Sheriff Arpaio ad digs up opponent's ugly fight with ex-wife

The commercial accuses Paul Penzone of domestic abuse

By Alex Halperin

Published October 12, 2012 8:08PM (EDT)

An ad supporting scandal-plagued birther Joe Arpaio, the Republican sheriff of Arizona’s Maricopa County, which includes Phoenix, highlights an ugly incident from his opponent’s former marriage. The cinematic commercial accuses opponent Paul Penzone of shoving his wife into a doorway. It is "based on a true story as much as the ‘Texas Chainsaw Massacre’ is -- and let's just say there was no massacre in Texas involving chainsaws,” alternative weekly Phoenix New Times said.

Paid for by an outside group, the spot refers to a 2003 incident in which former Phoenix Police Department sergeant Paul Penzone’s then-wife allegedly hit him on the forehead with a hockey stick. According to the police report, she said he had shoved her into a threshold before she "may have inadvertently struck Paul." The two were in the midst of a custody dispute at the time. There were no witnesses, and neither was prosecuted. Penzone made the first call to the police.

Arpaio, who styles himself America’s toughest sheriff, is a divisive figure who comes under near constant criticism from civil rights groups. He's probably best known for making detainees wear pink underwear and sending them to tent-city jails, where temperatures can reach well into the triple digits. Earlier this year, the Department of Justice closed an investigation into Arpaio for misallocated funds and abuses of power. No charges were filed.

A recent poll showed Democrat Penzone within four points of the incumbent. The Phoenix New Times said Arpaio has “been careful to avoid acknowledging” Penzone.

Here the ad dramatizing the altercation between Penzone and his ex-wife:

Alex Halperin

Alex Halperin is news editor at Salon. You can follow him on Twitter @alexhalperin.

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2012 Elections Arizona Human Rights Immigration Joe Arpaio Latinos Sheriff