President Trump’s favorite racist supporter is facing a federal trial starting early next month for malicious prosecution. The Republican Senator’s children who are pursuing the lawsuit could get a personal cash judgment against convicted former Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio.
Arpaio can’t be saved by a presidential pardon in this malicious prosecution case, because it’s a civil matter. He was sued for pushing 21 felony charges – without probable cause – against Austin Flake, Senator Jeff Flake’s (R-AZ) son, after an overnight air conditioning failure caused a mass casualty event at Flake’s in-laws’ dog kennel.
Joe Arpaio’s total abuse of law enforcement powers for political ends went to unheard of extremes against the Republican Senator and his son. TPM reports:
The lawsuit, which is scheduled for trial on Dec. 5, alleges that Arpaio was intent on linking the Flakes to the deaths, going so far as to conduct surveillance on the senator’s home. The suit also says Arpaio’s investigators examined phone records to see if the younger Flake called his father during the time he was watching the dogs.
Lawyers for Austin Flake and his then-wife have said the senator disagreed with Arpaio over immigration and was critical of the movement questioning the authenticity of then-President Barack Obama’s birth certificate.
Austin Flake and his now-former wife used to live in Provo, Utah and were staying at his parents-in-law’s home in Arizona, where they were temporary caretakers for the kennel for just five days.
After the felony charges were filed, the Flakes were forbidden to leave Arizona as part of their bond conditions and ultimately, they say that the false charges caused them to seek a divorce, which has been finalized.
The judge in the case ruled that prosecutors had no probable cause to pursue Arpaio’s case and that the Flakes’ claim of a politically motivated prosecution can be proven at trial. A summary of what the judge ruled before trial says (embedded below):
…As a matter of law, prosecutors did not have probable cause to charge the Flakes with animal cruelty…
The salient facts here are disputed, [but] a reasonable factfinder could conclude [after trial] that Arpaio pursued charges against the Flakes for the primary purpose of garnering publicity. Arpaio and any law enforcement officer had to have known that is not a proper purpose of criminal prosecution.
It is for a trier of fact to decide whether Arpaio exhibited malice in seeking charges against the Flakes; if so, whether the independent judgment presumption insulates him from liability; and whether he is protected from suit by qualified immunity under Arizona law.
While Flake’s claims for defamation failed, it’s undoubted that the innuendos, headlines and reports about animal cruelty made a far deeper impression than the news that it was a political witch hunt by an evil Sheriff who happily compared his jails to concentration camps.
Arpaio was regularly consulted on the investigation and his subordinates falsely told a Grand Jury that electrical records showed that the kennel’s air conditioning was working that night, but the kennel’s configuration was faulty, placing blame on the Flakes and the kennel owners.
Later, Arpaio’s investigators changed the results of their review of the kennel’s electrical records to note that the AC unit had in fact failed, which absolved the parties of fault in the tragic death of 21 dogs. The electrical records themselves did not change.
Ex-Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s publicity witch hunt, conducted with tax dollars, broke up Austin Flake’s marriage and defamed him, his now-ex-wife, and her family, not to mention causing caused untold pain to the couple who were only 20 and 21 years-old at the time of their ordeal in 2014.
Joe Arpaio escaped justice when he was convicted in a criminal contempt case for continuing racial discrimination patrols in defiance of a court order.
Now, he’s back in front of the federal judiciary.
While we can count federal judges to be fair in administering the trial, one would hope that his criminal past is held against him in this proceeding to the maximum extent of the law.