Former US sheriff has now cost the taxpayers of Arizona $100M

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Former Us Sheriff Has Now Cost The Taxpayers Of Arizona $100M Former Us Sheriff Has Now Cost The Taxpayers Of Arizona $100M
Arizona Sheriff Legal Costs, © AP/Press Association Images
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By Jacques Billeaud Associated Press

Nearly five years after Joe Arpaio was voted out as sheriff of Arizona’s most populous county, taxpayers are covering one of the last major bills from the thousands of lawsuits his headline-grabbing tactics inspired.

Officials in Maricopa County, home to Phoenix, agreed last week to pay $3.1 million to cover the county’s portion of a settlement with a restaurant owner who alleged Arpaio defamed him and violated his rights when raiding his businesses.

The payout takes to $100 million the legal fees, settlements and other costs the county has paid from lawsuits stemming from Arpaio’s six terms over jail deaths, failed investigations of the sheriff’s political enemies and immigration raids of businesses.


Former President Donald Trump pardoned the ex-Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio (Seth Wenig, AP)

That doesn’t include the separate $178 million and counting taxpayers have shelled out in a 2007 racial profiling case that stemmed from Arpaio’s signature traffic patrols against immigrants. Although about 75% of that spending has occurred during his successor’s watch as he works to comply with court-ordered overhauls of the sheriff’s office.

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Michael Manning, a lawyer who won settlements over deaths in Arpaio’s jails and on behalf of county employees investigated by the sheriff, said it was shameful that voters kept re-electing Arpaio as his legal bills piled up.

“They just didn’t care as long as they got the entertainment value,” Mr Manning said. “And it just went on and on.”

Advocates for immigrants have long warned Mr Arpaio should be viewed as a cautionary tale for the long-term financial obligations communities take on when they let local police officers handle immigration enforcement.

The Republican sheriff was first known nationally for jailing people in tents amid Phoenix’s triple-digit summer heat, making them wear pink underwear and using them on old-time chain gangs. His influence in Republican circles grew when he launched immigration crackdowns, something long seen as the duty of federal authorities.


 

Those crackdowns continued until his immigration powers were finally stripped away by the federal government and courts by 2014.

Mr Arpaio’s crushing defeat in 2016 to a Democratic challenger came after he was found in civil contempt of court for ignoring a judge’s order in the profiling case, leading to a more serious 2017 criminal contempt conviction that was later pardoned by President Donald Trump.

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The 89-year-old Mr Arpaio, who lost a 2020 bid to win back his job and is now running for mayor in Fountain Hills, Arizona, said he is proud of the way he ran one of the largest county jail systems in the US.

He pointed out jail operators are often the target of a large volume of lawsuits, and given that he served 24 years as sheriff “$100 million is not unreasonable”.

The bill to taxpayers from the racial profiling case is expected to keep growing, but the former sheriff said he had no regrets about his time in office.

“I’d do it all over again,” Mr Arpaio said.

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