Sheriff Joe Arpaio, the enigmatic anti-illegal immigrant lawman from Arizona, has filed a $147.5 million libel lawsuit against the New York Times.
Arpaio filed a complaint against the Times and a member of their editorial board, Michelle Cottle, who penned a column celebrating his loss in the state’s Republican primary for U.S. Senate this past August.
Cottle wrote that Sheriff Joe’s political defeat was “a fitting end to the public life of a truly sadistic man” and labeled him “a true American villain.”
Arpaio had been running for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Jeff Flake, but was defeated soundly by Rep. Martha McSally.
Why Is Arpaio Suing?
In the legal complaint, Arpaio argues that the Times masked blatant falsehoods in Cottle’s column by running it as an op-ed.
Claims laid out within the article, Arpaio alleges, were “carefully and maliciously calculated to damage and injure” his reputation within the law enforcement community. He also noted that these opinions could hurt him among GOP donors who could help bankroll any future political aspirations.
Arpaio took issue with statements made that indicate he committed crimes while serving as sheriff of Maricopa County.
“His 24-year reign of terror was medieval in its brutality,” Cottle wrote. “In addition to conducting racial profiling on a mass scale and terrorizing immigrant neighborhoods with gratuitous raids and traffic stops and detentions, he oversaw a jail where mistreatment of inmates was the stuff of legend.”
Joe Arpaio filed a defamation suit against the New York Times over a critical piece, saying it was “calculated” to damage his reputation and “prevent him from successfully run[ning] for U.S. Senate in 2020 or another public office as a Republican” https://t.co/sJmKFtaFee pic.twitter.com/ItJTvK9Iv3
— Zoe Tillman (@ZoeTillman) October 17, 2018
Sheriff Joe’s Controversial Past
Arpaio is famous for making criminals wear pink underwear and pink handcuffs. He brought back chain gangs, though on a voluntary basis. He viewed such actions as a possible deterrent for future crimes. Others viewed these tactics as rather unusual and overly cruel.
In 2011, Arpaio’s department was investigated due to allegations that the office wasn’t properly investigating sex crimes.
Arpaio was found guilty of criminal contempt by a federal judge in July of 2017. He had refused to abide by a judge’s ruling that determined his traffic stop policies were discriminatory. The charges mean that Arpaio faced six months of jail time.
Trump Pardons Arpaio
Sheriff Joe was pardoned by President Donald Trump one month after being found guilty.
A White House press release praised Arpaio’s for his years of public service, defining him as “a worthy candidate for a Presidential pardon.”
Trump pardons Sheriff Joe Arpaio. pic.twitter.com/jTtQ7W8X6m
— Leandra Bernstein (@LeandraBrnstein) August 26, 2017
In her column, Cottle criticized the pardon.
The sheriff “devoted himself to terrorizing immigrants that he was eventually convicted of contempt of court and would have lived out his twilight years with a well-deserved criminal record,” she wrote, “if President Trump, a staunch admirer of Mr. Arpaio’s bare-knuckle approach to law enforcement, had not granted him a pardon.”
Times Reacts to the Lawsuit
The New York Times vowed that they wouldn’t take this massive libel lawsuit laying down.
Eileen Murphy, a spokeswoman for the Times, sent Politico a statement saying, “We intend to vigorously defend against the lawsuit.”
Read more at the Political Insider