Sheriff Joe Arpaio Admits He Busted Mexicans to "Spite" Critics in 2009 Recording; Evidence Shows He Also Did It for Publicity, Not Legit Enforcement

thomas arpaio 120109.jpg
Image: Ray Stern
Sheriff Joe Arpaio stands next to his ally, former County Attorney Andrew Thomas, during a news conference in 2009 announcing "corruption" in Maricopa County. In a new recording, Arpaio claims he busted Mexicans to "spite" his critics.

News media across the country lit up over the weekend with anti-Sheriff Joe Arpaio stories after a recording surfaced in which Arpaio admits he busted Mexicans to "spite" critics.

Bigots at the Texans For Immigration Reform fundraising rally in September of 2009 laughed as the Maricopa County sheriff described the illegitimate reason for targeting Hispanics in illegal-immigrant roundups.

After critics including local politicians and officials with the U.S. Justice Department "
went after me, we arrested 500 more just for spite," said Arpaio. A couple of days ago, he clarified for the Associated Press that he only regretted not mentioning that he had busted "thousands," and not just 500.

Arpaio has been accused of leading the worst case of racial profiling in a law enforcement agency in U.S. history. The Justice Department, which announced the damning findings against the Sheriff's Office in December, appears ready to sue Arpaio for failing to cooperate in settling the matter.

No local observers should be surprised to hear Arpaio mock his accusers. Arizonans have long been aware that Arpaio's anti-illegal-immigrant crusade has been conducted mainly to pump up his political mojo among right-wingers.

As we noted last week, one of Arpaio's top men, Deputy Chief Frank Munnell, and Arpaio's longtime spokeswoman, Lisa Allen, seem to agree in a secretly made recording that the immigrant round-ups are done for publicity.

Another great example of Arpaio's ulterior motives can be found in the lengthy investigation into whistle-blower Munnell's allegations.

In late 2010, Deputy Chief Brian Sands described to investigators how Arpaio -- by way of his former chief deputy, David Hendershott -- planned a mass roundup of Mexicans as a way to grab headlines.

Sands recounts how as the agency prepared in October of 2008 to conduct a crime sweep in the northwest Valley, Hendershott told one of Sands' lieutenants that "he wanted him to go out and round up as many illegal aliens as he could arrest."

Hendershott was Arpaio's most-trusted go-to guy, so it can be assumed that he was only following the sheriff's orders.

Sands "cautioned" Hendershott that such a large-scale roundup would cause friction with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement bureau.

Hendershott was mainly concerned "that he wanted to see something that would, you know, be very newsworthy out there," according to Sands.

In the recording from Texas, Arpaio can also be heard linking his office's budget battles with the County Board of Supervisors to the bogus corruption charges with which he saddled the Board members.

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