Former Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio files defamation suits against media organizations, seeks over $300 million in damages

Joe Arpaio waiting for Donald Trump, then the Republican presidential nominee, during a campaign event in Phoenix.

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Joe Arpaio waiting for Donald Trump, then the Republican presidential nominee, during a campaign event in Phoenix.
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Thomson Reuters

  • On Monday, former Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio filed a defamation suit against several media companies he alleges falsely referred to him as a “convicted felon.”
  • He is requesting punitive damages in excess of $300 million.
  • In October, Arpaio filed a suit against The New York Times for an opinion article that called him a “truly sadistic man.”

Joe Arpaio, the former Arizona sheriff whom President Donald Trump pardoned last year, has filed a defamation suit against CNN, HuffPost, and Rolling Stone, saying the news organizations “published false and defamatory statements” about him.

Arpaio was convicted of contempt of court in 2016 for violating the terms of a 2011 court order in a racial-profiling case. The order barred Arpaio from holding people he believed were in the country illegally. Trump issued his first presidential pardon before Arpaio was sentenced.

Arpaio’s lawsuit names not only the media organizations as plaintiffs but also the reporters Chris Cuomo, Kevin Robillard, and Tessa Stuart as well as CNN’s president, Jeff Zucker. In it, Arpaio cites several instances in which the three news organizations called him a “convicted felon” or an “ex-felon” or said he had been sent to prison. Because of Trump’s pardon, Arpaio has never been convicted of a felony.

Read more: How former Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio became the most hated lawman in America

The lawsuit alleges that because of these statements, Arpaio’s “distinguished 55-year law enforcement and political career has been severely harmed, as his reputation has been severely damaged among and with the Republican establishment.” This, Arpaio argued, hurts his 2020 run for Senate. He is seeking $300.5 million in damages, as well as attorney fees.

This is not Arpaio’s first lawsuit against a major news organization. In October, the former sheriff filed a libel suit against The New York Times for an August 2017 opinion article that called him a “truly sadistic man.” In that suit, Arpaio alleges that the writer Michelle Cottle cast him in a “negative, false” light. He sought $147.5 million in damages.