PolitiFact Sheet: Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s campaign attacks

We broke down a complicated attack ad from Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio on his Democratic challenger, Paul Penzone.
We broke down a complicated attack ad from Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio on his Democratic challenger, Paul Penzone.

Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio wants to remain sheriff this November.

Despite pending criminal charges for profiling Latino drivers, America’s "toughest sheriff" has not let up on attacking his Democratic challenger, former Phoenix police officer Paul Penzone, on a domestic issue dating back 13 years.

In a Sept. 26 attack ad, Arpaio claims Penzone "assaulted his ex-wife." Here’s the full text of the ad:

"This is the ad Paul Penzone doesn't want you to see. After Paul Penzone assaulted his ex-wife, she went to court to get an order of protection. Penzone says nothing happened. But the judge found Penzone to be a threat to her safety -- or even her life. This isn't the type of person we need as sheriff. Paul Penzone. Too Dangerous. Wrong for Sheriff."

The claims stem from a 2003 incident in Glendale between Penzone and his then-wife, Susan, as the couple was going through a divorce.

It does not feel appropriate to put a case of alleged domestic violence on the Truth-O-Meter, but here’s what we know.

The initial incident

According to the Glendale Police Department report from March 18, 2003, Paul and Susan argued over their son’s visitation.

Paul had to take his son to hockey practice but did not have the equipment. He called Susan and told her to put the equipment outside the front door.

When Paul went to pick up the equipment outside the front door, Susan "allegedly struck" Paul with one of the hockey sticks.

Paul told her she could be arrested, but Susan said she would call the police first "telling them that you assaulted me."

According to Susan, as she was entering her home to give Paul the hockey sticks, Paul "allegedly pushed her," causing her to strike her forehead on the doorway.

When a police officer asked her why she didn’t call the police, Susan said she had "considered it," but later realized it was not an emergency.

On April 14, 2003, the city prosecutor's office concluded that there were two sides to the story, declining to prosecute the case.

Order of protection

Susan did seek an order of protection a week later. In the April 21, 2003 document, she wrote that "he pushed me into the door and I hit my head."

When the judge granted Susan’s order, the language notes that there was "reasonable cause" to believe the defendant, Penzone, may "commit an act of domestic violence."

However, Paul also sought an order of protection, which is typical in divorce proceedings.

Both protection orders were dismissed on April 29, 2003.

Arpaio’s campaign ran a similar attack ad in 2012. In it, they said there is no excuse for Penzone hitting a woman.

"Now, the only silent witness is his ex-wife," the ad noted. 

Aftermath

Penzone disputed the ad in 2012, as is the case now. He maintains that he has never hit any woman in his life and that he and Susan were going through a difficult time.

It is also important to note that Susan, in an April 2016 affidavit, disputes the 2012 ad.

"Sheriff Arpaio’s campaign commercial portraying Paul as physically aggressive during our marriage was inaccurate and misleading," she wrote. "I cannot allow this dishonest representation to repeat itself; therefore I have chosen to provide this statement."

In the affidavit, Susan also says that the letter will serve as her only public statement.