Joe Arpaio's Deputy Charley Armendariz Implicated MCSO "Command Staff," Says Activist Lydia Guzman
More than a year before his alleged suicide by hanging on May 8, Maricopa County Sheriff's Office Detective Charley Armendariz reached out to Phoenix human-rights activist Lydia Guzman, telling her he had information to share, and implicating MCSO supervisors in illegal activity.
Guzman says Armendariz approached her on February 28, 2013, as she was giving an interview to a Spanish-language TV news outlet in front of one of Sheriff Joe Arpaio's jails. They went to a local Jack In The Box, where for the next hour, he opened up to her.
"He had just been disciplined or talked to because of some sort of work behavior," Guzman remembers. "He was talking about how his supervisors were ganging up on him...because he told them that he was not going to participate in their illegal activity anymore."
Armendariz was vague on what this "illegal activity" consisted of.
"He said, `You know what goes on in [the MCSO]?'" she recalls. "So I just acted like, oh yes, I do know what's going on."
She says it was the beginning of an unlikely, on-again, off-again, acquaintance, one in which Guzman, a committed anti-Arpaio activist, counseled a troubled member of the MCSO's infamous Human Smuggling Unit, who would, a year and two months later, be arrested on drug charges after barricading himself inside his Phoenix home.
The deceased deputy is the focus of an ongoing investigation by the MCSO. A federal judge has ordered the Sheriff's Office to turn over evidence of Armendariz's allegedly shaking down illegal aliens to both the Maricopa County Attorney's Office and the U.S. Attorney's Office.
Along with pot, heroin, meth, and other illicit drugs found in Armendariz's residence, MCSO deputies discovered a cache of foreign and fake IDs, wallets, and passports; license plates; numerous, never-filed citations; stolen MCSO evidence bags; and more than 900 hours of videotaped traffic stops, captured by Armendariz with dash cams and with an eyeglass camera.
But in early 2013, Guzman knew little of Armendariz. What they had in common was the 2012 civil trial in Melendres v. Arpaio, the ACLU's big racial profiling case against the sheriff.
Both she and Armendariz testified during the trial: Guzman as a witness for the plaintiffs, Armendariz as a witness for the defense. Now here they were, in a fast-food restaurant, with Armendariz sitting across from her, out of uniform, and emotional.
"He kept saying to me, `Lydia, [the plaintiffs' lawyers] didn't ask me the right questions,'" remembers Guzman.
Armendariz told her that he had been instructed not to give up any unnecessary information during the trial. He also claimed he was being monitored. In each case, specifics were not readily offered.