Sheriff Joe Arpaio's Contempt Case Expected To Conclude Next Month

By Jude Joffe-Block
Published: Friday, October 16, 2015 - 4:16pm

The civil contempt of court case against Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio is expected to wrap up in November. The judge will be deciding who should be held in civil contempt, what fines or remedies to impose, and whether any areas of the sheriff's office should subject to additional court oversight.

Ultimately, U.S. District Court Judge Murray Snow will decide whether to refer the case to a prosecutor to pursue criminal contempt charges. 

Arpaio and four others are facing contempt of court for violating Snow’s orders in a racial profiling case. The sheriff and Chief Deputy Jerry Sheridan have already admitted they can be held in civil contempt of court.

So far Snow has heard 14 full days of testimony in the contempt of court case, including the first round of hearings in April. The case is now in recess until Oct. 27, but there are likely to be at least six more days of testimony when the proceedings resume.

This past week, a major theme in the testimony was the sheriff’s office’s internal affairs investigations into employee misconduct. Plaintiffs in the case are trying to prove these investigations are inadequate and too often inappropriately excuse employees of wrongdoing.

On Wednesday, the plaintiffs’ lawyers called independent private investigator Don Vogel to testify. The Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office contracted Vogel to investigate how the sheriff’s office failed to disseminate the court’s 2011 order to stop detaining immigrants solely for being in the country illegally.

Vogel found that a number of sheriff’s personnel, including Chief Deputy Jerry Sheridan, had violated departmental policies in failing to ensure the agency’s compliance with the court order. But an MCSO chief reversed all preliminary administrative charges related to the incident, and no MCSO personnel were ultimately disciplined for failing to implement the court’s order.

Vogel’s testimony suggested he disagreed with that outcome. “I believe there was a basis for every charge that was submitted,” he said from the stand.

The private investigator said there was a decision within MCSO to not create an administrative charging sheet on the sheriff for his role in the agency's failure to implement the order.

Vogel also explained difficulties he had obtaining the records he needed to complete his investigation. After he could not get copies of the sheriff’s former attorney’s billing records, the county resorted to hiring Vogel his own lawyer to help him get those records.

The court monitor that Snow appointed to oversee the sheriff’s compliance with the racial profiling ruling also has criticized the sheriff's internal affairs investigation.

“We continue to find instances of cases not being thoroughly investigated, inappropriate findings, and MCSO’s own investigative policies not being followed,” reads a report by the monitor released Thursday. “To our dismay, in some cases where it appears that MCSO is willing to take a stand and hold personnel accountable, the findings and the proposed penalties have been reversed during the review process.”

The contempt hearings are expected to end the first week in November. Snow will let each side respond to final questions on Nov. 10.