Sheriff Joe On Trial: 'Tough' Guy Is Looking Pretty Pathetic

Our favorite nativist nutcase in an actual position of authority, Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Maricopa County, has been coming down off the high notes of his dramatic investigation of President Obama's birth certificate the past couple of weeks.

Our favorite nativist nutcase in an actual position of authority, Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Maricopa County, has been coming down off the high notes of his dramatic investigation of President Obama's birth certificate the past couple of weeks. Because he's finally on trial for his racial-profiling policies targeting Latinos in his community.

And it hasn't been much fun for him, as Ray Stern at the Phoenix New Times reports:

Under pointed questioning by Young, Arpaio denied that he equated brown-skinned people with illegal immigrants, as a press release from 2007 demonstrates he did. Young took time to go over a letter received by Arpaio from an anti-immigrant group in which Arpaio had emphasized statements about how police shouldn't be afraid to check the status of day laborers. And Young played a video from another press conference in which Arpaio said he'd have a "pure" program that went after illegal immigrants first, and their suspected crimes second.

But the sheriff made his worst impressions while answering questions about his book, Joe's Law.

Basically, anytime Arpaio was shown some of the blatant bigotry in that book, he blamed it on co-author Len Sherman. And this was despite being read back his testimony from a previous deposition in which he'd said he didn't need to read his own book because he'd written it himself.

Arpaio was forced by Young to back off from a couple of statements in the book, including one in which he wrote that Mexicans don't come to the United States with the same hopes and dreams as people from other countries.. In another part of the book, Young pointed out, Arpaio wrote that second- and third-generation Mexican-Americans were not part of the American "mainstream."

"My co-author wrote that," Arpaio blurted out.

The whole week has gone like that. If his officers were provably bigoted and indulged in nakedly racist policing, why, none of that was HIS doing. He had no knowledge of such things!

As the Arizona Republic put it in an editorial:

Apologists for Arpaio must come to terms with the person they so zealously defend. Either he is America's toughest sheriff, or America's most oblivious sheriff.

Arpaio's attorneys contend that Arpaio's hermetically sealed existence in his own office is intended to avoid micromanagement of professional police work.

"It serves as an insulation against desires and impulses that might not be in the best interest of the community," said attorney Tim Casey.

That runs exactly counter to Arpaio's assertions, repeated endlessly, that his notorious, wasteful "crime-suppression sweeps" through largely Hispanic neighborhoods were conducted precisely because he deemed them in the community's best interests. The very existence of the sweeps was a political statement.

Arpaio and his acolytes either lied to the public about the purpose of those sweeps, or they are lying to the judge now.


Meanwhile, there have been some lively protests and counter-protests.

-- A group of young immigrants was arrested outside the trial after publicly revealing their undocumented status.

-- Some protesters have been outside Arpaio's church, urging the bishop to denounce Arpaio's malfeasance. That in turn has attracted counter-protesters, not to mention disgusted looks from parishioners.

-- The plaintiffs rested yesterday. Now we get to see Arpaio's defense. If it's anything like his birth-certificate investigation, this could get deeply amusing.

About David Neiwert

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