They must be clearing out filing cabinets at the Department of Justice. After ending their investigation into the deaths of detainees in CIA custody, they then wrapped up a separate investigation into Joe Arpaio, the Maricopa County, Arizona sheriff suspected of various criminal acts. This particular closed investigation looked at retaliation against political foes:
“After careful review, we do not believe the allegations presented to us are prosecutable as crimes,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Ann Birmingham Scheel, acting on behalf of the DOJ, wrote to Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery, according to multiple reports.
The investigation sought evidence of criminal behavior in the sheriff’s anti-public-corruption squad. Some officials investigated by the squad alleged Arpaio and other members of the sheriff’s and county attorney’s offices targeted them in retaliation for political and legal disagreements. The federal financial probe investigated claims of misuse of county funds.
A separate investigation, from the Civil Rights Division (i.e. the only division of the DoJ that’s been awake the past four years), over racial discrimination in Arpaio’s sheriff’s office remains active. That’s a civil case, whereas this one was criminal. The now-closed case looked into misuse of funds, perjury and civil rights violations, and it lasted four years and included a grand jury impaneling. Federal prosecutors made the announcement in a classic Friday night news dump.
Arpaio, in the midst of a campaign for a sixth term as Maricopa County sheriff, bragged about the closing of the investigation, with supporters of his calling it a “political witch hunt.” I’m not sure that it’s much to brag about to have one of the two federal investigations against you close while the other remains open, but you take what you can get. Arpaio faces individual and class-action lawsuits over racial profiling, as well as federal lawsuits from fellow elected officials over various corruption charges. Settlements totaling over $1 million have been reached in some of the cases.
Local observers expressed shock at the lack of charges.
Former Maricopa County Attorney Rick Romley, who came out of retirement briefly to replace Thomas, worked with the U.S. Attorney’s Office on the case, providing them records and access to key witnesses.
Romley said he was “truly puzzled” by the decision not to prosecute. “To say there was insufficient evidence, with the amount of information that we sent their way, sends a horrible message.”
Susan Schuerman, executive assistant to Maricopa County Supervisor Don Stapley, suggested the decision is an injustice to all who see themselves as victims of an abuse of power by the sheriff.
“Having lived through this and witnessed all of these outrageous behaviors … I’m shocked that no charges would be brought,” she said. “It’s all politics. I think this is bigger than they are (the Justice Department). I think the Justice Department was inept in their handling of this, and I have almost no faith left.”
As for the Justice Department, I wouldn’t be surprised if they started to post lists of all the cases they’ve successfully closed over the years. Forget conviction rates, the “wrapped up without charges” rates must be through the roof! Outside of the Civil Rights Division, unless the DoJ has documentary smoking-gun evidence of crimes, they apparently prefer to spend their working hours putting away papers and playing pinochle rather than holding anyone accountable.