Arizona Sheriff Faces Judge After Defying Court Orders

24 Sep 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Arizona Sheriff Faces Judge After Defying Court Orders.

PHOENIX — The sheriff in the nation’s sixth-largest city faces a new round of contempt-of-court hearings Thursday for openly disobeying a judge’s order to stop carrying out his signature immigration patrols. Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio pauses as he answers a question at a news conference at Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office Headquarters in Phoenix, Dec. 18, 2013. The sheriff has acknowledged violating court orders by conducting immigration patrols for 18 months after he was ordered to stop, failing to turn over traffic-stop recordings before the 2012 racial profiling trial, and bungling a plan to gather videos once they were publicly revealed. Other subjects to be examined include allegations the sheriff launched an investigation of the judge in the profiling case in a failed bid to get him disqualified and that Arpaio’s officers pocketed identification and other personal items seized from people during traffic stops and safe-house busts. District Court Judge Murray Snow’s order to put a halt to the agency’s racial profiling traffic stops. “I didn’t know all the facts of this court order, and it really hurts me that after 55 years … to be in this position,” Arpaio told Snow in April, in a bid to stave off criminal contempt charges. “So I want to apologize to the judge that I should have known more.

Snow will decide at the end of these hearings whether the sheriff and his staff disobeyed court orders intentionally or unwittingly, and what remedies — such as civil fines and additional oversight — are necessary. District Judge Murray Snow, who concluded more than two years ago that the police agency had systematically racially profiled Latinos in regular traffic and immigration patrols. The judge has repeatedly expressed his frustration at the agency’s failure to abide by his decision or carry out adequate investigations into officer wrongdoing.

Yet there he is, with a $2 million campaign war chest – one that’ll grow, no doubt, as fundraising among the Joe Faithful resumes, fueled by the resumption of the contempt trial. The April proceedings lasted four days and yielded a major surprise when Arpaio confirmed from the stand that he had launched two secret investigations that seemingly relate to Snow. Does he fine the heck out of the county, piling on yet another expense for taxpayers who already have paid $145 million in lawsuits involving this sheriff — including $50 million as a result of this profiling case? The judge also could later expose Arpaio to possible jail time and even more fines if he recommends that prosecutors press a criminal contempt case against him. The costs include legal fees for lawyers on both sides, buying cameras for hundreds of deputies and paying for a team of former police officials to monitor Arpaio’s office.

Add on to that his attempt to disqualify Snow in part by spending at least $120,000 to chase some wacky conspiracy theory that Snow was in cahoots with the U.S. Never mind that there was no evidence of such a conspiracy or that his “confidential informant” was a guy who’d previously been outed for duping the CIA into believing one of his conspriacy theories. Remember that this case — and Snow’s court order — stemmed from the treatment of Manuel de Jesus Ortega Melendres, a Mexican tourist who was stopped outside a church in Cave Creek that operated a day labor center. The DOJ civil rights lawyers who sued the sheriff for discriminating against Latinos in 2012 formally joined this case as intervenors in August and settled their own suit.

County officials say they don’t believe Arpaio has ever had to personally pay any legal costs to defend himself in lawsuits related to his work as sheriff. And as a sign of just how strange this case has become, a separate team from the DOJ is reviewing one of the hard drives Montgomery gave the sheriff’s office since testimony in April alleged Montgomery had claimed to have taken records from the CIA. Eventually, his lawsuit grew to include others, including the husband of an assistant to a Phoenix mayor — people who felt they were pulled over by sheriff’s deputies and treated differently than White drivers because they were Latino. The judge is expected to decide whether Maricopa County will have to compensate Latino drivers and workers detained by Arpaio’s office during the 18 months when his office violated the prohibition on its immigration patrols.

Instead, they asked for — and received — a judge’s declaration that racial profiling must end and a court-appointed monitor to make sure the agency lives by a new set of rules. – MCSO failed to implement an order Snow issued in 2011 forbidding the agency from detaining immigrants solely for being in the country without legal status.

Instead what they do is take steps to excuse misconduct by deputies and to let very serious problems that affect the civil rights of people who live in this county from being vindicated.” Among the remedies Wang will be seeking are reforms to the sheriff’s internal affairs operations that investigate and discipline officers for misconduct, as well as improvements to the way the agency handles complaints from the public and follows up with problematic behavior. That discovery triggered a number of side internal investigations to determine if other members of Armendariz’s unit were engaging in theft, but the monitor harshly criticized the internal interviews as unprofessional. “Our position is that our internal affairs investigations are thorough and reasonable under the circumstances and certainly do not violate the court’s orders,” Masterson said. “And to a large extent don’t even involve the plaintiff’s class.” “If anything it was miscommunication, or misunderstanding of the court order as opposed to intentional behavior by the sheriff or any of the command staff at MCSO,” Masterson said. One topic that is likely to surface in this next round of hearings is how much Arpaio knew about Dennis Montgomery’s investigation relating to Snow, and whether the sheriff’s April testimony on the subject was truthful.

When asked if the sheriff was aware of any investigations of Snow’s family, the sheriff then disclosed he had a private investigator verify a Facebook tip from a woman who claimed she heard Snow’s wife say the judge wanted to get the sheriff out of office. The sheriff said Montgomery was focused on exposing “bank fraud” and “computer tampering.” He also said Montgomery had not proven trustworthy and the investigation was wrapping up.

Sheridan said Montgomery “had information that the CIA hacked into individual bank accounts, I think there were approximately 50,000 of them, Maricopa County residents. He had their names, their bank account numbers, and their dollar amounts.” Sheridan testified that Montgomery had made copies of CIA records to prove the federal government was engaged in illegal surveillance. The documents include timelines and flowcharts suggesting links and phone calls between Snow’s chambers, a former clerk, the DOJ and the law firm Covington & Burling, which represents plaintiffs.

Recent depositions have revealed that Arpaio held a meeting with his lawyers and several staff members to discuss Montgomery’s credibility in January 2014. Casey said in a recent deposition that the lawyers in the room found the information to be “hogwash.” When pressed whether anyone else expressed an opinion of the alleged conspiracy, Casey revealed his client, Arpaio had. Since that deposition, however, Snow has ruled that the attorney-client privilege for that meeting had been waived, so Casey may have to eventually answer that question. It’s up to you to make that determination.” Late Wednesday, sheriff’s attorneys filed a motion asking the judge to preclude any questions about Montgomery in the upcoming hearing.

The motion argues that Montgomery is irrelevant to the case and that Arpaio and Sheridan did not find Montgomery to be credible. “Defendant Arpaio submits that the probative value of the Montgomery Investigation is substantially outweighed by the danger of unfair prejudice, confusing the issues, undue delay, and wasting the Court’s time,” the motion reads. In July, a sergeant brought 1,459 IDs to the property and evidence room, but an internal decision was made not to disclose them to the court’s monitor. In recent depositions, plaintiff’s lawyers have tried to get to the bottom of who gave the order to not tell the monitor about the1,459 new IDs during a July 17 meeting. At some point the plaintiffs may call a Latino deputy who alleges his colleagues failed to investigate crimes reported by Latinos and claims he was retaliated against when he reported misconduct.

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