Sheriff Joe Arpaio

March 1, 2012 by staff 

Sheriff Joe Arpaio, America’s self-proclaimed toughest sheriff finds himself entangled these days in his own thorny legal troubles: a federal grand jury probe over alleged abuse of power, Justice Department accusations of racial profiling, and revelations that his department didn’t adequately investigate hundreds of Arizona sex-crime cases.

Rather than seek cover, though, Maricopa County Sheriff JoeArpaio is seeking to grab the spotlight in the same unorthodox fashion that has helped boost his career as a nationally known lawman.

Sheriff Arpaio has scheduled a news conference for Thursday to unveil preliminary results of an investigation, conducted by members of his volunteer cold-case posse, into the authenticity of President Obama’s birth certificate, a controversy that has been widely debunked but that remains alive in the eyes of some conservatives. Last year, Donald Trump most prominently revived the issue while entertaining a possible bid for the presidency.

The 79-year-old Republican sheriff has declined to offer clues to what the probe may have found, but he defends his need to spearhead such an investigation after nearly 250 people connected to an Arizona tea party group requested one last summer.

“I’m not going after Obama,” said Sheriff Arpaio, who has criticized the president’s administration for cutting off his federal immigration powers and conducting a civil rights investigation of his office. “I’m just doing my job.”

Some critics suggest Sheriff Arpaio‘s aim is to divert attention from his own legal troubles while raising his political profile as he seeks a sixth term this year. The sheriff vehemently denies such strategies are in play.

“You say I need this to get elected? Are you kidding me? I’ve been elected five times. I don’t need this,” he said in a recent interview.

Democratic state Sen. Steve Gallardo said Sheriff Arpaio is pandering to relentless critics of the president.

“It doesn’t matter what President Obama does, they’ll never support him,” Mr. Gallardo said. “It’s those folks who will continue to write checks to Sheriff Joe because of this stuff.”

Sheriff Arpaio‘s probe comes amid a federal grand jury investigation into the sheriff’s office on criminal abuse-of-power allegations since at least December 2009, focusing on the sheriff’s anti-public corruption squad. Separately, the U.S. Justice Department has accused Sheriff Arpaio‘s office of racially profiling Latinos, basing immigration enforcement on racially charged citizen complaints and punishing Hispanic jail inmates for speaking Spanish. Sheriff Arpaio denies the allegations and has said the investigation is politically motivated.

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