PHOENIX (AP) — America’s self-proclaimed toughest sheriff finds himself entangled these days in his own thorny legal troubles: a federal grand jury probe over alleged abuse of power, Justice Department accusations of racial profiling and revelations that his department didn’t adequately investigate hundreds of Arizona sex-crime cases.

Rather than seek cover, though, Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio is seeking to grab the spotlight in the same unorthodox fashion that has helped boost his career as a nationally known lawman.

Arpaio scheduled a news conference Thursday to unveil preliminary results of an investigation, conducted by members of his volunteer cold-case posse, into the authenticity of President Barack Obama’s birth certificate, a controversy that has been widely debunked but which remains alive in the eyes of some conservatives. Last year, Donald Trump most prominently revived the issue while entertaining a possible bid for the presidency.

The 79-year-old Republican sheriff has declined to offer clues to what the probe may have found — but defends his need to spearhead such an investigation after nearly 250 people connected to an Arizona tea party group requested one last summer.

“I’m not going after Obama,” said Arpaio, who has criticized the president’s administration for cutting off his federal immigration powers and conducting a civil rights investigation of his office. “I’m just doing my job.”

Some critics suggest Arpaio’s aim is to divert attention from his own legal troubles while raising his political profile as he seeks a sixth term this year. The sheriff vehemently denies such strategies are in play.

“You say I need this to get elected? Are you kidding me? I’ve been elected five times. I don’t need this,” he said in a recent interview.

Democratic state Sen. Steve Gallardo said Arpaio is pandering to relentless critics of the president.

“It doesn’t matter what President Obama does, they’ll never support him,” Gallardo said. “It’s those folks who will continue to write checks to Sheriff Joe because of this stuff.”

Arpaio’s probe comes amid a federal grand jury investigation into the sheriff’s office on criminal abuse-of-power allegations since at least December 2009, focusing on the sheriff’s anti-public corruption squad. Separately, the U.S. Justice Department has accused Arpaio’s office of racially profiling Latinos, basing immigration enforcement on racially charged citizen complaints and punishing Hispanic jail inmates for speaking Spanish. Arpaio denies the allegations and said the investigation is politically motivated.

Critics also have sought Arpaio’s resignation for more than 400 sex-crimes cases over a three-year period ending in 2007 that were either inadequately investigated or weren’t investigated at all by the sheriff’s office after the crimes were reported. The sheriff’s office said the backlog was cleared up after the problem was brought to Arpaio’s attention.

Speculation about Obama’s birthplace has swirled among conservatives for years. “Birthers” maintain that Obama is ineligible to hold the country’s highest elected office because, they contend, he was born in Kenya, his father’s homeland. Some contend Obama’s birth certificate must be a fake.

Hawaii officials have repeatedly confirmed Obama’s citizenship, and Obama released a copy of his long-form birth certificate in April in an attempt to quell citizenship questions. Courts also have rebuffed lawsuits over the issue. Of late, the president’s re-election campaign has poked fun at it, selling coffee cups with a picture of the president’s birth record.

Arpaio has said he took deliberate steps to avoid the appearance that his investigation is politically motivated. Instead of using taxpayer money, the sheriff armed it out to lawyers and retired police officers who are volunteers in a posse that examines cold cases. Other posses assist deputies in duties that include providing free police protection at malls during the holiday season or transporting people to jail.

Even as he is under fire by the federal government, the sheriff remains popular among Republicans.

GOP presidential candidates have courted him for his endorsement throughout the primary season. At last week’s GOP presidential debate in Arizona, Arpaio won loud cheers. During a question about Arizona’s border woes, Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum said the government ought to give local police agencies the chance to enforce immigration law as Arpaio has.

Bruce Merrill, a longtime pollster and senior research fellow at Arizona State University’s Morrison Institute for Public Policy, said the subject of the investigation plays to the sheriff’s base of supporters. And, he said, it highlights Arpaio’s gift for publicity.

“It’s something that the press will cover,” Merrill said. “He’ll get a lot of exposure from it.”

(© Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

Comments (22)
  1. Victoria Lamb says:

    In what universe is it this rural sheriff’s job to investigate the President of the United States? He has no authority whatsoever to do this.

    1. Genie says:

      When citizens of his county present him with a petition asking him to investigate he most certainly does have the authority.

    2. jindy60 says:

      Rural Sheriff?

      Wake up.. There is a lot of America between the elitist coasts..

    3. Concerned Citizen says:

      What’s missing in this story is the question about the President’s Connecticutt SS# number. How does that happen when he has never claimed to live there?

    4. JudgeMental says:

      Victoria, you may not like it but Obama is on Maricopa ballots. He most definately has standing, as well as all the other Sheriffs.

    5. michaelp says:

      What about Obama’s SS # FROM A DEAD PERSON FRON CONNETICUIT ? His 20 so long years of GOD DAMMING THE U.S.A. HATING EVIL WHITES. A REPUBLICAN WOULD OF BEEN IMPEACHED. Democrats would of made the issue front page news for years. He can’t even say that he is half white for Christs sake !

  2. Charles P says:

    You lying POS. Who said the eligibility issue has been widely debunked. You liars. All of the statements you make about the birth certificate and the state of Hawaii are patently false.Furthermore, you inept SOB’s, you are in the tank for the fraudster in the WH and you have done nothing to verify the eligibility issue. But your man Dan and his cohorts falsified docs and lied in an attempt to derail GWB.
    You people are despicable.
    Go Joe Go.

    1. Hoya72 says:

      Right on! Further, this is so obviously a hit piece that it ranks with the borderline hilarious “news reports” emanating from the old Stalinist Bureau of Propaganda

  3. Genie says:

    Ok, that’s twice that this site has refused to post my comments about the professionals who have proven that the birth certificate Obama produced is a computer generated forgery. Why is that?

    It matters not because now I have a great post for my own blog about how CBS is censoring comments at this post.

  4. tina says:

    Can’t believe how the media reports this story, Joe is a great man for doing this!

  5. oldpuppymax says:

    More attacks against the sheriff and covering up for Obama by CBS News. Now isn’t THAT a shock.
    By the way, Obama did NOT release a long form birth certificate. He put a copy online. That leads to an incredible ease of counterfeiting. And it has been declared a forgery by countless individuals.

  6. georgeeboy says:

    You guys at CBS need to hire better spinmeisters than the person who wrote this pathetic attempt at damage control. Rather than help the Usurper, you hurt him.

  7. taptap77 says:

    The AP is nothing but a political hit squad for the democrats!

  8. Lewis Sanborn says:

    There are few heroes today in the formerly heroic America. This man is one of them.

    1. Crystalina says:

      i couldn’t agree more!

  9. JudgeMental says:

    Why can’t journalist try to prove him wrong? Are they afraid of what many suspect is true? That Obama is a fraud perpetrated by the left.

  10. Axial says:

    It is heartening to see that the facts and truth break through the distortion of this CBS propaganda…And propaganda it is for statements like this “Even as he is under fire by the federal government, the sheriff remains popular among Republicans.” Elaborate on what you call “under fire”, CBS.

    There is no proof, whatsoever, that Barack Hussein Obama is a citizen of the United States.

    Since that is fundamental fact, it is also fact that only the lies and deception of Democrats got him into office. Which Democrats are behind this conspiracy? Who are their co-conspirators? Which Democrats are colluding to prevent any investigation at all? Are Democrats using attacks on Americans to divert attention from their collusion? Has CBS been a party to the collusion? It is precisely this Democrat collusion that fraudulently keeps Barack Hussein Obama in Office, which you know is fact in connection with the fact that there is no birth certificate. The HI gov did not find Obama’s BC in their records, if you recall..

    Folks, on page 28 of Obama “autobiography”, he states he found a copy of his birth certificate folded up in a book from his father. Also vaccination records. It is 100% clear, fair, and real to ask is Obama lying now or is Obama lying in his book?

    1. Genie says:

      My guess is that he was lying both times. If the man’s lips are moving he is lying.

  11. Crystalina says:

    The birth certificate is clearly a forgery, and rather than “reporting” his motivation, why don’t you include ANY info about what he actually said in his press conference about it? you released absolutely no information that he shared about his investigation. shame on you. you don’t deserve to call this news. this is a smear campaign. plain and simple.

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