New York Times Moves To Dismiss Joe Arpaio's Defamation Lawsuit By Pointing Out It's Impossible To Defame Him
from the shitheel-informed-of-issue-with-his-chosen-footwear dept
Last month, ex-sheriff Joe Arpaio sued three publications, claiming their unflattering articles had done $300 million in damage to his reputation. There’s money in politicking, Arpaio figured, stating these publications had made it all but impossible for him and his sterling reputation to secure a Senate seat and move on towards securing his rightfully-owed $300 million.
The New York Times has filed its motion to dismiss [PDF] and it is an entertaining read. It points out the statements it made were substantially true, and if Arpaio doesn’t like his villainous misdeeds characterized as villainous, perhaps he should have spent more of his law enforcement career not acting like a villain. (h/t Zoe Tillman)
While Arpaio asserts that the column harmed his “distinguished 55-year law enforcement and political career” and “severely damaged” his reputation with “the Republican establishment” and with “law enforcement,” Compl. ¶¶ 18-19, such an assertion is implausible on its face. The column broke no new factual ground about Arpaio or, as many Arizona officials have described it, his long “reign of terror” as a senior law enforcement official. The column merely summarized the extensive public record regarding Arpaio’s tenure as Sheriff and offered opinions about his political career. In short, the statements in the column about Arpaio are not only true, but the column also constitutes core political speech protected by the First Amendment.
Here’s what the New York Times said about the former sheriff in an article suggesting it’s a good thing Arizona voters found other candidates they preferred in the recent Senate elections.
His 24-year reign of terror was medieval in its brutality. In addition to conducting racial profiling on a mass scale and terrorizing immigrant neighborhoods with gratuitous raids and traffic stops and detentions, he oversaw a jail where mistreatment of inmates was the stuff of legend. Abuses ranged from the humiliating to the lethal. He brought back chain gangs. He forced prisoners to wear pink underwear. He set up an outdoor “tent city,” which he once referred to as a “concentration camp,” to hold the overflow of prisoners. Inmates were beaten, fed rancid food, denied medical care (this included pregnant women) and, in at least one case, left battered on the floor to die.
Indeed, many prisoners died in Mr. Arpaio’s jail—at an alarming clip. The number of inmates who hanged themselves in his facilities was far higher than in jails elsewhere in the country. More disturbing still, nearly half of all inmate deaths on his watch were never explained. Over the years, the county paid out tens of millions in wrongful death and injury settlements.
At the same time, Mr. Arpaio’s department could not be bothered to uphold the laws in which it had little interest. From 2005 through 2007, the sheriff and his deputies failed to properly investigate, or in some cases to investigate at all, more than 400 sex-crime cases, including those involving the rape of young children.
This is the reputation being damaged to the tune of $150 million (the NYT share) by the Time’s recounting of his brutal treatment of prisoners and his lack of zeal when it came to serving and protecting those harmed by the criminals he couldn’t be bothered to catch.
Arpaio’s career as a (lol) public servant have made him defamation-proof, the New York Times argues, citing plenty of other authorities (including governmental authorities) who have found Arpaio’s tactics abusive and repugnant.
While Arpaio has billed his approach to law enforcement as “tough,” numerous critics have alleged that he implemented nothing short of a “reign of terror” through his official position in the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office (“MCSO”), under which individual rights were trampled and mistreatment of inmates was rife. Arpaio’s tactics have been the subject of federal enforcement actions and literally thousands of civil lawsuits. Maricopa County has paid tens if not hundreds of millions of dollars in judgments, settlements, and costs arising out of MCSO abuses during Arpaio’s tenure—including an estimated $120 million for racial profiling cases alone.
Then it offers a litany of stunning quotes — some of which emanate from the sentient trash heap currently suing over an allegedly-bruised reputation.
The Sheriff admitted knowing about, and in fact intentionally designing, some conditions at Tent City that created a substantial risk of inmate violence: i.e., the lack of individual security and inmate control inherent in a tent facility; the small number of guards; a mixed inmate population subject to overcrowding, extreme heat, and lack of amenities. . . .
“Sheriff [Arpaio] acknowledged that he had said that he may spend more to feed his dogs than it costs to feed inmates.”
“Arpaio has boasted in the past of the food being rotten; green bologna is a specialty.”
Courts held that Arpaio repeatedly attempted to prevent pregnant detainees from obtaining abortion medical services. Indeed, Arpaio denied elective abortion procedures to pregnant detainees until enjoined from doing so by the federal courts…
Surveillance video shown at trial revealed that, in custody, MCSO officers handcuffed him, placed a hood over his head, strapped him into a restraining chair, and forced his head between his legs, leading to asphyxiation and death…
He bragged that “I take the credit” for implementing the chain gang and “it will be here as long as I’m the sheriff.”
The MCSO reportedly confirmed that from 2005 to 2007 its special victims unit failed to investigate 432 alleged sex crimes and that detectives improperly closed more than 200 of those investigations as solved, when they were not.
The court also found that MCSO engaged in “special operations” against Latino areas without any concrete allegation of criminal activity and that MCSO officers circulated emails with racist jokes about Mexicans.
After 21 days of evidentiary hearings, the District Court found that Arpaio “intentionally failed to implement the Court’s preliminary injunction in this case, failed to disclose thousands of relevant items of requested discovery . . . deliberately violated court orders” and that Arpaio “made multiple intentional misstatements of fact while under oath.”
Monster Commits Monstrous Deeds For Two Decades; Is Shocked People Believe He’s A Monster
What could possibly be worse than the truth? Even if the NYT had gotten a fact or two wrong (Arpaio alleges other defendants’ statements he was convicted of a felony, rather than misdemeanor, is defamation per se), the body of Arpaio’s “work” has made him pretty much impervious to reputational damage. You can’t get much lower — not after you made a career out of sewer-dwelling.
This is how you write a motion to dismiss. If a terrible person wants to claim they’ve suffered reputational damage, you can very publicly remind them of their unapologetic embrace of dehumanizing not only prisoners, but everyone Arpaio felt was too Hispanic to be in this country legally. When you’ve burdened constituents with millions of dollars in lawsuit settlements and legal expenses, you can’t pretend your tattered sheriff’s hat is a halo when you get out of the law enforcement business.