PHOENIX (CN) — Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio cannot stop U.S. Sen. Jeff Flake’s son from disseminating copies of Arpaio’s deposition in Austin Flake’s malicious prosecution case, a federal judge ruled.
Austin Flake and his wife Logan sued Arpaio, his office, and the Board of Supervisors in June 2015, claiming Arpaio recommended filing animal abuse charges against the couple to hurt Flake’s father.
The Flakes were indicted on 21 counts of animal cruelty in October 2014 after 21 dogs boarding at Logan’s parents’ kennel, Green Acre Cage Free Boarding, died. The couple was house-sitting for her parents, who ran the kennel out of their home.
The charges were dismissed by the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office in December 2014, but by that time the couple’s mug shots had been blasted throughout the media and Austin Flake was suspended from Brigham Young University.
The Flakes claim Arpaio targeted them “for the benefit of harming Sen. Flake, a politician who had disagreed with him on such issues as immigration and the legitimacy of the president’s birth certificate.”
(Sen. Flake, like Arpaio, is a Republican. But unlike Arpaio, who spoke at the Republican National Convention, Flake has refused to endorse his party’s presidential nominee, Donald Trump.)
Arpaio’s Deputy Chief David Trombi went so far as to search phone records to see if the Flakes called Sen. Flake and his wife during the incident, and performed surveillance on the senator at home, according to the complaint.
Arpaio sought to stop the Flakes from disseminating his deposition to the media in a July filing with the court.
U.S. District Judge Neil V. Wake denied Arpaio’s request on Aug. 2, finding that while Arpaio was at risk to be “tried in the media,” he invited the media attention.
“Sheriff Arpaio invited media attention in this matter by repeatedly publicizing his investigation of the Flakes and publicly recommending felony charges against them. He issued press releases, held a press conference, and posted a video online,” Wake wrote. “To allow Sheriff Arpaio to engage the media only on his terms would sanction an impermissible double standard.”
Arpaio “made statements that he loves this case, and others like it, because the more he publicizes them, the more money that he receives in campaign contributions,” the Flakes said in the lawsuit.
Their attorney Stephen Montoya said in an email: “In light of Sheriff Arpaio’s pathological addiction to gratuitous public commentary, it was an easy issue for the court to quickly and correctly resolve. Too bad the taxpayer has to (once again) foot the bill for Arpaio’s reckless misadventures. He is certainly America’s most expensive sheriff. “
Judge Wake found that while “there is a possibility that the media may sensationalize the deposition,” Arpaio has forfeited his privacy in the case.
“Sheriff Arpaio’s fear of ‘trial by media’ is newfound,” Wake wrote. “It did not stop him from repeatedly thrusting into the media himself, his investigation, and his recommendation of charges against the Flakes. … He thereby forfeited any substantial claim to privacy regarding the rest of his own account of the investigation and charges.”
An attorney for Arpaio was not immediately available for comment.
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