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Sheriff Arpaio Accused of More Abuses

PHOENIX (CN) - Sheriff Joe Arpaio has been sued again, by people who say they were arrested for applauding critics of Arpaio at a county Board of Supervisors meeting, or for "trespassing" in a public building where they had gone to make an appointment with a county supervisor.

Two women say sheriff's officers arrested them for "disorderly conduct" after they applauded criticism of Arpaio's immigration policies at a Board of Supervisors meeting.

Some of the protesters say they were arrested three days before the meeting, for "trespassing," as they waited to make an appointment with a supervisor in a public waiting area of the board's offices.

According to two lawsuits - one in Maricopa County Court, and one in Federal Court - Monica Sandschafer, Guillermina Bethancourt de Pichardo, Ayensa Millan and Kristy Theilen were peacefully waiting to schedule an appointment with a supervisor on Dec. 15, 2008 when Sheriff's Deputy George Acritelli ordered them to leave, then arrested them for trespassing.

Thielen sued the county and Arpaio in Federal Court; the other four sued in Maricopa County Court.

Four women say they were arrested to prevent them from requesting time to speak at a board meeting.

The plaintiffs, members of Maricopa Citizens for Safety and Accountability and ACORN, say Arpaio's office knew them "to be associated with organized groups who were protesting or had protested, the activities and politics" of Sheriff Arpaio. They claim their arrests and unsuccessful prosecution were "made with the purpose of silencing, intimidating or otherwise dissuading peaceful political activities and protest."

Sandschafer and co-plaintiff Joel Nelson say they were arrested for "disorderly conduct" during the Dec. 17, 2008 Board of Supervisors meeting. They applauded in "response to a statement that was critical of the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office."

They say the arrests were made at the request of then-Chairman of the Board of Supervisors Andrew Kunasek, a defendant in the county case.

At a previous Board of Supervisors meeting, a speaker's praise of Arpaio's enforcement of immigration laws was met with "long periods of standing, applauding, and cat-calling in support," though no one was arrested for that, the plaintiffs say.

Charges against the five protesters were dismissed after they were prosecuted and acquitted at trial, the complaints claim. They say the trial court found that their arrests violated the First Amendment.

The plaintiffs seek punitive damages for constitutional violations, malicious prosecution and unlawful arrests.

Sandschafer, Bethancourt, Millan and Nelson are represented in Maricopa County Court by Slan Larkin. Theilen is represented in Federal Court by Joel Robbins of Robbins and Curtin.

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