U.S. Attorney's Office closes criminal conduct investigation against Arpaio

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By Andrew Michalscheck By Andrew Michalscheck

 PHOENIX--- The US Department of Justice investigation into abuse of power allegations against Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio and former County Attorney Andrew Thomas is closed.   US Attorney Ann Birmingham Scheel released a brief statement, saying her office will not press criminal charges.

The statement arrived in a press release sent at 4:59pm Friday night.   It contained no explanation of the charges, the evidence gathered, or the decision not to prosecute.

Calls to the US Attorney's office in Phoenix went directly to voicemail Friday.  The message specifically said they would have no further comment regarding the Maricopa County matter.

The feds have been investigation the abuse of power charges since at least January 2009.   A grand jury convened several times to review evidence and interview witnesses.

Many of them were county workers and officials who claim they were harassed, intimidated, and retaliated against for opposing Arpaio's policies.

"Joe Arpaio went after anyone who opposed him, particularly on his budget and on racial profiling allegations," said County Supervisor Mary Rose Wilcox Friday night, "He arrested [County Supervisor] Don Stapley twice.  He charged me.   We were all cleared.   [County Supervisor] Andy Kunasek was due to be charged and terrorized."

Wilcox says lower-level county employees were also intimidated.

"Twenty budget analysts were visited at their homes by deputies, terrorizing them.  No subpoenas, no warrants, just telling them that they weren't looking at Sheriff Arpaio's budget right," Wilcox said.

Arpaio found out about the DOJ's conclusion when his plane landed back in Phoenix Friday, after his trip to the Republican National Convention.

"I never had any doubts," said Arpaio, about the DOJ's decision to drop the case.

"I'm not going to get into the politics about whether this was a witch-hunt, but the bottom line is: we were cleared," said the sheriff.

His critics were more surprised that the feds declined to prosecute.

"I just can't believe it.  I just don't know what's behind it. Why would they do a two-and-a-half year  investigation and totally clear these people, when they terrorized the community?  Life takes weird turns and this is one of them," Wilcox told 3TV.

While the Department of Justice provided no explanation to the public Friday, an official did send a letter to Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery.

According to the letter, the DOJ found improper behavior among MCSO officials and the county attorney, but nothing that could meet the heavy burden they would have to prove in court.

The Department of Justice says Friday's announcement has nothing to do with a separate, ongoing investigation into civil rights abuse allegations against Arpaio's department.