Arizona sheriff faces new round of contempt hearings

25 Sep 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Arizona Sheriff Could Face Fines for Disobeying Judge.

PHOENIX — A new round of contempt-of-court hearings began Thursday in Phoenix against the sheriff in the nation’s sixth-largest city over his defiance of a judge’s order to stop carrying out his signature immigration patrols. Plaintiffs’ attorneys wasted no time in taking verbal jabs at Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s office Thursday morning as civil-contempt hearings against him and his aides resumed in U.S.Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Maricopa County, Arizona – famous for his racial profiling and notorious immigration patrols, will take the stand again for contempt of court, after failing to halt his practices.America’s most defiant sheriff heads back to federal court tomorrow for the continuation of a hearing to decide just how much contempt he has for the criminal justice system.

Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, whose immigration crackdowns turned him into a national political figure, listened intently as his second-in-command testified about emails involving the agency’s violation of a key court order in the racial profiling case. 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.

Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy Jerry Sheridan was the first to be called to the witness stand and spent the morning denying that he remembered hearing about orders he and Arpaio have admittedly violated. 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. It took the court five months, following heated discussions over evidence and other delays, before it was decided the hearings would resume for another round on September 24 in a US District Court.

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. Plaintiffs’ line of questioning centered on one of the three allegations of contempt: that sheriff’s deputies continued illegal-immigration enforcement for a year and a half after a federal judge ordered they halt the practice. Cecillia Wang, attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union’s Immigrants’ Rights Project, asked Sheridan if he recalled receiving various e-mails and attending several meetings that took place after December 2011, in which the preliminary injunction was discussed. 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.

Sheridan said he was consumed by other issues in the department at the time, including a death in its jail, effort to address bungled sex crime investigations, and a Justice Department civil rights investigation. 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?

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. 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. While questioning Sheridan, Wang also focused on 40 internal affairs investigations launched after evidence bags, illegal drugs and a large collection of IDs were found in the home of then-Deputy Charley Armendariz, who implicated other officers in wrongdoing, quit his job and killed himself in May 2014. Murray Snow issued a preliminary injunction that barred the agency from detaining an individual solely on suspicion of illegal-immigration status and without suspicion of committing a state crime.

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 trial was predicted to only last for four days, which would see the court look into the non-disclosure of evidence in the original (2012) profiling case, as well as Arpaio’s immigration patrols and the failure of his officers to carry out the judge’s earlier request to gather on-duty recordings from fellow officers in a quiet and effective manner. Of the 40 investigations, one sheriff’s manager who was in charge of supervising Armendariz received unspecified major discipline, though he was promoted during the internal investigation, Sheridan said. 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.

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. 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. Toward the end of the morning, Wang shifted her focus onto the office’s internal investigations, which recently have come under fire by plaintiffs’ attorneys in the case. However, it will come at a cost, which is expected to reach $50 million by the summer of 2016, with the money being spent on surveillance equipment and legal fees amongst other things, according to AP. 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.

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. 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.

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