PHOENIX — Maricopa County Sheriff Paul Penzone has dropped his defamation lawsuit against his predecessor over a TV commercial in the fall campaign that claimed Penzone assaulted his ex-wife 13 years ago during an argument.
Lawyers for Penzone dismissed the lawsuit against former Sheriff Joe Arpaio on Friday — five days after Penzone took office as metro Phoenix’s top law enforcer.
Penzone said Arpaio ran the ad knowing that the allegation was false. The Arpaio campaign maintained the allegation was fair game and backed up by public records.
Michael Manning, an attorney who represented Penzone, said his client’s crushing victory over Arpaio in November did what the lawsuit intended to do — clear his name. “The voters did that with an exclamation point,” said Manning, whose client defeated the six-term incumbent by nearly 13 percentage points.
Kory Langhofer, an attorney for Arpaio and his campaign manager, said the lawsuit was intended to garner news coverage during the campaign but would have ultimately ended in Arpaio’s favor had the case run its course.
“Joe Arpaio’s re-election campaign had every right to look at public records and police reports and tell the public what he found in those documents,” Langhofer said.
No charges were filed against Penzone in an argument that erupted in March 2003 when he went to pick up hockey equipment for his son at his then-estranged wife’s home.
She told police that Penzone had caused her to hit her forehead by pushing her on a doorway, according to a police report. Penzone told police that it was his estranged wife who hit him with a hockey stick during the dispute.
The police report said Penzone suffered a minor bruise on the right check, and she had a minor bruise on her forehead.
Prosecutors declined to prosecute either person because there were conflicting accounts without any independent witnesses and no reasonable likelihood of winning convictions.
Penzone, who was working for the Phoenix Police Department at the time, later remarried.
Arpaio first ran a TV commercial focusing on the assault allegation in his 2012 campaign against Penzone, who lost the race.
Early in the 2016 campaign, lawyers for Penzone sent Arpaio a letter warning him of the consequences of defamation.