Stranger than Fiction: The Real Sheriff Joe

Stranger Than Fiction:

The Real Sheriff Joe

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Fact Based Reporting by

Amanda Chen & Rob Roman

Sheriff Joe is Jodi Arias’ jailer in Arizona. This article is in response to various posters, who claim that Maricopa County’s Sheriff Joe Arpaio is doing a wonderful job and they have statistics that prove his outstanding job performance.

Claims to Fame

  • Being a Korean War Veteran
  • Inventing the use of tents in a custody setting
  • Pulling over and/or arresting Elvis Presley in Nevada
  • Getting in weekly shootouts as a DEA agent
  • Breaking the famous “French Connection”

elvis-presley-clambake1971 french connection

These are some of  the actual claims Sheriff Joe has made. All these claims have little or no basis in reality.

(Spanish language overview

Reality Bites

Real Joe was an unremarkable Army Typist who was stationed in France during the Korean War. He was a mediocre police officer and DEA agent and he would probably also have claimed to have invented the internet, if only former Vice President Al Gore hadn’t beaten him to it.

There’s something about Arizona, where run of the mill, but whacky and ruthless people seem to rise to the top of the heap. Juan Martinez was recently named Prosecutor of the year in Maricopa County. Even a person whose highest educational achievement, a certificate as a radiological (X-ray) technician, from Valley Community College, now sits in the Governor’s seat.

A Tough Nut to Crack

“ He’s notoriously tough — and arguably brutal — towards inmates, too. Sheriff Joe has made headlines for calling his “Tent City” jail a “concentration camp,” and for making the inmates there wear pink underwear, eat only two meals a day, and endure unbearably hot temperatures in the summer.

Somehow, in Maricopa County, this man became a legend.


Recidivism Schism

Besides saving the county money, Sheriff Joe’s other main purpose was to make detention and jail so unpleasant, that people would avoid being arrested at all cost. CountyJail would no longer be a home away from home or a cheap hotel for lawbreakers. They were going to tighten up the screws in MaricopaCounty.

But then, wouldn’t fewer prisoners mean a smaller budget and less need for a “legend”? The more, the merrier would be a better rule of thumb.

Known as “America’s Toughest Sheriff”, a moniker Joe modestly bestowed upon himself, Maricopa County’s Sheriff Joe Arpaio has made himself the indispensable top lawman in the greater Phoenix area.

20 Year Sentence

After over 20 years in office as Sheriff, the rate of offender recidivism (repeat offenders) under Sheriff Joe is actually no better than his predecessors and no different from any of his contemporaries.

Additionally, many experts think Sheriff Joe’s practices are harmful to prisoners and the community. His policies border on being unconstitutional, as well as violating the rights of citizens both inside and outside his jails.

Here’s a better idea: Run a safe, humane jail system with a certain minimum level of dignity for the prisoners. But that would be expensive, wouldn’t it?


Shame Game

He’s known for shaming prisoners by

  • Parading them through public squares in their striped uniforms
  • Publishing the names of everyone who’s been arrested
  • Posting the “mugshot of the day” on his website
  • Forcing prisoners to wear pink underwear
  • Installing cameras and showing live video feeds displaying prisoners in their daily activities on his website

Is Sheriff Joe really the mastermind of ineffective, callous and even brutal policies that harm both inmates and the community?

The FBI says so, so do local Arizona newspapers, so does a leading conservative think tank, so do neighboring communities and states.

There are dissenting views, however:


Joe’s Support Network

  • Some police organizations,
  • Joe Arpaio’s personal Twitter site @RealSheriffJoe
  •, his official Maricopa County website …

…and the people of Maricopa County Arizona, who have overwhelmingly re-elected the 81 year-old lawman as County Sheriff five times since he won office in 1992.

Oh dear, he’s such a nice man. Isn’t he that baseball player who married Marilyn Monroe?

He did do a good job of facilitating Jodi Arias’ interviews and protecting her from potential attacks by crazy people on her way to and from the courthouse.

So in return, I will not mention:

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Armored Vehicle Attack

  •  the armored vehicle SWAT attack on a family
  • the purposeful murder of their puppy (2nd degree)
  • the burning down of their home…
  • …when the man had nothing but some overdue traffic tickets.

I’ll try to forget about Clint Yarbrough

December, 2005

It was said that Clint Yarbrough was on drugs and combative. No medical services were rendered. Instead, he was strapped into a restraint chair and rolled into a hallway where he was left restrained and unattended for 3 hours. He passed out and eventually died.

Settlement: $2 Million dollars.

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I won’t mention Scott Norberg…..

June, 1996

Amnesty International believes Scott Norberg was shocked multiple times with a stun-gun while he was handcuffed and forced into a face-down position. He was then transported to a restraint chair and strapped in with a towel over his face. He was surrounded by a gaggle of Corrections Officers.

After some time working on him, they quickly dispersed, laughing. Norberg wasn’t moving. There were allegations that the scene was washed down and evidence destroyed. After he was found dead, detention officers accused Norberg of attacking them.

Settlement $8.25 million dollars.

I won’t mention the breaking of the neck of a prisoner

while under Joe’s restraint chair and the choking to death of another in the same restraint system.

December, 1996

Richard Post

was a paraplegic. He complained from his cell that he needed a catheter in order to urinate. Instead he was strapped into Joe’s restraint chair and left for four hours. When he begged to be let out of the chair, the guards instead tightened the straps with all their might, breaking his neck. Why would you need to do that to someone with no use of his legs? Now he is practically a quadriplegic.

Settlement: $800,000 dollars.

Don’t these things happen to everybody? There’s nothing special here for people to see.

Or Charles Agster,

the man who died in custody mysteriously with 17 times a lethal dose of methamphetamine in his system.

August, 2001

Charles Agster, a special needs prisoner, had a “spit hood” forced over his head and was strapped into a restraint chair, where he had a seizure and lost consciousness. He was declared brain dead and was found to have 17 times the lethal dose of methamphetamine in his system.

Verdict: $ 9 million dollars.

charles agster

Did anyone in Maricopa County MCSO (Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office) ever hear of a Doctor, or a Nurse, or a Hospital?

In many of these cases there are first hand reports of the guards smiling, joking and laughing out loud during these activities.

Apply Force

It’s a great job for biblical law revenge seekers, every day sadists, and for just ordinary, robust people with a well developed sense of humor and a healthy curiosity.

No arrests were made and no one was held accountable for any of these “incidents”.

Most of the time, there are no witnesses, other than staff who receive their pay, benefits and retirement funds from the County.

I won’t mention the diabetic woman who became seriously ill and died

in jail after begging for and being refused basic medical treatment.

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Deborah Braillard

was offered no help, even after “moaning and crying out in pain, asking for help, repeatedly vomiting, defecating on herself and having seizures. She shook violently and then her body would stiffen up. Her fellow inmates begged the corrections officers to assist her. They were told “This is jail.” and to “Get over it”. She died soon after.

Key evidence in this case was also destroyed. The County recently settled with her family for $3.25 million.

It’s fun to come to Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s tent city. You can live in the desert and enjoy the great outdoors and you can stretch your legs and get some fresh air on the volunteer chain gangs in the lovely, blazing Arizona sun.

June Weather

Average temperature: 91 (33 C)
Average high temperature: 104 (40 C)
Warmest ever: 122  (50 C)

July Weather
Average temperature: 95 (35C)
Average high temperature: 106 (41 C)
Warmest ever: 121 (49.4)

August Weather
Average temperature: 94 (34.4)
Average high temperature: 104 (40 C)
Warmest ever: 116 (46.7 C)

Should I bring up the case of Juan Mendoza Farias, who was beaten to death by guards?


December, 2007

Juan Mendoza Farias

BookingPhoto_optFariasNreducedwas a DUI (driving under the influence) intake. He was suffering severe alcohol withdrawal.

The corrections Officers made fun of his incoherence and inability to follow directions and they goaded him into making funny faces for his mug shot in order to win the “mug shot of the day contest”, a source of great merriment for the guards. Then he was surrounded by 12 guards

The correction officers wanted to help him. Eleven of the officers attempted to assist him by handcuffing him behind his back, shoving a “spit hood” over his head and forcing him into a face down position.

Mr. Mendoza fought against suffocation and he was pelted with 6 rounds of “crowd control pepper balls” and shocked repeatedly with tasers. He choked on his own blood and died. He had multiple blunt force injuries on his face and body, ruptured vessels in his neck and even a chunk was missing from his nose.

Settlement: $1 million dollars.

Standard Operating Procedure

Real Sheriff Joe chalked it up to business as usual, after the County settled another huge lawsuit when he said, and I quote:

  •  “It was settled due to the nature of doing business,”
  •  “That (settlement) wasn’t up to us, that was the county that decided to settle it.”
  •  “We have nothing to do with this.”
  •  “We never like to ‘lose’ anybody in jail.”


Birds of a Feather

Sheriff Joe’s well-worn, joking answer when various requests or complaints are made? “We are not a hotel.”

When one prisoner was sentenced to prison but remained in the jail, he pleaded to Sheriff Joe to be transferred to the prison, where conditions are better.

Juan Martinez’ response to the prisoner? “We are not a taxi service”, he replied laughingly, echoing his buddy, Sheriff Joe.

I won’t mention the legally blind and mentally disabled man who was beaten to death for fun.

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March, 2003

Brian Crenshaw,

a legally blind and retarded inmate was brutally beaten to death by corrections officers who then claimed he fell off his bunk. The Medical Examiner confirmed that Crenshaw suffered a broken neck, broken toes, and a perforation of his duodenum (1st part of the small intestine leading from the stomach) all from a single four foot (1.22 M) fall off his bunk. That’s what the Correction Officers reported had happened, so hey, why investigate?

The ME performed no autopsy and relied solely on the report given to him by the guards stating that Crenshaw fell off his bunk.

Settlement $2 million dollars.

The Fantastic Four (and More)

Sheriff Joe has to sell himself every four years. So, he needs to make the headlines with new innovations and crowd-pleasing measures. Last election cycle, in 2010, the big crowd pleaser was his announcement that he would enforce Arizona’s newest and highly controversial immigration laws, widely regarded as in violation of The U.S. Constitution.


Sheriff Joe teamed up with:

  • Dick Tracy (No, he’s just some retired cop type guy who happens to share the same name.)
  • Wyatt Earp (Nephew of the famous lawman by the same name)
  • Peter Lupus (the Muscle man from the original Mission Impossible team)
  • Lou Ferrigno (The deaf Body Builder who was the original Incredible Hulk until he was replaced by digital animation)
  • and Steven Seagal (The actor-martial artist who likes to brag about his mysterious associations with the CIA).

Fantastic Four

These name-brand, quasi-celebrities were made into “Deputies” and joined forces to help form citizen posses to keep the riff raff from crossing over the boarder and/or remaining illegally in U.S. territory.

The Arizona crowds went wild. Joe seems to have a certain fascination with shirtless, male body builders, collecting them with as much enthusiasm as a wide-eyed child collects action figures.

Suddenly, Joe’s mission to force shackled men to wear pink underwear makes more and more sense.

Too bad My Hero will not be a member of Joe’s posse

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“When lawmen break the law, then there is no law. There’s just a struggle for survival”.   – Billy Jack

Election Year

This year, in addition to his possible claim to fame as the dungeon master of the “dangerous” Jodi Arias and other inmates, he is also trying to do the other thing that drives his Maricopa fans wild: saving that money.

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  • Joe has taken all the meat out of prisoners meals, which he estimates will save over $100,000 per year and has already caused a women’s hunger strike.
  • He is also the first jailer to charge prisoners directly for all meals ($1.25 per day) giving an estimated savings of $900,000 per year.
  • This policy is obviously designed to save an additional $1,000,000 dollars per year to make up for all the lawsuits and other budget overruns that voters may be angry about.
  • His other big venture is teaming with a company to provide a sort of pay-per-view Skype type operation where family and friends of prisoners must pay to visit their incarcerated member to communicate via computer video.
  • Last year, right before Christmas, the Sheriff’s Office cut visitations from 3 hours per week to ½ hour. This year, the phone system just happened to be shut down during the Valentine’s Day weekend. How warm and fuzzy!

Augmenting this money saving “War on Christmas: Joe Arpaio’s New Inmate-Visitation Policy is a money making Bonanza.

December 11, 2013


Party Pooper

“Birther Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Maricopa County, Arizona, is not only cutting back on inmate visitation at the county jails, just in time for the holidays, he’s also charging for visitation visits via a new video-installation system which is installed for free but his office gets a kickback of 10 percent, and that fee will go up to 20 percent as more revenue comes in.”

“It’s the only way to visit a prisoner for the holidays and Arpaio will make their families suffer. If a family member or friend wants to have a video visit with an inmate from their own computer, it will cost $12.95 for a 20-minute chat.”

Since video communications via computer such as Skype are virtually free, one can imagine the enormous profit potential in this venture. Watch as prisoners soon are allowed more and more visiting time as this low-cost / high-tech scheme unfolds. Sheriff Joe needs to make up for all the money he’s lost to personal injury and death liability lawsuits.


Eternal Vigilance

Besides showboating, another part of Sheriff Joe’s public relations campaign is to illicit sympathy or show that his job is incredibly dangerous. He needs to be viewed as facing crafty adversaries facing off against him in his fight for truth, justice, and the American way.

Anyone who says anything that in any way can be viewed as a “threat” against Sheriff Joe is gathered by his office, and distributed to the media to garner sympathy and support for “America’s Toughest Sheriff”.

This is true even if the “threat” comes from a facebook posting from some guy in Tennessee or an e-mail from a  16 year-old boy living in Canada.

“Sheriff Joe Arpaio seems to have an obsession with trying to get the public to believe that his life is in constant danger.

And no matter how many times Arpaio cries wolf about the latest “death threat,” there never seems to be any intent of legitimate harm against the elderly, publicity-hungry sheriff. Check out 10 of the most bogus death threats Arpaio has cried about:”

October, 2013


October 2013

“Sheriff Joe Arpaio announced that a 16-year-old Canadian boy might be facing criminal charges for threatening to murder Arpaio, who’s a “massive d*ckhead,” according to the boy’s alleged e-mail threat.

Adding to the long list of non-credible “death threats” Arpaio has publicized, the boy e-mailed the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office saying that he’d murder the “d*ck sucking sh*tface” Sheriff and his family, and bomb his house.”

Trumped Up Charges

Along with real millionaire entrepreneur Donald Trump, Real Joe was front and center in the “birther” movement, questioning Barack Obama’s legitimacy as President of the U.S. because they claimed he was not a natural born U.S. citizen. They continued this for years, even though Obama’s mother was a United States citizen and her father was a real war veteran of World War II.

They fought a long and unsuccessful campaign trying to prove that Obama’s birth certificate was a forgery, including offering a reward for information proving the President was born in a foreign country. This quest ended abruptly around the sane time that political comedian Bill Maher offered a reward for proof that Donald Trump was not the offspring of an Orangutan.


Monkey Business

Back to Sheriff Joe’s exploits:

We promise not to mention

Ernest “Marty” Atencio

Mr. Atencio was arrested and booked on suspicion of assault

Mr. Atencio was not on drugs and he was not combative.

The official story line was that Marty Atencio was found unresponsive in his cell, with a weak pulse, and rushed to the hospital.

Ernest marty atencioThe true story is that Marty was shocked with tasers by Detention Officers so many times that he went into cardiac arrest. After that, they put him in a cell and left him there. AFTER it was feared he had died, THEN they got him out of his cell and rushed him to a hospital, where he was placed on life support.

“The family said Atencio had a history of mental illness and that a stun gun was likely not necessary.  They said there were marks from the gun’s barbs on Atencio’s chest.

“They treated him as less than a human being,” said Mike Atencio, Marty Atencio’s brother. “I believe that they took advantage of someone who has special needs.”

The family’s biggest problem, however, was not with the use of a stun gun, but that their brother was not cared for better after he was found not breathing.”

“When a human life is involved, it should be at the highest level,” said brother Eric Atencio. “It does not matter what is going on. It does not matter the circumstances. It does not matter that they are in jail. You are handling a human life.”


Why has the real Joe Arpaio been unable to learn this real simple lesson?

Maybe Eric Atencio should run for Maricopa County Sheriff.

Marty Atencio

Shell Shock

Later, when Sheriff Joe Arpaio found out that Marty Atencio was a disabled Gulf War Veteran instead of just a another ‘lowly Hispanic’, Joe went on a frantic campaign to prevent this news from getting out. Joe suppressed news of the event for months and then tried to prevent news organizations from getting any information about the death.

The Atencio family recently refused a settlement offer of $550,000 for the shocking death of their family member.

What’s Sheriff Joe’s latest overcompensating improvement? Placing stickers of the American flag in all prisoner’s cells to evoke and improve patriotism.


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Love It Or Leave It (alone)

In an “I dare you to knock this chip off my shoulder” arrangement, Sheriff Joe had the stickers installed in all cells as well as loudly blasting patriotic songs throughout the jails each morning and evening.

What’s the punishment for defacing, tearing, moving, or otherwise interfering with the American flag stickers? The prisoner is put on a diet of bread and water only.

This should teach the prisoners to love their country, or else.


Driving While Latino

We won’t mention the many legal American Latinos and Latino U.S. citizens who were pulled over without probable cause other than their skin color and subjected to illegal searches and seizures on suspicion of “trespassing on American soil”.

“How do we know that Joe Arpaio, sheriff of Maricopa County, Ariz., is a racial profiler, an abuser of power who has subjected Latinos for years to unconstitutional arrests, detention and harassment?”

“Judge G. Murray Snow of United States District Court in Phoenix, in a 142-page opinion released on Friday, excoriated the Maricopa Sheriff’s Office for violating the 4th and 14th Amendment rights of Latinos by illegally using race as a factor in questioning. “

“But we also know that Sheriff Arpaio has singled out Latinos for unjustified abuse because the sheriff said so himself, as loudly and in as many ways as he could.”

“He said it in press releases. He said it in news conferences. He said it to Fox News and CNN. He said it to adoring crowds in retirement communities outside Phoenix, who pressed him for photos and autographs of his books.”

“He said it in his books. He said it when he paraded immigrant suspects through the streets of Phoenix, in chains and prison stripes. And he said it every day to the hundreds of thousands of brown-skinned residents of MaricopaCounty, where Latinos have long understood: The sheriff is out to get you.”



Does this really say that real Sheriff Joe Arpaio arrested a 6 year-old, for real?

Chain Labor

… or shackling pregnant moms

“In some ways, she was lucky. The MCSO’s policy heretofore has been to shackle pregnant women as they give birth.”

“My colleague Valerie Fernandez has previously reported on this MCSO policy for New Times, describing the ordeal of another pregnant Latina who was shackled throughout her labor, despite the wishes of healthcare providers.”

“But during Mendiola-Martinez’s C-section at county, her female MCSO guard cut her some uncharacteristic slack by not shackling her during the actual operation.”

“Afterward, though she was in terrific pain and could barely walk, the male guard who took over for the female officer shackled the new mother to her hospital bed.”


Crude Awakening

I almost forgot to mention one of Joe’s guards who went home and stabbed his own father six times or another one of Joe’s guards who went home and smashed his girlfriend’s cell phone, assaulted her with a stun gun, pepper sprayed her vagina, put a loaded gun in her mouth on multiple occasions and sexually assaulted her with a souvenir baseball bat.

Where do you think they got all this pent-up hostility? Where do you suppose he learned all these nasty tricks, hmmm?

It’s kind of difficult to minimize these things, especially when there were eye witnesses.

Paper Chase

Now for his best recent legal act: Joe Arpaio feels there is nothing wrong with a deputy snooping through a defense attorney’s papers during open court, removing papers, and attempting to sneak them out of the courtroom.

Sheriff Joe advised his deputy to continue his court duties and to not listen to the judge, who banned him pending a written apology, because to follow the instructions of a judge in her courtroom “would be unconstitutional”, according to “America’s toughest sheriff.


Dollars to Donuts

Did I mention the two thousand lawsuits and the 43 million dollars in payouts against Sheriff Joe?  That’s “50 times as many prison-conditions lawsuits as there were in New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Houston jail systems combined”.

(Sources: Wikipedia and

Joe wraps himself in the American flag and fancies himself as a defender of our Constitution. But, he’s an insult to both and should be an embarrassment to most Americans.

Governor Jan Brewer, who just recently broke the record for the most executions in her terms as Arizona’s top official, most likely will not be able to be re-elected due to term limits.

So, I saved the best news for last.

In 2014, Sheriff Joe is talking about running for Governor of Arizona!

tent-cityGovernor would be a safer position for Joe Arpaio. As Governor, how could Joe possibly be responsible for any needless deaths?

What possible harm could he do in this position?

What’s the worst that could happen?

All opinions of all stripes are very welcome.

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