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Friday, May 24, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Officer Says Sheriff Arpaio Let Things Slide

PHOENIX (CN) - An investigator hired to look into the thefts of drugs, license plates and IDs by one of Sheriff Joe Arpaio's deputies testified Wednesday that some claims against the deputy were never internally investigated.

Arpaio hired Don Vogel, a former Mesa Police Department officer, to investigate the failed supervision of Maricopa County sheriff's Officer Charley Armendariz, who committed suicide in May 2014.

The Sheriff's Office discovered shortly before and after his death that Armendariz had secretly recorded traffic stops and confiscated drugs, license plates and identification cards during the stops.

Armendariz had received a number of citizen complaints, including one from a woman who said Armendariz took $300 from her during a traffic stop.

"That was an incident that as far as you can tell was never addressed by Internal Affairs," said Stanley Young, an attorney representing plaintiffs in a 2007 class action against Arpaio. "Do you view that as being problematic?"

"It was problematic in my opinion that the line supervisors, Sgt. [Manuel] Madrid and Lt. [Joe] Sousa had an allegation of criminal activity ... concerning potential violation of the law," Vogel answered.

"They prepared documents, purportedly forwarded documents to the Internal Affairs Bureau, but there was no record of such documents in the Internal Affairs Bureau, and no follow up."

Arpaio and four of his current and former aides, including Sousa, are accused of civil contempt of court in the 2007 Melendres class action, accusing Arpaio targeted Latinos in traffic stops and street raids. Arpaio and Chief Deputy Jerry Sheridan have admitted they are in contempt, and face the possibility of fines, continued oversight of the Sheriff's Office, and criminal contempt charges.

Vogel also testified Wednesday that Arpaio ordered a sergeant to turn over undocumented immigrants to the Border Patrol - in violation of a federal court order requiring deputies to release immigrants not accused of committing a crime.

Sheriff's Sgt. Brett Palmer testified during civil contempt hearings in April that Arpaio ordered him not to release undocumented immigrants.

"I told the sheriff immediately that that was an unlawful order and I was not going to follow it," Palmer told the court then.

Vogel confirmed that Palmer told him about the same conversation.

"Sheriff Arpaio directed them to hold on to the individuals until he got down there at the location," Vogel said. "Palmer pointed out to him that he can't do that, that that would be a violation of the order, and after some discussion Palmer, I believe, released those individuals."

The court also heard from Sheriff's Capt. Steve Bailey regarding testimony heard Tuesday from Sgt. David Tennyson about an investigation into whether deputies were pocketing items they retrieved from drop houses.

"Did you have any reason to believe it was not true?" asked Cecillia Wang, an attorney with the ACLU.

"No, I believed they probably were," Bailey said.

That investigation was fruitless and no one was disciplined. When the investigation was shared with a monitor appointed by the federal court, the monitoring team detailed a number of concerns about how Tennyson handled the investigation, and questioning of about 50 deputies about the items taken.

Bailey said that while Tennyson did use leading questions from time to time, he didn't doubt the manner in which Tennyson questioned deputies.

"I don't think what he gleaned from those interviews gave him additional information," Bailey said.

The contempt hearings are on hold until the end of October.

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