George Gascón Lauds Feds' Discrimination Suit Against Sheriff Joe Arpaio

A clown -- and Ronald McDonald!
The Department of Justice today took the unusual step of suing a sitting U.S. sheriff. Joe Arpaio, the infamous sheriff of Maricopa County, Ariz., is charged with years of systematically discriminating against Latinos and using the power of his office to retaliate against critics.

This paragraph seems as good a place as any to note that Arpaio is alleged to have retaliated against media critics Michael Lacey and Jim Larkin -- executives with the Village Voice Media chain that owns this here paper you're reading. Both were arrested in the middle of the night in 2007 by Arpaio's deputies, which in part spurred an ongoing First Amendment lawsuit.

The Feds' suit, filed today in Phoenix, calls for a federal judge to curtail the alleged anti-Latino discriminatory practices revealed in the course of a three-year Justice Department investigation of Arpaio's department. The suit comes on the heels of Arpaio's steadfast refusal to allow Justice Department monitors within his department following the Feds' claim that Maricopa County sheriffs engaged in widespread racial profiling and discrimination.

The charges come as little surprise to San Francisco district attorney and former police chief George Gascón. As police chief in Mesa, Ariz., Gascón confronted the powerful and popular sheriff. When Arpaio targeted Gascón by sending deputies into Mesa to round up illegal immigrants, Gascón countered by having 132 of his officers monitor the sweep -- leaving the blustering sheriff to appear foolish in the resultant crush of media coverage.

Today Gascón issued a statement on the federal suit:

"When I was Police Chief of Mesa, Arizona, I witnessed blatant acts of racism and racial profiling committed by the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office. During my time there, I raised my concerns with the Justice Department and Congress about the systematic discrimination against Latinos and Sheriff Arpaio's basic disregard for constitutional rights. The Department of Justice's decision to file a lawsuit against Sheriff Arpaio affirms what many of us knew were illegal tactics designed to demonize and intimidate the Latino community. The indictment is a victory not only for the Latino community in Arizona but for all of us in this country who continue to fight for civil rights."

Arpaio has shown no indication of waving the white flag. At a press conference today, he angrily noted "I am not going to surrender my office to the federal government. I will fight this to the bitter end."

The sheriff, who has claimed he is being targeted by President Obama, has had his own fun at the president's expense (and, it would seem, the taxpayers'). The sheriff's "cold case posse" in March concluded that the president's birth certificate is a forgery.

It remains to be seen if Arpaio's lawyers bring up this pertinent matter in the pending case.

Sheriff Joe with Ronald McDonald.JPG
Sheriff Joe Arpaio seems to have the same expression in every photo...

Note: The San Francisco District Attorney's office on Friday, May 11 revised Gascón's statement to note that the Feds did not indict Arpaio but filed a lawsuit against him.

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