In heavily redacted documents, the FBI said it found enough evidence to charge public officials in its abuse of power probe of Sheriff Joe Arpaio and law enforcement in Maricopa County, according to the Arizona Republic.
The Arizona U.S. Attorney’s office in August 2012 closed its criminal probe into allegation that the self-proclaimed “toughest sheriff” in the country and county prosecutors had used their authority to target political adversaries.
Federal prosecutors said they lacked evidence to issue indictments and would not charge Arpaio, the sheriff’s office, former Maricopa County prosecutor Andrew Thomas and his top aide Lisa Aubuchon.
But day’s later the Republic filed a Freedom of Information Act request to obtain investigative records from the probe – a request that was narrowed to only cover prosecutorial reports, the paper said, after the Justice Department told them the original request would take years to fill.
Documents delivered to the Republic this week reveal that FBI agents thought they had enough evidence to charge some of the targets of their investigation.
The names of officials under investigation are blacked out in the documents, as are names of their accusers and the agents involved in the case. Because of the heavy redactions, the Republic said it cannot tell who might have faced charges and what the specific crimes would have been.
The records, however, show that agents found enough evidence to recommend a host of federal charges, including obstructing criminal investigations of prosecutions, theft by threats, tampering with witnesses, perjury and theft by extortion, the Republic said.
According to the Republic, the government blacked out almost two-thirds of the 93 pages of records citing privacy concerns and a need to protect law enforcement methods.
The federal investigation, launched in 2008, focused in-part on a unit of county prosecutors and sheriff’s deputy who were investigating public officials for possible corruption. The criminal probe involved allegations misuse of county purchasing cards and jail money, perjury and civil rights violations. Federal prosecutors in Arizona said they lacked enough evidence for criminal charges.
Arpaio in the past claimed that he had been targeted for political reasons. The controversial sheriff has been accused of racial profiling and cruel treatment of detainees and faces a lawsuit from the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division over alleged civil rights abuses.