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Joe Arpaio sues New York Times for libel, seeks $147M

PHOENIX — Former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio has sued the New York Times for libel, in a complaint filed Tuesday night.

Arpaio was seeking $147.5 million in compensatory and punitive damages, court documents showed.

He said an opinion piece about him, titled “Well, at Least Sheriff Joe Isn’t Going to Congress,” was “carefully and maliciously calculated to damage and injure” his name in the law enforcement community. The author of the piece, Michelle Cottle, was also named in the suit.

He also said the article included false assertions and could hurt his standing among Republican donors.

“As far as I’m concerned, the New York Times has gone too far, not only against me but against President (Donald) Trump,” Arpaio told KTAR News 92.3 FM on Wednesday.

“I think it’s time for someone to fight back,” he added.

“We’ll see how this pans out.”

The 86-year-old ran for U.S. Senate in this year’s GOP primary, hoping to replace outgoing Jeff Flake.

Larry Klayman, Arpaio’s lawyer, told KTAR News 92.3 FM that the article hurt Arpaio’s chances of running for public office in the future.

“If you read the article…what they’re basically trying to do is scare potential donors away — and current donors — from the sheriff,” Klayman said.

“The sheriff does want to run for the U.S. Senate again in 2020 for the seat vacated by John McCain, now held by Jon Kyl. Or he may want to run for another public office,” he added.

“This damages him with the Republican fundraising machine in Washington, D.C. in particular, and throughout the country. That’s one aspect of the damage that’s occurred, but the other part of the damage is to his reputation generally,” adding that it caused Arpaio pain and suffering, humiliation and emotional distress.

The political news website Politico reported that a spokeswoman for the newspaper said in an email: “We intend to vigorously defend against the lawsuit.”

Arpaio served 24 years as sheriff. He lost a bid for his seventh straight term in the 2016 general election to Democrat Paul Penzone.

Since then, Arpaio has been pardoned by President Donald Trump of contempt charges brought against him by the Justice Department.

Arpaio had been found guilty in July 2017 of purposefully ignoring a federal judge’s order to end his immigration patrols.

Trump pardoned him of the misdemeanor conviction a month later, shortly before sentencing.

Arpaio has appealed the ruling that refused to expunge his criminal record.

KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Jeremy Foster and Ashley Flood contributed to this report. 

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