Judge Warns Arpaio He Could Be Held In Contempt
The federal judge presiding over the racial profiling case against Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio said in court on Thursday that he may cite the Sheriff for contempt of court for disobeying his orders.
Last year Judge Murray Snow found the sheriff's office had engaged in racial profiling against Latino drivers and ordered sweeping changes at the agency.
Some of the events discussed in this most recent court hearing relate back to incidents that happened last May. That’s when it was revealed that a sheriff’s deputy, Ramon "Charley" Armendariz, was hoarding evidence in his garage.
Armendariz had testified in the racial profiling trial in 2012.
Another officer from the sheriff’s office found in Armendariz's garage hundreds of IDs, license plates, drugs and videos the deputy had recorded of himself making traffic stops.
Armendariz was arrested and days later was found dead of an apparent suicide.
The items in his garage raised questions whether he and others in the Human Smuggling Unit were shaking down immigrants.
Judge Murray Snow gave the sheriff’s office specific instructions for their investigation, but sheriff’s leaders failed to comply with those instructions.
The videos of Armendariz's traffic stops also revealed that it was not uncommon for deputies to record their own traffic stops. Yet the defendants in the case never turned over video footage to plaintiffs when they requested that kind of video evidence during the discovery phase of the litigation.
In court on Thursday, Snow accused Arpaio of violating his orders, the law and subverting the investigation.
He said he may take action himself with the help of his court-appointed monitor.
“There are many investigations ongoing,” said Tom Liddy, a lawyer for the sheriff’s office. “The court is entertaining the idea whether he will direct the monitor to initiate parallel investigations, or to have the MCSO cease and desist those investigations and then move forward with his alone.”
Meanwhile, there is new evidence that Armendariz wasn't the only deputy confiscating IDs and license plates without properly putting them in evidence.
Lawyers for the sheriff’s office said a deputy who once served in the Human Smuggling Unit recently came forward with 111 IDs, and another found 53 more in a box. Sheriff’s employees found 35 more license plates at the sheriff’s office that were apparently confiscated by both Armendariz and other deputies.
Also on Thursday, Snow allowed two of Arpaio’s attorneys, Tim Casey and James Williams, to withdraw from the case.
The attorneys had cited Arizona rules that allow attorneys to withdraw from a case if representing a client would violate the Rules of Professional Conduct or other laws.