The son of outgoing U.S. Sen. Jeff Flake (R) is renewing a civil suit against former Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio, once billed as the toughest lawman in America.
Arpaio, responsible for organizing illegal immigrant round-ups and accused of civil rights violations, allegedly constructed a trumped-up case against Flake’s family members. Over the course of some months, deputies stalked the senator’s adult son and daughter-in-law.
The surveillance, claimed Arpaio, came from a charge of egregious animal cruelty.
In 2014, Austin Flake and then-wife Logan Brown were asked to watch over a kennel in suburban Phoenix. The small favor turned into a debacle as the facility’s air conditioning unit failed, leading 21 dogs to die from heat exhaustion.
While little evidence implicated the younger Flake and his spouse, Arpaio led an investigation which spared no effort to incriminate. The sheriff pulled the senator’s call logs and dispatched deputies to tail Austin. Even though prosecutors could scarcely build a case against the family, Arpaio still pursued felony charges of animal cruelty.
Shortly after the case came to court, experts testified that the air conditioning unit’s failure had been the fault of its owners. Prosecutors moved to dismiss, prompting Austin Flake and his wife to file suit.
“It splashed their names across the Internet as the murderers of 21 dogs,” explained attorney Stephen Montoya. “It really ravaged them emotionally.”
But the litigation didn’t last.
Now, Flake and his attorneys are asking for a redo, claiming that authorities refused to hand over records which may have swayed a jury in their favor.
Montoya, who represents Austin Flake and Logan Brown, says the defense withheld vital documents. Contained within them, he claims, is an electronic graph showing power usage dropping in the kennel overnight.
But Arpaio’s lawyers justified the criminal investigation into Flake by arguing that the air conditioning had been on all night – suggesting that he and his spouse had deliberately ignored the change in climate while themselves present at the kennel.
Arpaio, who’s now seeking to take Flake’s seat in the U.S. Senate, maintained his innocence.
“I am going by what my detectives accomplished during their investigation,” he said in November of 2017.
The defamation case’s autumn dismissal came with an admission from the judge – that the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Department never had probable cause to charge the couple with animal cruelty.
“A factfinder could thus reasonably find that the prosecutors initially charged the couple based on pressure from Arpaio,” wrote Neil Wake in his decision.
Sen. Flake has been an outspoken critic of President Donald Trump. While he, the president and Arpaio are all members of the Republican Party, the senator clashed with the sheriff on immigration policy and accusations of racial profiling.