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Arizona's Sheriff Joe Arpaio praises U.S. attorney's office

September 01, 2012|By Paloma Esquivel
  • Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio talks with members of the media Friday night at his offices in downtown Phoenix. Federal authorities said they're closing their abuse-of-power investigation without filing charges.
Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio talks with members of the media Friday… (Dave Seibert / Arizona Republic…)

With the U.S. attorney's office deciding not to file criminal charges against Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio and other current and former members of his department, the Arizona sheriff said Saturday that the office "did a good job" -- and that he would continue to enforce illegal immigration laws.

Assistant U.S. Atty. Ann Birmingham Scheel made the announcement in a short news release Friday evening, ending years of inquiry into allegations of financial misdeeds and abuse of power.

Reached Saturday, Arpaio said: "I'm glad that the FBI and the U.S. attorney’s office did a good job performing their duties, just like I perform my duties.”

His legal troubles aren't yet over. Arpaio, who is seeking a sixth term as sheriff, still faces two civil cases.

He was sued earlier this year by the Justice Department, which accuses him of racially profiling Latinos, abusing Latinos in jails and retaliating against his critics. He has also been sued by civil rights groups representing Latino residents who say they suffered racial profiling during traffic stops authorized by the sheriff. That case went to trial in August and a decision is pending.

The criminal investigation began two years ago at the request of the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors.

In a letter to the county attorney’s office, which was published by the Arizona Republic, Scheel said the investigation focused on three areas of concern raised by the county: the alleged misuse of county credit cards by the sheriff’s office; the alleged misspending of tax money approved for jail-related expenses; and the possibility that the former county attorney and his assistant may have acted criminally when they filed charges against a county judge.

None rose to the level of a federal crime, Scheel said.

On the credit card expenses, the attorney’s office concluded that information provided by the county suggested that the sheriff’s office “was not properly documenting and tracking” expenses but that there was no evidence that crimes had been committed. The issue appeared to have been remedied through additional oversight, according to the letter.

With regard to the jail-related tax money, although the board of supervisors found that the sheriff’s department misspent the money by shifting it from jail expenses to other duties, “there is no evidence suggesting that any of these funds were used for the personal benefit of the MCSO personnel responsible for the misspending,” Scheel wrote.

The final matter was whether former County Atty. Andrew Thomas and his assistant, Lisa Aubuchon, committed perjury when they filed a complaint against Superior Court Judge Gary Donahoe. Thomas was disbarred earlier this year by the State Bar of Arizona, which found that he committed perjury, engaged in conflicts of interest and otherwise violated rules of professional conduct.

But while “the actions at issue raise serious concerns … we don’t believe criminal charges can be proven beyond a reasonable doubt in these circumstance,” the U.S. attorney’s office said.

The office also declined to prosecute other possible crimes, including the violation of constitutional rights, related to the Donahoe case.

In a phone interview Saturday, Arpaio said he was content that the investigation is over.

“This has been going on for four years, this investigation against me and my office for so-called abuse of power and other allegations, and I’m happy that the investigation is completed with no criminal charges relating to my office,” he said. 

He added that he was not “overly concerned” about the pending civil trials.

“It’ll just have to go through the system to see what happens,” he said. "I will continue to enforce all the illegal-immigration laws.”

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paloma.esquivel@latimes.com

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