Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio told Newsmax on Friday that he and a former county attorney "just did our jobs" when they targeted local officials in a 2006 corruption probe that later became the subject of an FBI investigation.
"There was probable cause," the Arizona sheriff said in a brief interview. "We even went to the Department of Justice to have them investigate people who we thought were involved."
Arpaio, the tough-talking sheriff known for his strong stance on inmate punishment and support for armed citizens militias working with local law enforcement, was referring to a probe
that he and former Maricopa County attorney Andrew Thomas conducted of local officials via the Maricopa Anti-Corruption Effort.
That probe, which targeted locals suspected of violating the public trust, led to an investigation by the FBI that began in late 2008. The U.S. Attorney's Office for Arizona announced in August 2012 that no indictments would be forthcoming.
Though the FBI concluded that sufficient evidence existed to bring charges against Arpaio, Thomas and several top deputies, prosecutors ultimately declined to pursue the case because of "a lack of evidence or an insurmountable burden of proof," The Arizona Republic
That investigation had stemmed from abuse-of-power accusations made by officials in the state probe.
Documents relating to the federal investigation were released to the Republic this week — 17 months after the Republic made two Freedom of Information Act requests to federal prosecutors.
The 93 pages delivered to the newspaper by the Justice Department were heavily redacted — two-thirds of them blacked out completely, the newspaper reports. The agency cited privacy issues in their actions.
Arpaio has long contended that the federal investigation was politically motivated.
"It took them 17 months to release them," Arpaio told Newsmax late Friday, referring to the Justice Department's hold on the documents. "Right now, it's all kind of mixed up."
The FBI began its investigation in 2008 after receiving complaints from former Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon and other local officials about Arpaio, Thomas and their subordinates abusing their power. The inquiry later expanded to include possible state crimes.
At the time, Arpaio and Thomas were embroiled in a "vitriolic political war" with the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors and county judges, the Republic reports.
Arpaio and Thomas had maintained that they were rooting out public corruption though the anti-corruption effort, which brought sheriff's deputies and county prosecutors together to investigate government officials suspected of violating the public trust. The unit has since disbanded.
One county supervisor was charged with conflict of interest and a judge was accused of bribery, though both of those cases were later dismissed.
As of January, taxpayers had footed "at least" $44.4 million for the legal battles, the Republic reports.
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