Former Sheriff Joe Arpaio sues New York Times for defamation

Posted at 1:24 PM, Oct 17, 2018

Former Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who served as sheriff of Arizona's Maricopa County’s from 1993 to 2017, filed a libel lawsuit against The New York Times and a member of its editorial board Tuesday evening. 

Court documents obtained by show Arpaio is suing The Times and Michelle Cottle for the publication of Cottle’s August 2018 op-ed titled, “Well, at Least Sheriff Joe Isn’t Going to Congress - Arpaio’s loss in Arizona’s Senate Republican primary is a fitting end to the public life of a truly sadistic man.” 

In the opinion piece, Cottle calls Arpaio’s “24-year reign of terror” “medieval in its brutality,” and makes reference to the former Sheriff’s controversial practices, which include the creation of Tent City, the implementation of chain gangs, and forcing prisoners to wear pink underwear. 

The Times published Cottle’s op-ed after Arpaio was defeated by Martha McSally in the primary race for Jeff Flake's Senate seat.

In the complaint, filed with the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, Arpaio’s team noted,  “While the Defamatory Article is strategically titled as an opinion piece, it contains several false, defamatory factual assertions concerning Plaintiff Arpaio.”

A complaint within the lawsuit states Arpaio plans to run for Senate in 2020. The publication of Cottle's op-ed may prevent a successful run for Arpaio, according to court documents. 

"Plaintiff Arpaio’s chances and prospects of election to the U.S. Senate in 2020 have been severely harmed by the publication of false and fraudulent facts in the Defamatory Article," the lawsuit notes. "This also harms Plaintiff financially, as his chances of obtaining funding from the Republican establishment and donors for the 2020 election have been damaged by the publication of false and fraudulent representations in the Defamatory Article."

Arpaio is seeking $147,500,000 in damages, as well as attorneys’ fees and costs. He is being represented by Larry Klayman, the chairman and general counsel for Freedom Watch, a conservative watchdog group.