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AZ sheriff ordered to fix ‘unconscionable’ jail conditions

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The self-proclaimed “toughest sheriff in the nation” is required to fix jails that do not meet constitutional minimums when it comes to food quality and housing conditions, a federal appellate court ruled Wednesday.

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously rejected Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s appeal of District Court Judge Neil Wake’s 2008 ruling that mandated Maricopa County, Arizona change the conditions of its jails.

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In the 2008 trial, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) alleged that the Sheriff’s Office fed pre-trial detainees moldy bread, rotten fruit, and other contaminated food and held them in prison cells hot enough to endanger their health.

As a press release by the ACLU explains, Judge Wake’s ruling required Sheriff Arpaio to “end severe overcrowding and ensure all detainees receive necessary medical and mental health care, be given uninterrupted access to all medications prescribed by correctional medical staff, be given access to exercise and to sinks, toilets, toilet paper and soap and be served food that meets or exceeds the US Department of Agriculture’s dietary guidelines.”

“Today’s ruling is further confirmation that even a man who likes to brag about being the toughest sheriff in the nation has to follow the US Constitution,” said Margaret Winter, Associate Director of the ACLU National Prison Project and lead counsel for the detainees. “Sheriff Arpaio’s unconscionable treatment of the thousands of pre-trial detainees in his custody has gone on far too long.”

Sheriff Arpaio “likes to portray himself as a hard man and merciless hunter of illegal immigrants, the boss of a prison where inmates live outdoors in tents, even in hellish summer heat,” Agence France-Presse reported in May. “They are dressed in black and white striped uniforms copied from old American movies.”

They also are forced to wear pink underwear, and to work in chain gangs of up 20 people, cleaning streets or painting walls, with shackles on their feet.

At the top of a prison watchtower, a sign flashes the word “vacancy,” one more of Sheriff Joe’s grim jokes.

[…]

The sheriff has succeeded in creating a climate of fear in Arizona’s migrant community, but he is also being watched very closely by the federal government.

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In September, the Department of Justice sued Sheriff Arpaio for refusing to turn over documents related to a civil rights probe.

“The lawsuit calls Arpaio and his office’s defiance “unprecedented,” and said the federal government has been trying since March 2009 to get officials to comply with its probe of alleged discrimination, unconstitutional searches and seizures, and having English-only policies in his jails that discriminate against people with limited English skills,” reported the Associated Press.

On August 17th, a lawyer for Arpaio stated the sheriff would not comply because the request was too broad, as Raw Story reported.

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The Sheriff’s Office of Maricopa County has also been accused of surveilling potential political rivals.

“Deputy Chief Frank Munnell alleges that the department’s number-two officer, Chief Deputy Dave Hendershott, used the department’s anti-corruption unit to spy on political rivals,” Raw Story reported in September.

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Munnell’s memo “describes an oppressive work environment in which Hendershott is alleged to have threatened and retaliated against subordinates who questioned him and browbeat others into refusing to cooperate with federal and state investigations into the Sheriff’s Office,” reports the Republic.


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‘Smoking gun so hot it’s still on fire’: Ex-US Attorney astonished by text shown in Vindman testimony

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A former U.S. Attorney says Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman has delivered "smoking gun" evidence of a quid pro quo arrangement between President Donald Trump and Ukraine.

The National Security Council staffer told a House impeachment inquiry that he was aware of -- and alarmed by -- efforts as early as March to pressure Ukraine to announce an investigation of Joe Biden and his son, which he believed were conducted to deliver a political benefit the president.

The counsel for House Democrats then showed a text sent 30 minutes before Trump's July 25 call to Ukraine's president Volodymyr Zelensky, which shows the special envoy Kurt Volker dangling a White House visit to a Zelensky aide in exchange for an investigation.

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‘Perfectly impeachable’: George Conway says Vindman and Williams testimony is ‘absolutely devastating’ for Trump

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On Tuesday, as Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman and Mike Pence aide Jennifer Williams testified publicly about their knowledge of the Ukraine scandal, conservative lawyer George Conway called the testimony "devastating" for President Donald Trump — and proclaimed his conduct both impeachable and criminal.

This testimony, from two witnesses to the July 25 call, is absolutely devastating. That call was absolutely “perfect,” all right—perfectly impeachable.

And criminal.

— George Conway (@gtconway3d) November 19, 2019

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‘Improper’, ‘Unusual’: Aides describe Trump’s Ukraine call at impeachment hearing

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One top national security aide who listened to President Donald Trump’s July call with Ukraine’s president called it “improper.” Another said it was “unusual.” The two testified Tuesday at House impeachment hearings as the inquiry reached deeper into the White House.

Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, an Army officer at the National Security Council, and Jennifer Williams, his counterpart at Vice President Mike Pence’s office, said they had concerns as Trump spoke on July 25 with the newly elected Ukraine president about political investigations into Democrat Joe Biden.

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