Joe Arpaio, the famed former sheriff of Maricopa County, Arizona, has filed a lawsuit against CNN, Rolling Stone and others for defamation for falsely calling him a “felon” in their reports.
The case was brought to federal court in Washington by Larry Klayman, founder of Freedom Watch and a former federal prosecutor.
Named as defendants in the complaint are CNN President Jeff Zucker, show host Chris Cuomo, Rolling Stone magazine and the Huffington Post.
“Specifically, the complaint alleges that these ‘Fake News’ publications slandered and libeled former Maricopa sheriff and U.S. Senate candidate Joe Arpaio by falsely branding him a ‘felon,'” Klayman explained.
To the contrary, Arpaio never was found guilty of a felony, nor arrested and imprisoned, as one of the publications claimed. He was simply found to have committed a misdemeanor, for which he was pardoned by President Donald Trump.
“The nullification of even the misdemeanor finding, which Sheriff Arpaio submits was legally incorrect but simply the basis of politics, as he had not violated a court order and intentionally profiled illegal immigrants, is on appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. Sheriff Arpaio is confident that even the misdemeanor finding will eventually also be vacated,” Klayman said.
Arpaio, known as “America’s toughest seriff,” is seeking $300 million in actual and punitive damages.
“It’s time that someone stood up to the Left’s ‘Fake News’ media, which is bent on destroying anyone who is a supporter of the president and in particular Sheriff Arpaio. My client will not be bullied by the likes of Jeff Zucker, Chris Cuomo, the Huffington Post, and Rolling Stone, as he alone has the courage to stand up for not just himself, the president of the United States but also all fair-minded and ethical Americans,” Klayman said.
The Washington Times reported the Huffington Post claimed he was “sent to prison” for a conviction.
The Times reported Rolling Stone “silently” corrected a web story with the wrong information. But the CNN broadcast remained on the company’s website as late as Monday, including Cuomo’s charge that Arpaio was a “convicted felon.”
The complaint charges the statements were made with “malice,” and since he plans to run for the U.S. Senate in 2020, they were damaging to him.
“As a direct and proximate result of defendants and their agents’ extreme, outrageous and malicious conduct set forth above, Plaintiff Arpaio has been the subject of widespread ridicule and humiliation and has suffered severe loss of reputation, which has in turn also caused him pain and financial damage,” Klayman wrote.
Arpaio’s misdemeanor, which was pardoned by President Trump, was the result of a long running battle with activists who wanted to rein in Arpaio’s law enforcement, especially regarding illegal aliens. Judges instructed him how to enforce various laws, and one concluded the sheriff was in contempt for not following the instructions.
However, the misdemeanor conclusion was not final, and Arpaio was appealing it when he was pardoned.
Arpaio served in the U.S. military, and following his discharge in 1953 was part of the team that later became the Drug Enforcement Administration. He was elected sheriff in Maricopa County, where he served for about 25 years.
He ran for U.S. Senate this year but lost in the Republican primary.
“Plaintiff Arpaio has been the target of three separate defamatory publications that falsely refer to and defamed him per se as a convicted felon,” the complaint outlines. “Plaintiff Arpaio’s distinguished 55-year law enforcement and political career has been severely harmed, as his reputation has been severely damaged among and with the Republican establishment.”
The case alleges defamation, tortious interference with a prospective business relationship and false light, contending false statements were made with “a reckless disregard for the truth.”