Former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio has been hit with a lawsuit claiming he maliciously pressed charges against a member of Jeff Flake’s family to hurt the Arizona Republican senator politically.
President Donald Trump pardoned Arpaio in August after the former sheriff was convicted of criminal contempt for willfully violating a federal judge’s order and unlawfully detaining individuals solely based on suspicions about their legal status.
Flake is a harsh critic of Trump. When the senator announced in October he would not seek re-election in 2018, he warned of the Trump administration: “We must never regard as normal the regular and casual undermining of our democratic norms and ideals.”
Flake’s son Austin Flake is bringing a malicious-prosecution lawsuit against Arpaio for pursuing felony animal cruelty charges against him and his then-wife, Logan Flake. The couple had been watching dogs at a Phoenix kennel operated by Logan’s parents in the summer of 2014 when an air conditioner failed and more than 20 dogs died of heat exhaustion.
Logan Flake’s parents ultimately pleaded guilty to animal cruelty after an expert testified that the air conditioner had not been properly maintained, The Associated Press reported, and charges against Austin and Logan Flake were dismissed at the request of prosecutors.
U.S. District Judge Neil Wake later ruled that charges were initially brought “because of pressure from Arpaio,” who not only came after the couple but conducted surveillance on the senator’s home and examined Austin Flake’s phone records in an effort to tie the incident to the senator. Jeff Flake and Arpaio had been clashing over the lawman’s harsh crackdown on immigrants.
The former sheriff has insisted in a deposition that he was only following the recommendations of his investigators.
The case is scheduled to go to court on Dec. 5.