Saturday, April 24, 2010

Dispatch from the Inferno State: Freedom Fucked Over by Fascists while Democratic Dingbats Doze

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-by Doug Kahn

I’m a resident of Florida but I travel back and forth to my house in Scottsdale AZ because my teenaged kids live a couple of blocks away with their mom. 

I’ve avoided getting involved in the kind of activist politics I’m used to, and it’s because I’m afraid of drawing local attention (Sheriff Joe Arpaio and the rest of them) to my kids. I’ve never had this feeling before; the authorities here are absolutely lawless. Look up "Arpaio" in archive articles at Phoenix's New Times and you'll see what I mean.

The MCSO (Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office) uses physical intimidation against anyone they see as a critic. They’ve parked unmarked cars across the street from the home of the State Attorney General (Terry Goddard). Maricopa County residents have paid tens of millions in lawsuit settlements because of use of force in Arpaio’s lockup (a tent city, inmates forced to wear pink underwear-- not kidding).

Item: Last year Arpaio and County Attorney Andy Thomas filed a civil RICO lawsuit against all the Maricopa County Supervisors, four of the state Judges for the Maricopa County jurisdiction, plus various county employees, supposedly over corruption in building a new courthouse office building in Phoenix. (Dropped 2 weeks ago, Thomas resigned and is running for state AG.) Not one shred of evidence was ever offered. Item: County Supervisor Don Stapley was arrested in the county parking structure in Phoenix and booked, because they filed charges against him related to non-disclosure of financial transactions on disclosure forms.

I’ve been feeling guilty about being so negative about Phoenix in my last post, so I’m going to include some good things about Arizona this time. Find these positive items sprinkled through the post, and if I can figure out how to do it, they’ll be flagged with a little star, in honor of the fact that every Arizonan (or visitor, I guess) can now deputize him/herself and carry a loaded firearm, hidden or not, without getting a permit. (This might not be a good idea at Sky Harbor Airport.)

If you’ve read any news recently you know Arizona has been receiving very bad vibes from people who live in other, saner states. I admit I laughed when Stephen Colbert said that none of the things we’ve done to try and stop illegal immigration has worked; not even lining the border with our crappiest states. Texas is one fucked up place, for sure. I learned something watching that segment online: during allergy season, when the pollen count is extremely high, snorting coffee out through your nose doesn’t clear your sinuses.

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Former Secretary of State Jan Brewer (Republican), who became Governor when Janet Napolitano (Democrat) bailed out of the Inferno State and became Secretary of Deutschland Security, just now signed a law (SB 1070) requiring everyone to carry ‘papers’ with them at all times, or face being locked up in Obergruppenfuhrer Arpaio’s tent city jail. (There is no Lieutenant Governor in Arizona, due to the fact that the people running this state have pretty much always been kind of clueless. When a vacancy occurs, the Secretary of State becomes Governor, but remains responsible for hosting diplomatic dinners with lobbyists from sovereign corporations, and for receiving officially proferred baksheesh.)

SB 1070 basically says you can be stopped on suspicion of being illegal, and jailed if you’re not carrying identification proving yourself to be here legally. Be aware: out-of-state driver’s licenses are not valid proof, because some states allow undocumented immigrants to get a driver’s license. (Your best bet is a certified copy of your birth certificate, especially if your surname is Obama. Don’t laminate.) Of course the law won’t stand up in court for a moment, and there’ll be a restraining order in place in days. Its basic idea is that you are violating the state trespassing statutes if you’re on public or private property without documentation.

*Big plus about driving here: you can change lanes in the middle of an intersection. In fact, you can make a U-turn at a red light here. (God, is anyone going to believe this stuff?) Where the speed limit is 55mph, if you get a speeding ticket for anything less than 65mph, you are cited for “Waste of a Finite Resource, Arizona Revised Statutes 28-702-01.” $15, and no points on your license. Not that I’ve ever been ticketed; I’m very careful never to drive under 65mph.

This last item is a relic of the national 55 mph speed limit, instituted in part to avoid another disastrous oil embargo. You may remember the lines at gas stations. (1973?) Well, these Arizonans really are a caution; they wouldn’t go along with national policy then, either, and found a way to avoid the threatened cut-off of federal highway funds by making the speed limit an openly defied joke. You can still pass a State Police vehicle at 64 mph with no consequences. Not for people with high blood pressure; my pulse must have gone over 120, and I still got that flashing-light-in-the-mirror pit-of-the-stomach free-fall.

We need outside help! Janet Napolitano never crossed Arpaio; she endorsed him when he ran for reelection. Supposedly several federal grand juries are hearing evidence on profiling and on abuse of authority (the RICO lawsuit etc.) but where’s the action? I should be at the protests in downtown Phoenix but I’m fearful of being taken to the county lockup; really.

I don’t suppose it proves anything, because I might not be the same person I used to be, but I’ve been arrested a few times. Once a group of us were protesting the eviction of seniors from affordable housing (so the owner could build condos overlooking downtown Seattle), and occupied the site, trying to stop a crane with a wrecking ball. My position was on the first target, a concrete wall next to the parking lot. I remember wondering if they might start demolishing anyway, but being a reckless and impulsive individual is useful at times, and my jaw really got set when the Reverend led the group in ‘We Shall Not Be Moved’. Of course, right after that they moved off the property. The ball swung, the wall crumbled; I hopped onto the wrecking outfit to discuss the finer points of the situation with the crane operator, and one thing led to another (handcuffs). Joe Arpaio’s goons scare me.

Who Can Help?

Our National Rhetorician-in-Chief, at a swearing-in ceremony for new citizens recently, waxing eloquent:
“Our failure to act responsible at the federal level will only open the door to irresponsibility by others. That includes, for example, the recent efforts in Arizona, which threaten to undermine basic notions of fairness that we cherish as Americans, as well as the trust between police and their communities that is so crucial to keeping us safe. In fact, I’ve instructed members of my administration to closely monitor the situation and examine the civil rights and other implications of this legislation. But if we continue to fail to act at the federal level, we will continue to see misguided efforts opening up around the country.”

Inspiring words. How about ordering Napolitano, who runs Immigration, to immediately de-certify Sheriff Joe’s torture pen?

We don’t know how many thousands of people have been arrested (even for minor misdemeanors, people who haven’t even been charged with a crime) and immediately strip-searched by the armed mob we know as the MCSO. Not in private either; groups of people standing around naked. A class action lawsuit has been brought to court. (My memory isn’t what it once was; can anyone out there tell me why I seem to recall reading about people being forced to strip naked and stand in a room with no furniture?)

From the Phoenix New Times:
...[T]he attorneys on the case, led by Danny Ortega at Roush, McCracken, Guerrero, Miller & Ortega, have discovered documents showing that the Sheriff’s Office has had a written policy requiring these invasive searches for all new detainees. The policy has been in place for at least three years, they say.

“The record is undisputed,” Ortega wrote in one court filing, “that Maricopa has a policy and practice, since at least August 26, 2006, and continuing today, of having its Detention Officers search all detainees... without regard to individualized reasonable suspicion. These searches take place in group settings with other detainees, who are also naked.”

Of course we’ve all grown so accustomed to the sheriff ignoring the law that I suppose none of this is very shocking. Of course Arpaio’s jails are out of control. Of course the Constitution gets chucked out the window...

Across the country, county after county has been slapped with multimillion-dollar penalties for just this sort of setup.

New York City was forced to ban the practice of stripping detainees accused of minor offenses in 2001 after a lawsuit led to a nearly $50 million settlement. More recently, Philadelphia County courts agreed to stop strip-searching inmates charged with minor offenses-- and were forced to pay $5.9 million, or $1,400 per detainee. And Nassau County, New York, and Cook County, Illinois, recently lost lawsuits over the same issue. (It’s still unclear how much each of those suits will cost taxpayers.)

To date, lawsuits over wrongful deaths and the mistreatment of inmates on Arpaio’s watch have cost the county an estimated $43 million, according to Maricopa County’s risk management office. And once you’ve wasted that much money, well, a few million bucks in payments to detainees must seem like chump change.

The point is, they lay hands on people for no reason other than to intimidate. It’s full-on unchecked police power, assisted by the Maricopa County Attorney (aforementioned Thomas). Isn’t that known as fascism? Don’t think that what you’ve read everywhere is exaggerated. This is nothing; once Arpaio is removed, the real abuses will fully surface.

Napolitano needs to revoke the Immigration Department’s approval of the county lockup as an immigration detention facility, and hundreds of sheriff’s deputies in the jail as ICE deputies. The fact that this never happened at the annual review is indicative; the ICE authority to arrest was removed from Arpaio’s deputies, but they ignore the law and arrest anyway. And when any police officer from any town in Maricopa County (including Phoenix) takes a person into custody, they get dumped at the County lockup, because Napolitano wouldn’t take away their certification.

*It’s summertime in Scottsdale. You’re doing errands. You drive from the dry cleaner, to the supermarket, to the Load ’n’ Lock (ammo), and as long as you leave your Starbucks latté in the cup holder in your car, it never gets cold.

The jail doesn’t meet medical standards. The Phoenix New Times last January:
Who shot down the sheriff (metaphorically speaking), and for the second time, no less? The National Commission on Correctional Health Care, which as of Friday rejected an appeal of an earlier decision yanking Joe’s jails’ accreditation. In September the same commission said Joe’s gulags don’t meet national standards. The county pleaded for a second chance. So NCCHC did another inspection in November. And surprise, surprise, Arpaio’s facilities were once more found lacking.

State law clearly states the jail has to meet national standards, required to provide proof of certification, but the state won’t enforce this on Sheriff Joe. Who would be the guy to do it? State Attorney General Terry Goddard, Democrat. Running for Governor, and running scared. But why pick on him? We’ve gotten zero help from House members Harry Mitchell, Ann Kirkpatrick, Gabrielle Giffords. Democrats. They haven’t mentioned the situation in public even once. In contrast: Raul Grijalva is one amazingly principled and resolute individual.

Here’s the guy running the Arizona Legislature, Russell Pearce, the one who made sure his Republican peanut gallery got SB 1070 passed, speaking in September 2006:


“We know what we need to do. In 1953, Dwight D. Eisenhower put together a task force called ‘Operation Wetback.’ He removed, in less than a year, 1.3 million illegal aliens. They must be deported.”

Yeah but don’t you know how wrong it is to be a racist, and use terms like wetback?
“In the ‘50s it was common. In the ‘60s it was common. You don’t use it today because people have tried to make it offensive. Things change, and you know what? Who cares? Whatever they want to be called, I’m OK with that.”

They? There is no they. There’s only we.

Okay, back to Arpaio’s Mob. In December 2008, 4 people who had been called to the podium at a County Board of Supervisor’s meeting to make a statement during the public comment period, and one other person who applauded their statement, were arrested by Sheriff’s deputies. During the meeting. Yes. The public was trespassing at a public meeting of the County Supervisors.

Four MCSA/ACORN Members Freed after Being Arrested for Applauding
After spending about 12 hours in jail, four members of ACORN and MCSA (Maricopa Citizens for Safety and Accountability) who had been arrested for applauding during a public Board of Supervisors Meeting were released last night around 10:30 p.m. Two were released on $25 bonds, the other two were released on their own recognizance.

According to Arizona ACORN Director Monica Sandschafer, one of the four arrestees, the charges against her and Tucson ACORN director Kristy Theilen were for criminal trespass and disorderly conduct. Because she and Theilen had been arrested just this Monday during a peaceful protest outside a BOS executive meeting, a lawyer for the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office argued at their hearing that their bond should be as high as $3,600. The MCAO attorney also wanted their Monday release revoked, but the judge declined both suggestions, citing a little thing known as freedom of speech, and granting Sandschafer and Theilen bail at $25.

Asked why she and the other three activists were arrested for applauding another speaker during the public comments section of the BOS meeting, when the video of the meeting clearly shows that many persons there were applauding as well, Sandschafer said she assumed it was retaliation.

“I think it was pretty clear we were being targeted based on the fact that we had done a sit in at their office on Monday,” said Sandschafer, adding, “That’s the business of the sheriff’s office. You see it over and over again. This is the way they operate.”

The activists were acquitted immediately after Thomas’ minions presented the ‘case’ against them. The Judge didn’t even let the defense make a statement. He just threw out the charges:
Joe Arpaio Foes Score: Acquitted Activists Win Legal Fees from County Attorney

Call it the cost of clapping. Five anti-Arpaio activists were awarded legal fees Monday by Justice of the Peace C. Steven McMurry in a case that involved four of them being arrested for applauding at a Maricopa County Board of Supervisors’ meeting in December 2008.

The five activists-- from the groups ACORN and Maricopa Citizens for Safety and Accountability-- were acquitted in September after a day and a half of the County Attorney’s office presenting its case. At the time, McMurry blasted the CA's office for even bringing charges of disorderly conduct, and found the five not guilty without troubling to hear the defense.

In September, McMurry stated that the defendants’ First Amendment rights had been violated by MCSO deputies, who arrested four of the activists rather than letting them address the Supes when called to the podium by then BOS Chairman Andy Kunasek. Those arrested and booked into the Fourth Avenue Jail were ACORN organizers and members Monica Sandschafer, Kristy Theilen, Joel Nelson, and Jason Odhner.

The fifth activist, MCSA’s Raquel Teran, was later cited by the MCSO for applauding, even though applause is not prohibited by the BOS at its meetings. She was lucky. Her four colleagues ended up spending ten hours in custody while being processed.

Now here’s something to think about. The residents of this state need your help. And I’ve heard from people who are as outraged as anyone, but are worried that calling people ‘fascists’ goes too far. It doesn’t go too far. Now would be a very good time to take a stand against what is truly a police state, fascism perpetrated by County Sheriff Arpaio and County Attorney Thomas.

Item: Thomas has filed a formal complaint with the Arizona Supreme Court alleging that all the other County Attorneys are conspiring to defame him. So guess who can’t investigate Arpaio or Thomas any more? Item: Arpaio and Thomas opened a bogus investigation of State Attorney General Terry Goddard 3 years ago, did nothing but subpeona thousands of pages of documents unrelated to anything anyone can figure out, and just have left the investigation “open” for the last three years. Convenient: Goddard has a conflict of interest if he investigates either of these Nazis. Say it with me now. Nazis.

The Court agrees:
Following the acquittals, McMurry asked both the prosecution and the defense to submit opinions as to whether or not he could award lawyers’ fees. Yesterday, the JP issued a scathing order in favor of the defense, going so far as to agree with Kristy Theilen's description of the arresting offficer-- MCSO Sgt. Acritelli-- as a “fascist.”

“Deputy Acritelli,” writes McMurry, “communicates that he believes it is his role to make uncomfortable anyone who [expresses] views that disagree with the sheriff. Were he to be candid, he would probably acknowledge being somewhat proud of it. This is not a very significant factor for purposes of the decision this Court must make. It does, however, tend to justify Ms. Theilen’s epithet.”

“This is such an extreme case,” McMurry noted in his conclusion, “with sheriff’s deputies trampling on the First Amendment and being aided and abetted by the County Attorney. It has to stop. Accordingly, this court shall award the defendants their attorney’s fees. The defendants are directed to promptly submit itemized affidavits supporting the specific amounts requested.”

*On the brighter side of things, you can leave potato chips out for days here, and they don’t go stale. In fact, when the humidity is down around 5% (often), they get crispier.

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9 Comments:

At 2:33 PM, Anonymous Lauren O. said...

Thank you for posting incredibly informative background on this issue - I wish the tea baggers screaming about the erosion of freedom would scream about Arizona's overnight-fascist extreme-makeover ...

Oh.
Wait.
They're in favor of it.
Woops.

 
At 3:45 PM, Blogger Richard said...

ARIZONA – OR A NAZI?

 
At 6:38 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

I have lived in Arizona for 14 years and i attest to the validity of all your statements. I asked to be put in jail a couple of times in that time and I have seen and experienced the MCSO Jails. They are not fit for Al Qaeda, there would be International Outrage if they say the conditions there. Guess why they get away with it? It is mostly populated by Minorities and specially the Mexican variety so that makes it alright. BTW it is Arizona' preferred form of Drug Rehab since their Drug Programs are among the worst in the nation. (yes they are for profit and dismal) Otherwise it's an Ok place to live.

 
At 8:12 PM, Anonymous Dinah Bee Menil said...

Nice site, very informative. I like to read this.,it is very helpful in my part for my criminal law studies.

 
At 11:21 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think this explains everything.

 
At 2:57 AM, Blogger atheist said...

Mr. Kahn, thanks for posting this very informative description of what has been going on in Arizona, with Sherrif Arpaio. I've been hearing about this situation for a while but it was under my radar until they passed this SB 1070 monstrosity. That woke me the right the fuck up.

Maybe you're right, that "fascist" is the only word that really describes Arpaio accurately.

 
At 7:24 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This country spends millions of dollars annually (your tax dollars) to house, feed and entertain people convicted of breaking and entering, stealing your personal id, assualting people with a deadly weapon, stealing your stuff and selling drugs to you and your children. Reading your blog suggests to me that you champion these theives and feel sorry they have to wear pink. Have you lost your mind? Physical intimidation? Of course! They broke the law and were convicted.

Bravo to Arizona for doing something about illegal immigrants. Hello, it is against the law to sneak into this country. If the Obama administration won't do anything about the problem, then kudos to AZ for stepping up.
How come you don't mention the killing of a long-time AZ rancher, on his own property, by illegal immigrants?

 
At 8:14 AM, Blogger Doug Kahn said...

Anonymous:

We don't know who killed Bob Krentz. A trail led towards the border from his SUV. No one has been ruled out; the authorities are seeking someone who is a "person of interest" in nearby burglaries, thinking he might have information that could help, but that person isn't a suspect in the murder. A lot of smuggling takes place in that area, of immigrants and of marijuana; speculation centers on an unknown 'coyote' (paid to bring in undocumented immigrants) or a drug smuggler. Not someone who has come into the country to get a job.

I didn't mention it because it has no obvious connection to the racists up here in Phoenix, hundreds of miles away. Bob was a humanitarian who regularly patrolled his ranch in order to help immigrants who sometimes get abandoned by 'coyotes', without food or water.

Either you didn't read carefully or aren't capable of understanding; the MCSO physically intimidates people who are county supervisors, county management personnel, members of the public at public meetings, people who are arrested, etc.; not people who have been 'convicted'. You know the difference between someone who is suspected of having broken the law and someone who has been convicted of breaking the law, presumably?

Yes, we spend millions of dollars on police, prosecutors, and prisons, because there's a lot of crime, and there always will be. Although you should realize that the statistics show a large increase in illegal immigration in recent years accompanied by a large decrease in violent crime, larger than in other areas of the country. There's no crime wave here. Sheriff Joe is not a big help: there are over 40,000 outstanding warrants for parole violators, suspects, people who have committed violent crimes in Maricopa County, and Joe spends our money on stopping drivers who have broken tail lights etc. In my next post I'll spend some time telling you about the $600,000+ Joe and his boys have spent vacationing in Honduras, supposedly 'training' the police there.

You misspelled 'thieves'.

 
At 1:31 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you Doug!!!

 

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