­ing in tents and they didn't com­mit any crimes, so shut your mouths!”

Amnesty In­ter­na­tional filed suit against Ar­paio’s tent city jail ex­ten­sion, say­ing that it was not “an ad­e­quate or hu­mane al­ter­na­tive to hous­ing in­mates in suit­able jail fa­cil­i­ties”.

In 1995, Ar­paio put in place chain gangs made up of fe­male in­mates. He also in­sti­tuted a bizarre pol­icy of re­quir­ing in­mates to wear pink un­der­wear be­cause it avoided in­mates’ steal­ing the un­der­wear after­wards. Ar­paio claimed the pol­icy had saved the county ma­jor amounts of money.

Il­le­gal Tar­get­ing of Po­lit­i­cal Op­po­nents

With so many le­gal is­sues filed against Ar­paio, he even­tu­ally drew po­lit­i­cal fire from a va­ri­ety of op­po­nents as he ran for of­fice. Be­tween 2008 and 2010, he and for­mer Mari­copa County At­tor­ney An­drew Thomas ran their own slan­der and at­tack cam­paigns on those who at­tempted to stand up against him, claim­ing cor­rup­tion against those they went af­ter. They worked to­gether to go af­ter judges, county su­per­vi­sors and ad­min­is­tra­tors

who stood in Ar­paio’s way of do­ing just about any­thing. Th­ese at­tacks re­sulted in crim­i­nal charges filed by Ar­paio and his cronies against a num­ber of in­di­vid­u­als on trumped-up charges, law­suits against the Mari­copa Board of Su­per­vi­sors, and even a fed­eral civil-rack­e­teer­ing suit against the su­per­vi­sors, four judges, and at­tor­neys who worked with the county.

Thomas and Ar­paio even went so far as to pull to­gether a grand jury to in­dict a num­ber of judges in Mari­copa County. The grand jury slammed back on Ar­paio and Thomas and or­dered the two to stop any fur­ther in­ves­ti­ga­tion of those tar­geted here.

They did con­tinue, how­ever, and lost ev­ery sin­gle case they filed in their ha­rass­ment. For for­mer Mari­copa At­tor­ney Thomas, his own abuse of power in th­ese cases re­sulted in him be­ing dis­barred by a dis­ci­plinary panel of the Ari­zona Supreme Court. In its rul­ing against him – which one could also con­clude should also have ap­plied to his part­ner “Sher­iff Joe” – it said its panel found “clear and con­vinc­ing ev­i­dence” that Thomas brought ma­li­cious and un­founded crim­i­nal and civil charges against po­lit­i­cal op­po­nents. As the panel con­cluded, “Were this a crim­i­nal case, we are con­fi­dent the ev­i­dence would es­tab­lish this con­spir­acy be­yond a rea­son­able doubt.”

Ar­paio and Thomas tar­get­ing such high-pow­ered le­gal in­di­vid­u­als in such a reck­less man­ner cre­ated a mess for the state. 11 in­di­vid­u­als filed law­suits and/or le­gal claims against Ar­paio and Thomas, and 11 won. The payout awards to those 11 in­cluded:

Gary Don­a­hoe, re­tired Su­pe­rior Court judge: $1,275,000 set­tle­ment. County le­gal ex­penses: $767,127.

Ken­neth Fields, re­tired Su­pe­rior Court judge: $100,000 set­tle­ment. County le­gal ex­penses: $81,040.

Bar­bara Mun­dell, re­tired Su­pe­rior Court judge: $500,000 set­tle­ment. County le­gal ex­penses: $134,273.

Anna Baca, re­tired Su­pe­rior Court judge: $100,000 set­tle­ment. County le­gal ex­penses: $112,588.

Stephen Wet­zel, for­mer county tech­nol­ogy di­rec­tor: $75,000 set­tle­ment. County le­gal ex­penses: $107,647.

Sandi Wilson, deputy county man­ager and county bud­get di­rec­tor: $122,000 set­tle­ment. County le­gal ex­penses: $458,318.

Don Sta­p­ley, for­mer county su­per­vi­sor: $3.5 mil­lion set­tle­ment. County $1,682,020.

Mary Rose Wil­cox, county su­per­vi­sor: $975,000 set­tle­ment, plus $9,938 in court-or­dered le­gal costs. County le­gal ex­penses to date: over $375,442.

Susan Schuer­man, Sta­p­ley’s ex­ec­u­tive as­sis­tant: $500,000 set­tle­ment. County le­gal ex­penses: $200,201.

Con­ley Wolf­swinkel, Sta­p­ley’s busi­ness as­so­ciate: $1,400,000 set­tle­ment. County le­gal ex­penses: $1,586,152.

Andy Ku­nasek, county su­per­vi­sor: $123,110 set­tle­ment. County le­gal ex­penses: $1,150.

There were other cases filed against Ar­paio for sim­i­lar ac­tions, in­clud­ing a find­ing by Pima County Su­pe­rior Court Judge John S. Leonardo that Ar­paio "mis­used the power of his of­fice to tar­get mem­bers of the Board of Su­per­vi­sors for crim­i­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tion”. Oth­ers in­cluded wrong­ful ar­rest and en­trap­ment, and mul­ti­ple abuse-of-power cases.

The Racial Pro­fil­ing Cases

In the racial pro­fil­ing cases that were the sub­ject of Ar­paio’s con­vic­tion, they go back to 2005. Then he and his deputies be­gan reg­u­larly con­duct­ing sat­u­ra­tion pa­trols and immigration sweeps, tar­get­ing Latino neigh­bor­hoods. Th­ese and other il­le­gal immigration sweeps even­tu­ally re­sulted in a num­ber of law­suits, one of which in­volved the use of racial pro­fil­ing in traf­fic stops.

Although the in­ves­ti­ga­tion was con­tin­u­ing, Judge Snow, a district judge, found that Ar­paio’s racially-based traf­fic stops vi­o­lated con­sti­tu­tional law and or­dered it stopped. The United States Court of Ap­peals for the Ninth Cir­cuit even­tu­ally found that the poli­cies and prac­tices used in th­ese stops were also dis­crim­i­na­tory, in vi­o­la­tion of the Fourth and Four­teenth amend­ments of the Con­sti­tu­tion. That or­der came down in late 2013.

Af­ter that or­der, Ar­paio was dis­cov­ered dur­ing a train­ing ses­sion for the MCSO telling those he was ‘train­ing’ that, “we don't racially pro­file. I don't care what ev­ery­body says." Judge Snow then con­vened a hear­ing in March 2014 where he blasted Ar­paio, say­ing he had “de­fied and even mocked his or­der to stop sin­gling out Lati­nos dur­ing rou­tine pa­trols, traf­fic stops and work­place raids." He or­dered Ar­paio and his staff to send out a let­ter cor­rect­ing Ar­paio’s bo­gus state­ment, and re­quired it to be dis­trib­uted to all MCSO Deputies.

Two days later Ar­paio sent out a fundrais­ing let­ter to his

con­stituents, and com­plained of ‘Ram­pant UN­FOUNDED charges of racism and racial pro­fil­ing in my of­fice.” Judge Snow’s re­sponse to the charges was fu­ri­ous:

"I want to be care­ful and say that the Mari­copa County Sher­iff's Of­fice has used race – has il­le­git­i­mately used race as a fac­tor, and to the ex­tent that con­sti­tutes racial pro­fil­ing, that's what it is and that's what I found and the sher­iff is say­ing that peo­ple have wrong­fully ac­cused him of that as of last Wed­nes­day, which was af­ter the meet­ing in which he was here.

"So to the ex­tent that I have a sher­iff, who I'm not go­ing to pro­hibit from mis­char­ac­ter­iz­ing my or­der pub­licly, to the ex­tent that I have an MCSO that is rife with a mis­un­der­stand­ing of my or­der and a mis­char­ac­ter­i­za­tion of it when they are the peo­ple that have to un­der­stand it and im­ple­ment it, I have grave con­cerns..."

Be­hind the scenes, Ar­paio ap­par­ently did what he al­ways did with his po­lit­i­cal en­e­mies. Ac­cord­ing to the Phoenix New Times, he ini­ti­ated a crim­i­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tion of Judge Snow as well as the U.S. De­part­ment of Jus­tice.

Even­tu­ally the con­tin­u­ing lies and bad blood caught up with Ar­paio, how­ever, con­clud­ing with him be­ing con­victed of mis­de­meanor crim­i­nal con­tempt for re­fus­ing to obey a court or­der block­ing him from con­tin­u­ing his racial pro­fil­ing ac­tions. He was even­tu­ally ex­pected to serve six months in prison for that of­fense.

Com­pared to all Ar­paio has done in his ca­reer in vi­o­la­tion of the law, this was only a small con­vic­tion. Some have likened it to the case of no­to­ri­ous Chicago crime fig­ure Alphonse Capone, who, de­spite years of gun-run­ning, il­le­gal boot­leg­ging, many mur­ders, pros­ti­tu­tion rings, and a reign of ter­ror in many other ways, was even­tu­ally only con­victed in a way that ‘stuck’ by trap­ping him for not declar­ing all his in­come. Ar­paio’s six months in jail would also have been a small price to pay for what he had done, but at least there would have been some vin­di­ca­tion for those he had harmed.

Prior to the close of the trial against Ar­paio, Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump al­legedly asked his col­leagues at the De­part­ment of Jus­tice if there was a way for the DOJ to or­der a halt to the pros­e­cu­tion pro­ceed­ings. He was ap­par­ently ad­vised not to try it. If he had, it might have yet pro­vided an­other ob­struc­tion of jus­tice claim against him, so he is lucky in this case of that ad­vice, at least.

So the Pres­i­dent waited un­til the trial was over and pre­lim­i­nary sen­tenc­ing for Ar­paio was sug­gested at six months in jail. He would have re­ceived his fi­nal sen­tenc­ing on Oc­to­ber 5. Trump par­doned him on the af­ter­noon of Au­gust 25, un­der cover of the dark­ness of Hur­ri­cane Har­vey bear­ing down on a de­fense­less Texas. Trump had pre­vi­ously tele­graphed his likely de­ci­sion to par­don, af­ter hav­ing made pre­vi­ous state­ments prais­ing the multi-decades long crim­i­nal ac­tions of “Sher­riff Joe” as just up­hold­ing the law.

The par­don elec­tri­fied the na­tion. One civil rights leader com­mented on what hap­pened as the equiv­a­lent of Trump “spit­ting in our face”. The ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the im­mi­grant jus­tice group Puente said Trump’s par­don showed how clearly Trump was lin­ing up with white su­prem­a­cists.

Alejandra Gomez, a di­rec­tor of LUCHA, Liv­ing United for Change in Ari­zona, a civil rights group founded in 2009, de­scribed Trump’s de­ci­sion as a fur­ther ex­am­ple of “the ero­sion of our democ­racy”. She went on to call it “the de­hu­man­iza­tion of our fam­i­lies”, say­ing that “Trump has sent a mes­sage from day one of his cam­paign that he was go­ing to up­hold white supremacy and racism”.

This is just one more of many dis­crim­i­na­tory at­tacks Trump has lev­eled on Amer­ica and Amer­i­cans. Started with his pub­lic de­nun­ci­a­tion of Barack Obama as not an Amer­i­can and even im­ply­ing he was of Is­lamic faith, to his cam­paign tar­get­ing both il­le­gal Mex­i­can im­mi­grants and Mus­lims as evil, to his back­ing of the white su­prem­a­cists in the ugly and deadly Char­lottesville de­ba­cle, Trump has proven his con­tempt for those who are dif­fer­ent than he is.

One can only hope that Ar­paio will now be charged for some of the crimes they were never able to con­vict him of, and this time put him away for many years.

Photo by Ioso­nounafo­to­cam­era,

Photo by Paula Kir­man,

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