Sheriff Arpaio Faces|Contempt Hearing

PHOENIX (CN) – Sheriff Joe Arpaio faces a civil contempt hearing this week on allegations that “America’s Toughest Sheriff” violated a court order requiring him to stop racially profiling Latinos.
     The hearings – slated for Tuesday through Friday – will examine whether Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio and four of his officers misrepresented the content of the court order, which required the Sheriff’s Office to turn over data from traffic stops and to train deputies not to make unconstitutional stops.
     In 2007, five Latinos and the organization Somos America filed a class action against Arpaio and the Sheriff’s Office after five people said they were racially profiled by deputies and detained during traffic stops or crime suppression sweeps.
     U.S. District Judge G. Murray Snow agreed , finding in 2013 that Arpaio and the agency’s actions violated the plaintiffs’ Fourth Amendment rights.
     “The MCSO did not understand [racial profiling], in an immigration context, to prohibit the use of race as a factor among others in making a law enforcement decision,” Snow wrote. “Thus, MCSO deputies could consider race as one factor in stopping a vehicle or initiating an investigation so long as race was not the sole basis on which deputies made that decision.”
     A court-appointed monitor, Robert Warshaw, was ordered to work with the plaintiffs and the Sheriff’s Office to bring it into compliance with Snow’s order.
     The agency’s practices were questioned again when Chief Deputy Jerry Sheridan was videotaped during an October 2013 training session for deputies “where he referred to this court’s order as ‘ludicrous’ and ‘crap,’ and incorrectly stated that this court had found only a small number of officers had unconstitutionally used race as a factor in traffic stops,” Snow wrote in an order to show cause why the hearing should not be held. The recording, which did not surface until 2014, also showed Sheridan and Arpaio “directing deputies not to take seriously the court’s requirement that they track the race and ethnicity of individuals whom they stop.”
     Also uncovered in 2014 was information that former deputy Ramon “Charley” Armendariz secretly recorded thousands of traffic stops and confiscated identification cards, drugs and license plates from the stops, which he then stored in his home.
     Warshaw found that the Sheriff’s Office’s investigation of Armendariz was flawed because it did not track what deputies had body cameras or track all of the evidence found in Armendariz’s home after he hanged himself in May 2014.
     “As a result, witnesses were subject to secondary interviews and the cataloging of evidence has remained in constant turmoil,” Warshaw wrote in an October filing . “The turmoil has caused extensive investigatory delays in attempts to correlate multiple items of seized evidence with individuals, property and audio and/or video recordings.”
      Armendariz testified in the racial profiling trial in 2013 after two plaintiffs – Velia Meraz and Manuel Nieto Jr. – said deputies followed them to their family business after Armendariz threatened to charge them with disorderly conduct for refusing to leave a gas station.
     This week’s hearing will also look into Arpaio’s statement to The Associated Press on a 2008 immigration raid in Guadalupe, Ariz. that “with the same circumstances, I’d do it all over again.”
     In a report issued Thursday , Warshaw found that the Sheriff’s Office lacked competent leadership, especially in the upper ranks of the organization.
     “Incumbents in command positions are quick to blame their predecessors for misdeeds, be they acts of commission or omission,” Warshaw wrote. “This is done while completely ignoring their own complicity during the events which led to this litigation and throughout the duration of the court proceedings.”
     Arpaio and Sheridan admitted violating Snow’s order in an attempt to cancel the hearing.
     “Defendants acknowledge and appreciate that they have violated the court’s orders and that there are consequences for these violations,” Arpaio and Sheridan said in a March filing with the court. “There is nothing defendants can do to change what has already been done, but through the entry of an order finding them in civil contempt and by implementing remedies discussed herein, defendants can express sincere remorse to the court and to plaintiffs, begin to make amends to those who have been injured and take affirmative steps to ensure nothing like this occurs in the future.”
     Three other current and former Arpaio officers also are accused of violating the order, but deny the allegations.
     The plaintiffs did not find the admission to be enough to stop the hearing, however, and Snow agreed.
     “(T)he motion should be denied because defendants have not yet provided full discovery on why and how they violated the court’s orders,” wrote Cecillia Wang of the ACLU Foundation Immigration Rights Project. “Material issues of fact, crucial for determining the proper remedies for defendants’ contempt of this court’s orders, remain unresolved, and therefore the process set by the court for discovery and an evidentiary hearing should go forward.”
     The 9th Circuit last week upheld Snow’s reforms for the Sheriff’s Office, finding that defendants’ policy of racial profiling “applied across-the-board to all law enforcement decisions.”
     The court found that while Warshaw should have authority related to constitutional violations, he should not have the discretion to consider disciplinary outcomes for any violations.
     “Sheriff Joe Arpaio has continually tried to dodge responsibility for his unconstitutional actions, and once again the courts have rebuffed his attempts,” Wang said in a statement. “It’s time for Sheriff Arpaio and the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office to face the facts and accept responsibility for violating the Constitution and the public trust. They should focus now on fixing the serious problems that fostered this illegal and discriminatory conduct.”
     If Snow finds Arpaio in civil contempt, he may face criminal contempt charges. Attorneys for the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office declined to comment until after the hearing.

%d bloggers like this: