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article imageAZ sheriff Joe Arpaio faces contempt charge in profiling case

By Megan Hamilton     Apr 22, 2015 in Politics
Phoenix - Controversial Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio began the first part of a four-day hearing on Tuesday that may result in fines and damage him politically and in terms of his credibility.
This is because of his acknowledged violations of a judge's orders regarding a racial profiling case, The Associated Press reports.
The judge's pretrial order barred Arpaio's immigration enforcement patrols. Arpaio has also accepted responsibility for his agency's failure to hand over traffic-stop videos in the racial profiling case and for scuttling a plan to gather the recordings from officers once some of the videos were discovered.
The sheriff is one of nearly two dozen people on the witness list, but its not clear when he'll be called to testify, The Los Angeles Times reports.
U.S. District Judge Murray Snow will decide if Arpaio and four of his aides should be held in contempt for allegedly actively disobeying the order that barred the patrols. Rank-and-file officers weren't informed about the injunction, and violated the order for about 18 months.
The sheriff has offered a $100,000 donation to a civil rights group from him and his chief deputy, Jerry Sheridan, in order to settle the case but the judge has said that more may be needed, The Los Angeles Times reports.
The defendants don't dispute the contempt allegations, but evidence of intentional violations may result in stricter sanctions, broader oversight of the agency, or possibly even a referral for criminal contempt of court, The Republic reports.
"We don't know the full story of how the violation of the court orders has happened — that has not come out yet," Cecilia Wang, a plaintiff's attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union told The Republic. "Without hearing that evidence, we don't know yet what a remedy looks like."
In December 2007, the Maricopa Sheriff's Department was hit with a class-action lawsuit brought by Latino motorists who alleged that Arpaio and his officers "engaged in a custom, policy and practice of racially profiling Latinos and a policy of unconstitutionally stopping persons without reasonable suspicion that criminal activity was afoot," court papers said, per The Los Angeles Times.
The lawsuit hit during the height of Arpaio's activities as a spokesman against illegal immigration. He was a regular on cable television and elsewhere, arguing for strict enforcement of the border and against workers living in the U.S. illegally.
So this meant that his department would stop people for no other reason except that they might be in the country illegally and officers would check their immigration status. Most notably, Arizona passed perhaps the country's broadest and strictest anti-illegal immigration measure, SB 1070, which was signed by former governor Jan Brewer. Parts of this law were struck down by the U.S Supreme Court, The Los Angeles Times reports.
His deputies now had authorization to act as federal immigration agents on the streets, and were allowed to question and detain people based solely on suspicion of being in the country illegally. This agreement, in conjunction with Immigration and Customs Enforcement was known as 287(g), even allowed screening in Maricopa County jails in order to check for immigration status, The Republic reports.
Workplace raids and patrol sweeps through Hispanic neighborhoods became all-too-common, but even so, lawsuits and federal officials gradually stripped the sheriff of his immigration powers. Nevertheless, a defiant Arpaio stuck to the platform that he was well known for, and some say that this stance is what landed him in this week's courtroom.
"He believed all the hype, and he doesn't know how to back down," Maricopa County Supervisor Steve Gallardo told The Republic. "That hype and what is required and allowed under state and federal law collided."
Critics question the public-safety merits of huge roundups of undocumented immigrants, but Arpaio's supporters say his priorities are rooted in crime suppression.
"The sheriff's political actions in his campaign are separate from the MCSO's duties," Tom Liddy, one of Arpaio's attorneys said. "Law enforcement is non-political."
Even though Arizona was now at the height of its' decidedly anti-illegal-immigration stance, Arpaio's authority began to slip, and ICE officials cut out both portions of the 287 (g) agreement with the agency — at the street level in 2009, and then in the prisons in 2011, The Republic reports.
The influx of undocumented detainees overburdened the immigration-court system, said John Sandweg, former acting ICE director, noting that some agencies abused civil rights through the 287(g) program. ICE stripped away the authority allowed under the program and shifted the focus to more dangerous criminals.
"The 287(g) task forces proved to be too costly, too inefficient and too problematic," Sandweg said. "There are more than enough federal agents today focused on immigration enforcement to identify those who are public-safety threats."
The burden of evidence to prove criminal contempt will be the plaintiffs responsibility, said John Burris, one of several civil-rights attorneys who successfully sued the Oakland Police Department when it was alleged that a rogue squad was targeting and assaulting black men, The Republic reports.
"The question is, what are the range of options that the court has if it's proven to be willful conduct," he said. "Then of course, what would support a criminal contempt charge?"
In May 2013, Judge Snow concluded that racial profiling had been conducted by Arpaio's deputies, as part of immigration enforcement efforts. Subsequently, the judge ordered that the office needed to be reformed, which entailed millions of county dollars and included more deputy training, videotaped traffic stops, and a monitor that was court-appointed to oversee compliance.
So now, defense attorneys suggest expanding the monitor's power over internal investigations related to the suit. In the past, Arpaio has resisted a monitor's authority, and in his ruling, Judge Snow was careful to leave law-enforcement authority to the the sheriff, an elected official, The Republic reports.
Defense attorneys suggested increasing the monitor's power over internal investigations related to the suit. Arpaio has resisted a monitor's authority in the past, and Snow was careful in his ruling to leave law-enforcement authority to the sheriff, an elected official.
Arpaio declined to comment on the hearings for either The Associated Press or The Republic.
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