Get in Line: Supervisor Sues Sheriff Arpaio

     PHOENIX (CN) – A county supervisor has joined the long line of public officials to sue Sheriff Joe Arpaio for abuse of office. Maricopa County Supervisor Mary Rose Wilcox claims Arpaio conspired to bring two baseless indictments against her, which were dismissed, and which were “motivated by political revenge.” Wilcox says Arpaio’s “vindictive and unconstitutional” actions were payback for her criticism of Arpaio’s “immigration sweeps” and her refusal to give Arpaio’s office all the money he wanted.

     Wilcox and her husband Earl claim in Maricopa County Court that Arpaio conspired with former County Attorney Andrew Thomas, Deputy County Attorney Lisa Aubuchon, and Deputy Chief Sheriff David Hendershott “to use the great power of their offices to conduct investigations into the Wilcoxes’ affairs without any reason to believe that the Wilcoxes had committed any civil or criminal violations and for the sole purposes of retaliating against the Wilcoxes for their political beliefs and for their public disagreements with the defendants.”
     The complaint continues: “Following their unconstitutional investigations into the Wilcoxes’ affairs, the defendants sought and obtained criminal indictments against Mary Rose Wilcox and brought suit against her in federal court, alleging that she was a conspirator in a racketeering enterprise. Like the defendants’ baseless investigations into the Wilcoxes’ affairs, the criminal and civil charges against Mary Rose Wilcox lacked any probable cause, were unsupported by evidence, and were motivated by political revenge.
     “The civil and criminal charges against Mary Rose Wilcox were eventually dismissed, and events following their dismissal have vindicated the Wilcoxes and exposed the vindictive and unconstitutional motivations for the defendants’ actions.
     “Even though the Wilcoxes have now been vindicated and the defendants’ illegal conduct exposed, the harm caused to the Wilcoxes by the defendants’ wrongful actions has not been remedied.”
     The Wilcoxes claim that the first indictment Arpaio conspired to bring against them “were the same charges that Yavapai County Attorney Sheila Polk told the defendants were legally insufficient to state a crime,” and were based on documents found during an illegal “fishing expedition” into the Wilcoxes’ affairs.
     After Arpaio and his henchmen found that “the first indictment was too flawed to survive in court,” they charged Wilcox again in a second indictment on similar charges “as part of their plain to retaliate against Mary Rose Wilcox and even though the defendants knew that the charges were not based on probable cause,” according to the complaint.
     The Wilcoxes say that several “political and highly publicized disputes motivated defendants wrongful actions” against them, including: “Disagreements over Sheriff Arpaio’s and County Attorney Thomas’s enforcement of immigration laws, including their so-called ‘immigration sweeps’ and the prosecution of undocumented immigrants as conspirators in their own smuggling, with which Mary Rose Wilcox publicly disagreed; dispute over budgetary constraints imposed by the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors on the MCAO and MCSO; criminal charges against Supervisor Don Stapley, chairman of the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors; a power struggle with the Board of Supervisors over Thomas’s conflict of interest and control over Maricopa County’s civil litigation; and disputes over the building of a Maricopa County Criminal Court Tower.”
     The Wilcoxes say that before they were “wrongfully investigated and harassed, and before Mary Rose was wrongfully indicted and sued by the defendant,” their restaurant, El Portal, was a popular lunch spot for politicians, judges, and community members.
     The restaurant’s thriving business led the Wilcoxes to open a small, satellite outlet at Arizona State’s downtown campus, and earned them an invitation to co-own a restaurant at Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport.
     But Mary Rose Wilcox says that after she was wrongfully indicted, “everything changed for her and Earl – and their plan for a revitalized Grant Park neighborhood [in south Phoenix]. Although baseless, these serious accusations of dishonesty tarnished Mary Rose’s and Earl’s reputations, and even longtime friends and political allies kept their distance and would not return their calls. Mary Rose’s political career was going strong, and El Portal was a popular meeting place for politicians, government workers, community leaders, and other. But after the first indictment, once familiar faces disappeared and business at the restaurant dropped sharply.”
     The Wilcoxes say that El Portal now is open only for special events and catering.
     The damage done to their reputations also hindered their ability to work on community building projects because “potential partners disappeared and government collaboration stopped,” the Wilcoxes say.
     The Wilcoxes say they were in talks with the City of Phoenix to enter into a partnership to keep Grant Park open to the public, and to create new veterans’ housing, but those talks abruptly ended after Mary Rose was indicted. (39)
     The Wilcoxes seek punitive damages for abuse of process, malicious prosecution and defamation.
     They are represented by Colin Campbell and Kathleen Brody O’Meara with Osborn Maledon.
     Plaintiffs in previous defamation complaints against Arpaio and his crew include four judges, and, most recently, Maricopa County’s chief information officer.

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