Judge Advises Criminal Charges for Arpaio

     PHOENIX (CN) — Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio may face criminal contempt charges after a federal judge referred him to the U.S. Attorney’s Office on Friday for violating court orders in a 2007 class action to stop racially profiling Latinos.
     U.S. District Judge G. Murray Snow recommended that criminal contempt charges be brought against Arpaio, Chief Deputy Gerald Sheridan, Capt. Steve Bailey, and Arpaio’s former attorney Michele Iafrate.
     Snow’s decision comes after finding in May that Arpaio, Sheridan, and two other aides were guilty of civil contempt. The men disobeyed Snow’s earlier orders to turn over video and other evidence in the racial profiling case, and continued to enforce federal immigration law.
     “Throughout this case, the court has reminded Sheriff Arpaio that he is the party to this lawsuit, not his subordinates, and thus the failure of his subordinates to carry out this court’s orders would amount to his own failure to do so,” Snow wrote.
     Snow, who ordered Arpaio to produce documents from an investigation into claims by an informant, found that there is enough probable cause to show the six-term lawman did not comply.
     Dennis Montgomery, a former CIA consultant, was hired as an informant by Arpaio’s office after he claimed the federal government had illegally accessed the bank records of about 150,000 Maricopa County residents.
     “Specifically, at the time the court issued the above order, the sheriff knew that Montgomery had given the sheriff’s office 50 hard drives that Montgomery claimed to be the master database of records that he had supposedly purloined from the CIA. To reveal those hard drives would have revealed that they did not contain the materials that Montgomery had described,” Snow wrote.
     “It also may have called into question some of Sheriff Arpaio’s other ongoing investigative activities in which he had partnered with Montgomery, such as the alleged illegitimacy of President Barack Obama’s birth certificate. It would also reveal that the sheriff’s office actually took possession of, and intended to use, material that it believed to have been stolen from the CIA,” the order continued.
     The ACLU, who represents the plaintiff class, asked the court to pursue criminal contempt charges against Arpaio in a June memo, writing that he and Sheridan “repeatedly and willfully defied the rule of law and this court.”
     “A criminal prosecution of Sheriff Arpaio is the right next step for justice to be done,” Cecillia Wang, director of the ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project, said in a statement. “When a federal court finds that a law enforcement official has lied to the court in an effort to cover up misconduct, and willfully flouted court orders, that official must be held to account.”
     In a July hearing about the then-possible criminal charges, Arpaio’s attorney Mel McDonald told Snow that the lawman and his agency were making improvements in working with a court-appointed monitor in the case.
     “You have the best of both worlds by not making the referral,” McDonald said. “Give them the opportunity to prove it to you.”
     Snow indicated then that he was not going to let Arpaio and Sheridan get off easy.
     “I am through putting up with that kind of stuff and they are going to be as responsible for what they do as any other citizen in Maricopa County,” Snow said.
     In Friday’s order, Snow also found Arpaio and Sheridan may have committed perjury on the stand.
     “This court has found, under the civil standard of proof, that Sheriff Arpaio and Chief Deputy Sheridan intentionally made a number of false statements under oath,” Snow wrote. “There is also probable cause to believe that many if not all of the statements were made in an attempt to obstruct any inquiry into their further wrongdoing or negligence.”
     Sheridan is also accused of concealing from the court the discovery of 1,459 identification cards — many belonging to members of the plaintiff class — taken during traffic stops that were turned over to the agency by a sergeant.
     “Chief Deputy Sheridan concealed the IDs from the monitor and ordered that Capt. Bailey suspend the relevant IA [Internal Affairs] investigation into them in an attempt to evade this Court’s order requiring disclosure of that IA and the monitor’s complete access to that investigation,” Snow found. “Chief Deputy Sheridan then made misstatements of fact both to the media and to the monitor about his actions.”
     Bailey also failed in his duty to inform the court-appointed monitor about the 1,459 identifications retrieved, and the proceeding Internal Affairs investigation.
     “Further, on July 20, 2015, Capt. Bailey gave a knowing and false response to the monitor concerning the existence of the IDs or an investigation into them,” Snow found. “There were, as he well knew, 1,459 IDs that had been found. There were orders that he knew required him to identify and give the monitor the documents the monitor requested.”
     Iafrate, an attorney for Arpaio during the class action trial and some of the later proceedings, is also accused of criminal contempt regarding the disclosure of the IDs.
     Iafrate advised members of the department not to disclose the identifications to the monitor, Snow found.
     “Advising a client to violate a court’s orders qualifies as criminal contempt,” he wrote.
     Arpaio and Sheridan also violated Snow’s 2011 order banning them from enforcing federal immigration law or from detaining people they believed were undocumented immigrants without state charges. The order stemmed from a 2007 class action against Arpaio and the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office claiming officers in the agency racially profiled Latinos and unlawfully detained them during crime-suppression sweeps.
     An investigation by the department into the suicide of Deputy Ramon “Charley” Armendariz, a witness in the underlying class action trial, turned up more identification cards taken from traffic stops, and videotapes from the traffic stops.
     “It was not until November 2014 that the MCSO finally informed the Court that the videotapes found in Armendariz’s garage demonstrated that the MCSO had done nothing to implement this court’s Dec. 23, 2011 preliminary injunction,” Snow wrote.
     In Friday’s order, Snow asked for another judge to be appointed to oversee the criminal contempt process.
     It’s expected to take months for the U.S. Attorney’s Office to determine whether to charge Arpaio.

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