Judge To Hear Update On MCSO Internal Criminal Investigation

By Jude Joffe-Block
Published: Tuesday, October 28, 2014 - 10:00am
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The federal judge overseeing the racial profiling case against Sheriff Joe Arpaio has summoned both parties in the case to his courtroom on Tuesday afternoon. The meeting will address the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office’s investigation into possible misconduct by members of its Human Smuggling Unit.

The investigation stems from the discovery of drugs and possibly stolen items in the home of a former MCSO deputy who later resigned and then died of an apparent suicide in May.

Days before former Deputy Charley Armendariz was found dead in his home, sheriff’s officers found a collection of drugs, hundreds of IDs, license plates and video footage of traffic stops in Armendariz’s garage.

The curious collection of items in Armendariz’s garage raised questions about possible crimes, including theft, committed by Armendariz and fellow members of the Human Smuggling Unit.  

As a result, the Sheriff’s office has initiated a criminal investigation as well as eight administrative investigations, according to a brief lawyers for MCSO filed with the court. That same document makes clear MCSO has not referred any cases to the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office for prosecution as a result of the criminal investigation, in part because no victims of theft have been identified so far.

U.S. District Court Judge Murray Snow is expected to ask questions about the status of the investigation on Tuesday, among other items.

In 2013, Snow ruled that MCSO violated the rights of Latino drivers in Maricopa County and ordered sweeping changes at the office, including the introduction of cameras, new training and a court-appointed monitor to ensure compliance.

The monitor the court appointed is critical of the way the sheriff’s office has handled its recent investigations into the Human Smuggling Unit. The monitor wrote a report about its conclusion that was not included in the court public record. But lawyers for the sheriff’s office filed a brief with the court that rebutted the monitor’s findings.

In its report, the monitor apparently criticized the sheriff’s office for not approaching these investigations zealously enough, and for failing to refer cases of potential criminal wrongdoing for prosecution. The monitor also criticized MCSO for failing to adequately interrogate deputies about allegations made by a former HSU deputy Cisco Perez.

Perez was fired last year after MCSO carried out a wiretap internal investigation into several employees. After his firing, Perez said in June that he and other HSU members had stolen property.

In a brief to the court, MCSO argued much of the monitor’s criticism had not taken into account certain limitations facing MCSO, such as the fact that state statutes prevent the agency from asking deputies about administrative misconduct during a criminal investigation.

Judge Murray Snow also made clear he wishes to discuss whether the sheriff’s office can be in compliance with his order to retrain its deputies in light of the fact that Sheriff Joe Arpaio has made public comments that suggest he would again continue to carry out the same kind of operations the court found to be in violation of the law.

 

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