Judge says description of sheriff's deputy as a 'fascist' was 'accurate'

By Nick R. Martin | December 1st, 2009 | 4:12 pm | 6 Comments »

McMurry statement

A Maricopa County justice of the peace said Monday that a defendant who was arrested last year for clapping during a public meeting was “objectively accurate” when she called the deputy arresting her a “fascist.”

In a ruling published yesterday (PDF), Justice of the Peace Steven McMurry slammed the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office for the incident in which five local activists were arrested and eventually charged with disrupting a Dec. 17, 2008 meeting of the county Board of Supervisors.

The activists had been speaking out against Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s immigration enforcement and were applauding one another when deputies moved in to arrest them, then hauled them out of the meeting.

Having already thrown out all charges, McMurry decided in his ruling to make the county pay for the legal costs that the activists racked up in defending themselves.

“This is such an extreme case, with the sheriff’s deputies trampling on the First Amendment and being aided and abetted by the county attorney,” McMurry wrote in his ruling. “It has to stop.”

He told the activists to tally up their legal bills and send them to him.

The county attorney’s spokesman, Mike Scerbo, referred all questions in the case to the sheriff’s office. The sheriff’s staff did not respond to a message seeking comment.

The five activists – Joel Nelson, Jason Ohdner, Monica Sandschafer, Raquel Teran and Kristi Theilen – were regular attendees of the Board of Supervisors meetings and were part of a group that regularly used the public speaking periods there to ask the county’s elected leaders to put the brakes on the sheriff.

But it was the stifled cries of one of those activists, Theilen, that McMurry capitalized on in his ruling. He pointed to a recording of the meeting in which Theilen could be heard being carted away.

“One can hear her, between sobs, describing…the actions of the arresting officer, Deputy (George) Acritelli, as those of a ‘fascist’,” McMurry wrote. He went on to say that the prosecutor’s account of the event was nowhere near what really happened.

Then McMurry added his strongest blow: “The court now sadly concludes that Ms. Theilen’s description of the events is more balanced and objectively accurate than that of the county attorney.”


  • Anonymous

    The law states that it is illegal to enter the country as an illegal immigrant. So how does one reconcile the fact that any law enforcement officer is in the wrong for removing or arresting illegals? As to first amendment rights, citizens of the United States definitely have the right to voice their opinion without being arrested. They have the right to solicity a change in the law by using the Congress to change the laws. But, until the law is changed, law enforcement needs to stop the flow of illegals.

  • kerease

    The law states that it is illegal to enter the country as an illegal immigrant. So how does one reconcile the fact that any law enforcement officer is in the wrong for removing or arresting illegals? As to first amendment rights, citizens of the United States definitely have the right to voice their opinion without being arrested. They have the right to solicity a change in the law by using the Congress to change the laws. But, until the law is changed, law enforcement needs to stop the flow of illegals.

  • Anonymous

    I’m not sure I understand your point. Are you saying that these activists should only have addressed Congress, not spoken up at a public meeting? From what I’ve read they were arrested for clapping and cheering each other. What made the arrest so egregious was that those applauding FOR speakers supporting the MCSO were not arrested.

    And that’s the biggest complaint against how Sheriff Joe does business. He’s very selective in how he and his minions apply and enforce the law.

  • Anonymous

    I’m not sure I understand your point. Are you saying that these activists should only have addressed Congress, not spoken up at a public meeting? From what I’ve read they were arrested for clapping and cheering each other. What made the arrest so egregious was that those applauding FOR speakers supporting the MCSO were not arrested.

    And that’s the biggest complaint against how Sheriff Joe does business. He’s very selective in how he and his minions apply and enforce the law.

  • StormAZ

    I'm not sure I understand your point. Are you saying that these activists should only have addressed Congress, not spoken up at a public meeting? From what I've read they were arrested for clapping and cheering each other. What made the arrest so egregious was that those applauding FOR speakers supporting the MCSO were not arrested.

    And that's the biggest complaint against how Sheriff Joe does buisness. He's very selective in how he applies and enforces the law.

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