Maricopa County settles 2 lawsuits vs. Sheriff Arpaio
Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio
-- Arizona's most populous county agreed Friday to pay more than $7
million to settle lawsuits by a former Maricopa County official and two
newspaper executives accusing Sheriff Joe Arpaio of abuse of power.
the first suit, former Supervisor Don Stapley agreed to accept $3.5
million to drop his case accusing Arpaio, former County Attorney Andrew
Thomas and others of pursuing trumped-up criminal cases against him.
separate $3.75 million settlement was reached with executives of the
Phoenix New Times, who sued Arpaio's office after they were arrested in
2007 for publishing information about a secret grand jury subpoena
demanding information on its stories and online readers.
settlement brings closure to a string of lawsuits filed by numerous
other high-ranking county officials and judges who claimed Arpaio and
Thomas wrongfully targeted them in corruption investigations between
2008 and 2010.
In the newspaper executives'
lawsuit, Michael Lacey and Jim Larkin accused Arpaio's office of
violating their constitutional rights.
thinks you can arrest American journalists for what they write?" Lacey
said Friday after the settlement's announcement. "It's just remarkable."
Lacey said that while the settlement was good news, he would like to see Arpaio held accountable for his actions.
"This guy has just run wild and the county has continued to write checks for his abuses without curtailing the abuses," he said.
wasn't immediately available Friday for comment. But one of his aides,
Deputy Chief Jack MacIntyre, said, "It was an economic decision by the
county Board of Supervisors" and it made "better economic sense" than
going to court.
MacIntyre said the New Times
executives originally demanded about $90 million to settle their lawsuit
and Stapley sought more than $20 million.
"It's really good to close those two pages and move forward," MacIntyre added.
Manning, who represents both Stapley and the New Times executives, did
not immediately return calls seeking comment. Thomas also didn't return
A joint statement by the four county
supervisors said, "We are convinced that settlement of Mr. Stapley's
suit protects the taxpayers from even larger cost down the road, and
hopefully closes the final chapter in what has been a very sad and
damaging period in our county's history."
Stapley lawsuit cost county taxpayers about $1.8 million, officials
said, while the New Times case cost nearly $438,000 in legal fees and
The Stapley deal brings the county's costs for settlements of officials' lawsuits to at least $7.7 million.
county has appealed a $975,000 settlement with Supervisor Mary Rose
Wilcox. The county also has forked over $5.5 million in legal fees and
other costs in the lawsuits.
judges who filed the lawsuits say they were targeted because they were
in legal and political disputes with the sheriff and Thomas over cuts to
agency budgets, a plan to build a new court complex and other issues.
Arpaio and Thomas contended they were trying to root out corruption in
Between 2008 and 2009,
criminal charges were filed against Stapley, Wilcox and a judge, but
those prosecutions quickly collapsed in court. Thomas and another
prosecutor were eventually disbarred. Arpaio's office was accused of
shoddy police work that targeted political adversaries, including
officials and judges who were investigated but weren't charged with
In the first of two cases against
Stapley, he was accused of making omissions and misstatements on
financial disclosure forms, but those charges were dismissed because the
county never properly put in place financial disclosure rules. In the
second case, Stapley was accused of getting mortgage loans under
fraudulent pretenses and misusing campaign funds he raised to run for
president of a national association of county officials.
prosecutor from a neighboring county who was later asked to review
Stapley's second case concluded that Stapley had committed seven felony
violations and that there was enough evidence to go forward with a
prosecution. That prosecutor ultimately recommended the case not be
pursued further, citing concerns about the conduct of Arpaio's and
In the New Times case, Thomas
dispatched the grand jury investigation to a special prosecutor, but
quickly dropped the charges. He maintained the newspaper had broken
state law when it published Arpaio's address in 2004 and then revealed
the subpoena. Thomas was named in the New Times lawsuit but was later
dismissed from it.
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