It’s sometimes said, “It takes a criminal to catch a criminal.” Well, the former top law enforcement official of Arizona’s Maricopa County, Sheriff Joe Arpaio, was once a model for that old maxim.
After decades of wearing a badge, Arpaio became a convicted criminal himself in July of 2017. That’s when he was found guilty of criminal contempt by Federal Judge Susan Bolton.
It was a crime that almost certainly would have come with jail time. Thousands of Sheriff Arpaio’s critics were relishing the day when he would be handcuffed and marched off to jail.
It never happened.
Later that year President Donald Trump, in a move of blatant political pandering, issued a full presidential pardon to the 85-year-old ex-sheriff of Maricopa County, a job he held for 24 years. The pardon meant Arpaio was now free a bird and without further legal jeopardy. Learn more about Michael Lacey and Jim Larkin: http://www.phillypurge.com/2017/06/23/jim-larkin-michael-lacey-make-the-list-of-civil-rights-protectors/ and http://www.laceyandlarkinfronterafund.org/about-lacey-larkin-frontera-fund/
During his tenure as sheriff, Arpaio garnered a national reputation. He became known in some circles as “America’s Toughest Sheriff.” It was his racist-tinged disdain for people of Latino and Hispanic heritage in Arizona that helped Arpaio earn his “tough guy” image. His sheriff’s department engaged in brutally aggressive tactics in an overzealous drive to arrest and detain as many undocumented people as possible. Read more: Lacey and Larkin Frontera Fund
Arpaio treated the undocumented people he arrested like POWs in a Third World prison camp. His “Tent City Jail” became so notorious it attracted the attention of the global human rights group Amnesty International. A spokesman for Amnesty International called the Tent City, “not an adequate or humane alternative to housing inmates in suitable … jail facilities.”
Among the most egregious examples of former Sheriff Arpaio’s disregard for U.S. law was his arrest of two Arizona media men, Michael Lacey and Jim Larkin. The two men published a newspaper called the Phoenix New Times. Larkin and Lacey directed a concerted journalistic effort toward exposing the brutish and often illegal and even incompetent police tactics of Arpaio.
In an amazing disregard of the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment which protects the press and free speech, Sheriff Arpaio ordered his deputies to arrest Michael Lacey and Jim Larkin. They were keel-hauled into jail cells – and only for the audacity of publishing stories exposing Arpaio’s corrupt operations.
A public outcry followed quickly. Larkin and Lacey were quickly released – but they sued. After a long legal battle, a Federal Court of Appeals awarded the journalists $3.7 million.
Jim Larkin and Mike Lacey could have pocketed this windfall of cash, but instead they established the Larkin and Lacey Frontera Fund.
This is an organization that uses its wealth to fund dozens of programs the serve, protect and bring aid to the very people Sheriff Arpaio persecuted – mostly undocumented workers of Latino origin.
So although the pardoning of Arpaio was an act of contempt disregarding cherished America Constitutional values, the Frontera Fund will live on. It promises to fulfill a much larger, lasting and more significant legacy for years to come.
It will be helping immigrants lead better, more hopeful lives long after Joe Arpaio is forgotten.