Government Ends Criminal Probe Of Controversial Arizona Sheriff

by
Reuters
The federal government has closed a criminal probe of alleged financial misconduct by Arizona lawman Joe Arpaio, who styles himself as "America's toughest sheriff," saying no charges would be filed, the U.S. Attorney's Office said on Friday.

Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio arrives to a news conference in Phoenix, Arizona May 10, 2012.

(Reuters) - The federal government has closed a criminal probe of alleged financial misconduct by Arizona lawman Joe Arpaio, who styles himself as "America's toughest sheriff," saying no charges would be filed, the U.S. Attorney's Office said on Friday.

A separate federal investigation relating to allegations of civil rights abuses by Arpaio's office is continuing.

The announcement on Friday marked the end of an investigation that began in November 2010 at the behest of the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors to examine alleged financial improprieties by the county sheriff and his deputies.

A federal criminal inquiry into several of those matters was concluded last summer with the U.S. Attorney's Office in Arizona declining to initiate criminal charges.

Maricopa County authorities were informed on Friday that federal prosecutors had likewise declined to bring charges in connection with allegations that the sheriff's office had misused county credit cards or misspent money from jail facilities excise taxes.

In addition, the U.S. Attorney's Office declined to prosecute two former officials of the county attorney's office who were accused of wrongfully prosecuting a local judge.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Ann Birmingham Scheel said in a statement that her office "is closing its investigation into allegations of criminal conduct by current and former members of the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office and the Maricopa County Attorney's Office."

Arpaio, 80, who is seeking re-election to a sixth term as sheriff in November, has been under a separate federal inquiry since 2008 over allegations that he and his deputies engaged in an extensive pattern of civil rights abuses.

Arpaio has denied any wrongdoing.

Lisa Allen, a spokeswoman for his office, said the sheriff was flying back to Phoenix from the Republican National Convention in Florida, and was not immediately available for comment.

The Justice Department's long-running civil rights probe of Arpaio led to a lawsuit in May accusing the sheriff and his office of racial profiling and unlawful arrests of Latinos in a bid to crack down on illegal immigration.

The civil suit also accused Arpaio's office of routinely violating the constitutional free-speech rights of political opponents by retaliating against them through unsubstantiated legal action, including unlawful arrests.