Paul Penzone, challenger to Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, sues for defamation

Posted at 3:04 PM, Sep 29, 2016
and last updated 2016-09-29 21:29:47-04

Maricopa County Sheriff's candidate Paul Penzone will file a defamation lawsuit Thursday afternoon against Sheriff Joe Arpaio.

Penzone, a Democrat, is running against the longtime Republican sheriff for a second time.

This month the sheriff's re-election campaign started running television commercials saying Penzone assaulted his now ex-wife as the couple was going through a divorce in 2003. The ad cites a Glendale police report and judge's order for protection.

The lawsuit, to be filed in Maricopa County Superior Court, says Arpaio defamed Penzone and portrayed him in a false light in the new campaign commercial. The lawsuit asks for monetary damages but does not ask the judge to bar the commercial from the airwaves.

At a news conference Thursday afternoon, Penzone denied the allegations in the ad, saying he has never harmed anyone in his life.

"There's never been a time in my life that I've hurt, harmed any woman or child including my former wife," Penzone said.

Penzone's ex-wife, Susan Hubbard, signed a sworn affidavit earlier this year saying a 2012 "campaign commercial portraying Paul as physically aggressive during our marriage was inaccurate and misleading."

Penzone also said he was not going to let the campaign hinder his determination.

"You're not gonna break me; you're not even gonna bend me," Penzone said, addressing the Arpaio camp.  "I'm here to do what's right by this community because I am serious about law enforcement."

Arpaio's campaign lawyer, Kory Langhofer, calls Penzone's defamation lawsuit a "political stunt," adding the campaign has every right to inform the public about what is in public documents.

"The fact of the matter is the Arpaio campaign has every right to look at police reports and court records to tell the public what they find in those records about Paul Penzone," Langhofer said.

Langhofer says the attack ad went through legal review before being broadcast. The campaign plans to defend the lawsuit and is considering a counterclaim for defamation, malicious prosecution and abuse of process.