By Gustavo Arellano
By R. Scott Moxley
By Alfonso Delgado
By Courtney Hamilton
By Joel Beers
By Peter Maguire
By Charles Lam
By Charles Lam
Arpaio was thrilled and threw his considerable support behind Napolitano in the election.
The details behind the Justice Department investigation and the reforms that Arpaio agreed to enact should pose little mystery to President-Elect Obama.
The 1996 letter citing Arpaio's violation of prisoners' constitutional rights was signed by Obama's close personal friend and the current governor of Massachusetts, Deval L. Patrick, then-assistant U.S. attorney general in the Civil Rights Division.
What Obama cannot know is that Napolitano's protection of Arpaio was more nefarious than has been reported.
In a recent interview, the attorney for the deceased Scott Norberg revealed for the first time that Napolitano's behavior went shamelessly beyond simply endorsing Arpaio.
* * *
In Arizona, the killing of Norberg on June 1, 1996, dogs Arpaio in the press to this day. The story appears whenever an overview of the sheriff is written.
What has never been revealed is the role Napolitano played in protecting the sheriff from indictment.
When an unconscious Norberg did not respond to a deputy's command, the victim was attacked and beaten by nearly a dozen jailers. The initial violence was witnessed by a holding tank full of prisoners. Norberg was transferred to a restraint chair, to which he was shackled, and further pummeled until he died.
The family's subsequent lawsuit was settled for more than $8 million in 1999, three years after the death and three years after the letter from the Justice Department.
This month, the Norberg family's attorney, Michael Manning, revealed that Arpaio was involved in a massive cover-up that provoked the lawyer to turn over evidence to the FBI.
Notes taken by a deputy the night of the killing were destroyed. Critical X-rays were destroyed. County authorities, under the watchful eye of the sheriff, hid the fact that Norberg's larynx was fractured.
When the family's independent autopsy uncovered the larynx fracture, county authorities claimed the damage to the bloody tissue must have occurred following the death, a biological impossibility. After the county demanded to take custody of the larynx, the evidence was then destroyed.
Manning handed over numerous boxes of evidence to the FBI, and then submitted to two interviews with Napolitano's staff. He characterized the prosecutors as very excited by the evidence and the interviews.
Keep in mind that, by the time Manning revealed the details of the cover-up and the destruction of evidence, Napolitano had already appeared at a press conference absolving Arpaio of any responsibility in the Justice Department settlements.
Keep in mind, too, that Napolitano was fully aware of the Justice Department settlement details, including Eugene Miller's report that noted, in brief: "It is quite evident in watching these [jailhouse] tapes that in each of these incidences that the use of force was unprovoked, unnecessary and, consequently, unjustified and excessive. . . . A code of silence appeared to be operating as nurses and other staff were observing the abuse and looked the other way."
Napolitano did not receive the Norberg files from Manning in a vacuum.
"The evidence was compelling," said Manning earlier this month. "The assistant U.S. attorneys took it to Janet, and she said, 'No!'"
Napolitano did more than merely prop up Arpaio after he agreed to settle with the Justice Department.
Presented with the evidence of a criminal conspiracy and the destruction of evidence, Napolitano refused to prosecute Arpaio.
It is no wonder that he then endorsed her bid for election as Arizona Attorney General.
What is surprising is the role they will jointly play in immigration.
* * *
Unlike President-Elect Obama, Governor Napolitano never pointed toward horizons that beckoned with promise; instead, she lifted a damp finger ever in search of a breeze.
Nowhere is that caution more apparent than in another border crisis, this one domestic.
If there is a single Arizona issue that suffered from a lack of leadership, that demanded politics take a back seat to character, it was the state's polygamy scandal. Is there a rising national star in this drama?
Napolitano's failure to deal with this crisis should make the Obama administration doubt whether she has the courage to attack problems that will surely plague her as Homeland Security chief.
In 2002, Phoenix New Times reporter John Dougherty began a remarkable investigation into the nation's largest polygamous sect. Over a span of five years and 33 articles, Dougherty shed a harsh light on the practices of the 8,000 members of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (see the Phoenix New Times' archive "Polygamy in Arizona").
Child abuse, sex crimes, welfare fraud, tax evasion, diversion of state school funds to church purposes and stunning genetic health problems infested Colorado City and Hildale, two polygamist communities that straddled the Arizona-Utah border. The case was complicated by the church's vast holdings on both sides of the border. At one point, lawyers defended men against charges of sex with underage girls by claiming prosecutors did not know in which state the sex acts had occurred.
Underage girls—the estimates climbed into the hundreds—had been forced into "marriages" with men who already had wives.
Despite enormous holdings, as well as a trust valued well more than $100 million, Arizona taxpayers underwrote the polygamists to the tune of $20 million annually, including $172,000 in monthly food stamps. Church leaders stole so much money from the state that they referred to it as "bleeding the beast."