THE BLOG

Sheriff Arpaio Subject of Federal Grand Jury Inquiry

03/18/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

PHOENIX, AZ -- Two high level Maricopa County officials and at least three sheriff's officials have been subpoenaed by a federal grand jury to testify against Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio.

County Manager David Smith and Deputy Manager Sandi Wilson have already met with U.S. Department of Justice prosecutors and are planning to testify before the grand jury on Wednesday. Both Smith and Wilson became subjects of MCSO investigations at the same time that heated disagreements between County Supervisors and Arpaio's office were occurring.

The Arizona Republic is reporting that officials within the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office (MCSO), including a captain and two chief deputies, have also been called before the federal grand jury.

Arpaio and County Attorney Andrew Thomas angered many in the legal community when they filed a federal RICO (racketeering) lawsuit against many of their political opponents, including county administrators, local attorneys, and judges. Arpaio and Thomas even charged a judge who had ruled against them with bribery. Smith and Wilson were included in the racketeering lawsuit but have not been criminally charged. This might have been one step too far.

Before these heated political battles erupted, Arpaio was infamous for conducting immigration sweeps in Hispanic neighborhoods and building a tent-based jail system. Political opponents also accuse Arpaio of using racial profiling to detain and search victims of immigration enforcement stops, but Arpaio maintains that stops are made based on probable cause.

The grand jury inquiry is reportedly related to Arpaio's investigations and prosecutions of political opponents. Several local officials, including Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon, stated during 2009 that the FBI had opened an investigation into abuses of power by Arpaio.

A grand jury inquiry means investigators and prosecutors already believe they have enough evidence to prosecute a case against Arpaio or MCSO officers. Though the grand jury will now make an independent determination of whether the evidence is sufficient to prosecute.

The FBI has refused to confirm whether an investigation is underway. and the U.S. Attorney's office says they do not comment on grand jury proceedings. A spokesperson for Arpaio says they will "conduct business as usual."