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Sheriff Joe to Eric Holder: 'Prove it!'

Maverick Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio is challenging the Obama administration’s Department of Justice to present evidence to back its charge that his office is discriminating against Hispanics.

“Prove it,” Arpaio said in remarks directed at Holder in an interview with WND.

“If Eric Holder has evidence that the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office has engaged in systematic violations of the civil rights of Hispanics, then show me the evidence,” Arpaio said.

Arpaio contends that the 22-page complaint the Department of Justice released Dec. 15 against his office was nothing more than anecdotal and didn’t prove there are systematic sheriff’s department policies aimed at depriving Hispanics in Maricopa County of their civil rights.

Nor was Arpaio concerned that the DOJ might take him and his sheriff’s department to federal court.

“If the Justice Department wants to take me to court, I’m ready,” Arpaio said.

Arpaio was responding to a statement emailed today to WND in which the DOJ threatened to go to court immediately rather than show Arpaio’s office and the U.S. public the evidence it claims to have.

“If MCSO wants to debate the facts instead of fixing the problems stated in our findings, we will do so by way of litigation,” DOJ said in the statement.

The statement implied the DOJ already has rejected an offer of cooperation made yesterday by attorneys representing MCSO in a cover letter to the MCSO 38-page response to the DOJ complaint.

In the cover letter, Arpaio attorney Joseph J. Popolizio made it clear that the sheriff was willing to cooperate with Holder and the DOJ, but only if the DOJ revealed to the MCSO and the public its proof.

“Sheriff Joseph M. Arpaio and the MCSO are certainly interested in constructive dialogue, but constructive dialogue can only occur if the DOJ provides the facts and information on which it bases its findings,” Popolizio wrote.

Nothing more than a political attack?

Arpaio also took exception to the DOJ assertion that the federal investigation against his office began under the Bush administration.

“There may have been complaints filed with the Justice Department under the Bush administration,” Arpaio conceded, “but we were first notified in March 2009 – in the Obama administration’s first 100 days – that the Department of Justice had begun a formal investigation of the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office.”

Arpaio pointed out that after three years of cooperating with the Justice Department investigation, his office was given only one-hour’s advance notice that the report was going to be released.

On the morning of Dec. 15, the Justice Department called officials of the Sheriff’s office to a 9 a.m. meeting, refusing to disclose in advance the purpose of the meeting.

One hour later, at 10 a.m. local time, Perez held a press conference in Phoenix, making the Arpaio report public.

DOJ officials turned away MCSO representatives from attending the press conference, claiming the room was too full to permit additional attendees.

Arpaio questioned the timing of the press conference, noting that Dec. 15 was one day after the first anniversary of the gun battle near the Arizona border in which Border Patrol Agent Brian A. Terry was gunned down by illegal immigrants armed with weapons supplied by the Justice Department in the now controversial “Fast and Furious” gun-walking operation that has brought Holder under considerable political pressure to resign.

Clearly, winning the Latino vote is a key presidential election strategy for the Democratic Party in 2012.

On Sept. 28, Obama gave a White House interview to three Latino journalists in which he singled out Arpaio by name and declared Maricopa County should not be taken as the “model” for U.S. immigration laws.

Some observers also note the timing. The Obama administration chose to make public allegations resulting from a three-year DOJ investigation after Arpaio authorized a MCSO Cold Case Posse to investigate Obama’s birth certificate and his eligibility to be president under Article 2, Section 1 of the Constitution.

Moreover, the DOJ in delivering the Dec. 15 complaint indicated Arpaio’s office would have only two months to comply – timing coincident with the scheduled February 2012 release of the Cold Case Posse’s investigation.

Arpaio reminded WND that he is a sheriff, elected by the voters of Maricopa County. As such, he is the chief law enforcement officer in the county, not an appointed law enforcement officer responsible to the mayor, a state attorney general or even to the attorney general of the United States.

“I report to the people of Maricopa County,” Arpaio said, “and I intend to continue enforcing the immigration laws of the state of Arizona as long as I hold this office.”

Arpaio also told WND that he intends to run for re-election as Maricopa County sheriff in 2012, despite efforts organized in Phoenix by activist-attorney Randy Parraz to pressure the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors into demanding Arpaio’s resignation.

DOJ retracts apology to Arpaio

Arpaio attorney Popolizo also disclosed in his cover letter that DOJ attorney Roy Austin had privately apologized to MCSO that the DOJ appeared to be taking a political direction with the complaint against Arpaio.

“Mr. Austin’s private expression of gratitude [to the MCSO for cooperation in the DOJ investigation] was also accompanied by an apology,” Popolizo continued. “Mr. Austin specifically apologized to us for not being able to control the timing or manner of the announcement of the investigation’s finding, despite his earlier promise that if the MCSO fully cooperated with DOJ’s investigation, a politicization of this investigation would not occur.”

In the statement DOJ issued to WND, DOJ characterized Austin’s apology rather than deny that an apology had been made.

“Regarding your question on Deputy Assistant Attorney General Roy Austin, he apologized if [MCSO’s] feelings were hurt by the public release of the findings, but he informed them that the Civil Rights Division always publicly releases the findings of its law enforcement investigations because it is absolutely crucial to tell the people in the relevant community what was found so that the community is a part of any necessary reform,” DOJ spokeswoman Xochita Hinojosa wrote to WND in an email.

DOJ refuses to show proof

The DOJ statement issued today makes clear it considers the complaints proved as alleged and sees no reason to provide the evidence to the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office or the public.

“The Justice Department looks forward to sitting down with MCSO in the near future to discuss a path forward that contains a court enforceable agreement that will create the necessary sustainable reforms,” the DOJ statement began, indicating clearly the Obama administration has already judged Arpaio and the MCSO guilty.

As far as the DOJ is concerned, the only thing left to discuss is how fast Arpaio and his sheriff’s office intends to comply with DOJ demands.

“Our findings show a clear violation of the Constitution and federal law, and are more than sufficient to file a complaint against a law enforcement agency,” the DOJ statement concluded.

Discovery to compel DOJ to show its hand

Arpaio and the attorneys representing the MCSO remain confident that DOJ will not be able for long to avoid making public their evidence.

Since the DOJ and Arpaio’s office appear headed directly to federal court, the court proceedings can be expected to allow MCSO discovery – a legal process in which the federal judge will order DOJ to turn over to the MCSO all evidence obtained to substantiate the allegations of systematic civil rights violations.

Popolizo’s cover letter indicates that the MCSO anticipated DOJ might refuse to make its evidence public.

“We sincerely hope that the DOJ’s recent public stance regarding its refusal to disclose information relevant to this investigation, which starkly contrasts its private, yet deficient pledge to provide at least some information, is not the foreshadowing of a preordained, DOJ decision to file suit in the face of the MCSO’s mere request for information,” Popolizo wrote.

“Please know, however, that we stand ready to litigate this matter should the DOJ refuse to provide the information we seek.”

Popolizo further argued that it was unreasonable for DOJ to expect MCSO to make changes in policy by proceeding “in a vacuum” absent any documenting evidence that would substantiate and quantify the severity the allegations.

“If the DOJ chooses the litigation route, that route will lead the parties through discovery and result in the DOJ’s compelled provision of the information we now request to evaluate its findings and determine what changes at the MCSO may be necessary, if any,” Popolizo continued.

In total, the MCSO 38-page response made 106 specific requests for evidence backing up the allegations.

Typically, the attorneys representing the MCSO began each of the 106 requests with a broadly written demand, asking, for instance: “Please provide each and every fact, document, report, statement (recorded, handwritten, or typewritten), affidavits, writings of any kind, and any and all evidence upon which the DOJ relies.”

Attorneys representing the MCSO can be expected to make requests of this kind when asking the federal judge hearing the case for discovery rights.