'America's toughest sheriff' says 'I did it my way'Posted: Updated:
In an hourlong interview, Sheriff Joe Arpaio and his wife, Ava, sat down with 3TV’s Scott Pasmore to discuss his career and their future together. The interview comes two weeks after voters elected Paul Penzone as the new Maricopa County Sheriff, ending Arpaio’s 24-year run in office. The Arpaios made news during the interview, disclosing for the first time that Ava Arpaio is cancer-free, and also that Arpaio is planning at least one more major news conference before he leaves office to release new evidence on a controversial topic.
In January, MCSO confirmed Ava Arpaio had been diagnosed with cancer. In an interview with Pasmore on Monday, Ava said she is now cancer-free.
“I took the treatment for cancer and the last three tests came out negative,” she said. “I feel wonderful now. I feel normal again.”
Arpaio said his wife’s cancer battle “was tough, but she’s tough.” He believes her faith in God helped.
“She reads the Bible every day and I think that pulled her through, too.”
DIGITAL EXTRA: Ava Arpaio says 'I feel normal again'
DIGITAL EXTRA: Ava Arpaio's special necklace
Criminal contempt trial
Arpaio faces an upcoming trial for criminal contempt of court. He is accused of intentionally violating court orders in a racial profiling case. Pasmore asked Arpaio if the possibility of a conviction and jail time concerned him.
“Not really,” he said. “I think the truth will come out one day. But if I have to go through it, I’ll go through it.” He even managed to joke about it, saying, “At least it’s a federal [case] so I’ll have good food.”
Ava Arpaio admitted she was worried but said, “We’ll get through it together.”
Pasmore pressed Arpaio for specifics about the contempt case, asking if he had regrets about how the situation was handled.
“I’m not going to get into that. There may have been a few mistakes, but nothing intentional.” He says he was just doing his job.
“I ran against myself,” he said, implying that most people voted against him not for Penzone. “This was a very unusual political year.” He says money from out-of-state opponents including billionaire George Soros contributed to his loss.
“I still got 640,000 votes. A lot of people still support me. I would almost bet that those who voted against me this time probably support me.” He says he has received condolences from people all over the country and that those calls make him sad.
Asked about his successor, Arpaio declared, “He can do whatever he wants. He’s the sheriff.” He says his team is working to making the transition a smooth one for Penzone and that he will refrain from criticizing the new sheriff unless Penzone goes after him.
“If I have to defend my name, I will.”
Arpaio is arguably the best-known sheriff in the country and he admits he has used the media to get his name and message out. Over the years he bragged about putting inmates in pink underwear and feeding them bologna sandwiches. He appeared in holiday parades in his tank and on cable news shows, promoting himself and his sometimes controversial views of law enforcement.
“Yeah, I want publicity,” he told Pasmore. “How do you do it if you don’t call the media and let them know about it? It doesn’t bother me. I know what I am. I know what I do.”
I scare people because I keep my promises and I don't back down.
Despite that, Arpaio says he’s actually a private person and that members of the media, including Pasmore, shouldn’t expect to see him much after he leaves office.
“I hate to say this to you, and you’re a great guy, [but] I’ll probably never see you again. Because the day you leave office, you’re dead and buried. You think I don’t know that? So if you think I’m a publicity hound, I know that day is going to come to an end.”
There’s been speculation that Arpaio could have a place in the Trump administration since he was an early endorser of the president-elect. Arpaio says Trump has not called him yet, but he would consider a position if offered.
“Trump is different. And how I feel towards him [is different]. So how do you turn him down? That’s a problem I may have.” If Trump doesn’t call, Arpaio says he may continue a nationwide speaking tour. He says people still want to hear what he has to say.
A lot of people still support me. I would almost bet that those who voted against me this time probably support me.
Arpaio also revealed that he plans to have at least one more major news conference before he leaves office. He says he will release “new evidence” in his posse’s investigation into President Obama’s birth certificate. Though this theory has been widely debunked, Arpaio is among those who believe the birth certificate Obama released is fraudulent. He brags about being the only lawman in the country to investigate it.
Arpaio declined to elaborate on the new evidence but said it was obtained seven months ago and his investigators have been working to close the case. He did not say exactly when he would release the new information.
“We’ll see what happens when the evidence goes to … the new government, the new Congress.”
DIGITAL EXTRA: On the patio of the Arpaios' Fountain Hills home
SLIDESHOW: At home with Joe and Ava Arpaio
Arpaio will leave office with the reputation as “America’s toughest sheriff,” a nickname he said he did not coin but does appreciate. “I’d rather be called America’s toughest sheriff than America’s nicest sheriff.” He said he’s proud of his legacy, that he has no regrets, and that he’d do it all over again.
DIGITAL EXTRA: 'America's toughest sheriff'
I act tough, but I have a big heart.
He called MCSO “probably the best law enforcement agency in the country” and expressed frustration that problems within the agency are covered more than positive stories.
@SheriffJoeArpaio via Facebook: "Thank you to all of my Deputies, Detention officers and Civilian staff who made my 24 years as sheriff of this office something to be very very proud of when I look back and reflect on some of the best years of my life."
RELATED: Arpaio's colorful legacy in doubt
Arpaio entered office in 1993 with three priorities
- Establish the Tent City Jail.
- Create a volunteer citizen posse.
- Ensure MCSO was tough on crime.
"I scare people because I keep my promises and I don't back down."
DIGITAL EXTRA: Joe and Scott's jail date
Arpaio also notes other achievements, such as his popular crackdown on animal abusers and his innovative jail programs.
But Arpaio’s tenure was also marred by scandal.
He pursued corruption charges against supervisors, judges, and other county officials that never stuck and resulted in millions of dollars in settlements; presided over a department that failed to investigate hundreds of sex crimes cases; drew the ire of the Latino community and many others with his aggressive immigration enforcement tactics; was investigated by the U.S. Department of Justice on allegations of abuse of power and racial profiling; and, was recently found guilty of civil contempt of court for failing to follow a federal judge's order after his office was found to have racially profiled Latinos.
"I did it my way," Arpaio told Pasmore.
He insisted he had a reason for everything he did, and that people shouldn't question his motives.
"I act tough, but I have a big heart."
His wife of nearly 60 years agrees. Of his time as sheriff she says, "I couldn't be prouder."
I hate to say this to you, and you’re a great guy, [but] I’ll probably never see you again. Because the day you leave office, you’re dead and buried. You think I don’t know that? So if you think I’m a publicity hound, I know that day is going to come to an end.
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