Surprising nobody, Trump issued a presidential pardon for ex-Sheriff Joe Arpaio last week. Arpaio had been
jailed for convicted of criminal contempt and faced up to six months in jail, after he refused to obey a court order “to stop detaining people because he merely suspected them of being undocumented immigrants.”
Trump described Arpaio as a “patriot,” someone who “kept Arizona safe,” and cited his “years of admirable service to our nation.” Arpaio tweeted out his thanks:
Thank you @realdonaldtrump for seeing my conviction for what it is: a political witch hunt by holdovers in the Obama justice department!
— Joe Arpaio (@RealSheriffJoe) August 26, 2017
(Note: Arpaio’s contempt conviction came from U.S. District Judge Susan R. Bolton, a registered independent nominated to the court in 2000 by President Clinton, following a recommendation from Republican senator Jon Kyl of Arizona.)
Trump and Arpaio: Stoking the Birtherism Flames
The Trump/Arpaio relationship goes back years. Arpaio was a strong supporter of Trump’s Birtherism movement. Arpaio assigned a five-man “cold case posse” to investigate Obama’s birth certificate, eventually announcing it was a “computer-generated forgery.” I’m curious how much taxpayer money Arpaio spent on that particular conspiracy theory.
Trump sent him a personally written thank-you note, and praised him on Twitter as well:
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 18, 2012
Trump had Arpaio as a speaker at a campaign rally in 2015, where Arpaio again brought up Obama’s birth certificate.
Arpaio’s “Years of Admirable Service”
Here are some highlights from Arpaio’s “patriotic” career in law enforcement.
- 1993: Arpaio set up a “Tent City” for ~1400 prisoners convicted of non-violent crimes. He literally described it as a concentration camp. Temperatures in the tents reached 145 degrees.
- 1996: Three months after federal investigators warned Arpaio that his jailers were using a “restraint chair” to abuse inmates, inmate Scott Norberg was killed while jailers tried to force him into the chair.
- Paraplegic Richard Post, arrested for possessing one gram of marijuana, was strapped to the restraint chair for six hours for demanding a catheter so he could urinate. The jailers broke his neck.
- 1999: Arpaio and his staff staged a fake assassination attempt and framed James Saville, who ended up spending 4 years in jail. This fraud ended up costing taxpayers well over $1 million.
- 2000: Arpaio set up a “jail cam,” streaming images from the jail on the web. The site noted that viewers “may see violence or sexually inappropriate behavior,” and included a webcam of female inmates using the bathroom.
- 2004: Arpaio’s “inept and bumbling SWAT team” raided a home and burned it to the ground. One member drove the family’s 10-month-old puppy back into the burning home, where it died. “Deputies reportedly laughed as the dog’s owners came unglued as it perished in the blaze.”
- 2011: The Justice Department released findings showing “Wide-ranging Discrimination Against Latinos” under Arpaio’s leadership.
Racial Profiling and Anti-Immigration Efforts
Some of Arpaio’s tactics included:
- Stopping cars and detaining people just because they’re Hispanic, in order to run immigration status checks.
- Defying court orders to stop racial profiling. (This is what got him jailed for contempt.)
- Employing jailers who referred to Latinos as “wetbacks,” “Mexican bitches,” and “stupid Mexicans.”
- “MCSO detention officers have forced Latino prisoners with limited English skills to sign key legal documents printed in English, in which they forfeited key rights.“
- A 2012 Justice Department complaint documents many more examples of discrimination against Latinos under Arpaio’s leadership.
“America’s Toughest Sheriff”
Trump and many of his base love Arpaio for his so-called toughness. But Arpaio isn’t “tough.” He’s a bully and a bigot. He commented recently:
— Fox News (@FoxNews) August 24, 2017
The idea that the law could apply to him — that he could face consequences for knowingly and deliberately defying a court order — seems an alien concept. He thinks himself above the law.
I can see why he and Trump get along so well.
His attitude’s mirror Trump’s own comments about Mexicans as criminals and rapists. And a lot of folks support Arpaio’s anti-immigration crusade, and his determination to make jail so horrible it will deter people from committing crimes.
I’d ask those folks if they believe in the Constitution, and that law enforcement officials should follow it. Specifically, the Eighth Amendment, which states:
“Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishment inflicted.”
Cruel and unusual punishment. Things like…
- Subjecting prisoners to 145-degree tents.
- Refusing insulin to a diabetic prisoner, who died as a result.
- Beating a prisoner to death.
- Creating an environment with a suicide rate of 24 percent.
Or maybe we should look at the Fourth Amendment:
“The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated.”
In other words, if you support pulling people over, raiding their homes, raiding their workplaces, just because they’re Hispanic? Congratulations! You’re not just an asshole, you’re also anti-American and anti-Constitution.
I haven’t even touched on instances of Arpaio using the power of his office to attack and punish his enemies, or his neglect of hundreds of sexual assault cases, or the lack of prenatal care and infant deaths that resulted, or destroying evidence in a civil rights lawsuit, or so much more.
I’m not a lawyer. I don’t know what the future holds for Arpaio in terms of civil lawsuits or state charges or the rest.
But I know what I think of Trump and his base holding Arpaio up as a “patriot.” I know what I think of describing Arpaio’s crimes against his constituents as “admirable service to our nation.”
You can be an American who believes in equality and the Constitution. Or you can support Trump’s pardon of Joe Arpaio.
I don’t see any way you can be both.