New York Times
By Fernanda Santos
March 24, 2014
PHOENIX — A federal judge strongly rebuked Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Maricopa County and one of his chief deputies on Monday, saying that they had defied and even mocked the judge’s order last year to stop singling out Latinos during routine patrols, traffic stops and workplace raids.
“Whether or not the sheriff likes it, there is a distinction in immigration law that was not understood by the population and, with all due respect to you, it is not understood by the sheriff, which is that it is not a criminal violation to be in this country without authorization,” said the judge, G. Murray Snow of United States District Court here, staring down the 81-year-old sheriff, whose tenure has been framed largely by his unforgiving stance against illegal immigrants.
Ten months ago, Judge Snow ruled that Mr. Arpaio and his deputies had systematically profiled Latinos, targeting them for arrest during raids at day-laborer gathering spots and detaining them longer than other drivers during traffic stops. The subsequent order from the judge, who found that the sheriff’s office had violated the constitutional rights of Latinos, came with several requirements, including the appointment of a monitor to field complaints and oversee compliance.
But at the hearing on Monday, Judge Snow said that Mr. Arpaio and the chief deputy, Jerry Sheridan, had blatantly flouted his order, pointing as evidence to a video of a briefing that the two men held in October for a group of rank-and-file deputies who participated in a crime-suppression operation in southwest Phoenix. In the video, Mr. Sheridan called Judge Snow’s order “ludicrous” and “absurd,” and compared the restrictions the courts had placed on them to those imposed on the beleaguered New Orleans Police Department, whose officers, he said, “were murdering people.”
“That tells you how ludicrous this crap is,” Mr. Sheridan of the judge’s order, as a videocamera recorded his every word.
Mr. Arpaio spoke next, telling the deputies, “What the chief deputy said is what I’ve been saying,” adding, “We don’t racially profile, I don’t care what everybody says.”
None of that sat well with Judge Snow, who had summoned the two men before him on Monday to explain themselves. In calling the hearing, Judge Snow wrote of his concerns that the leadership of the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office may have chosen to present “a paper appearance of compliance” while fostering “an attitude of contempt and subversion” toward the corrective actions he prescribed.
In court on Monday, Judge Snow addressed most of his remarks to Mr. Sheridan, asking him, among other things, “Do you believe you’re in good-faith compliance with the order if in trainings, in briefings, you mischaracterize the order?”
Mr. Sheridan came close to an apology, telling Judge Snow: “I’m ashamed of the things I said. I mischaracterized your order, there is no doubt about that. I had gotten some facts incorrect.”
Tim Casey, a lawyer for Mr. Arpaio, reminded the judge that emotions were still raw at the time the video was recorded, barely two months after a sheriff’s deputy was shot to death in his front yard in southwest Phoenix. He also said that there was “an adjustment process” whenever change was imposed “by outside forces.”
Judge Snow leaned closer to the microphone, locked his gaze on Mr. Casey and told him, “It isn’t a new order.” The facts it laid out had been raised as far back as 2011, when he issued a preliminary injunction in the case, he said.
Sheriff Arpaio did not speak in court; he sat just behind the defendants’ table, his chin propped on his right hand as he faced Judge Snow. After the hearing, outside the courthouse, he struck a tone of defiance, telling reporters: “We’ll be appealing this case anyway. Stay tuned.”
Throughout the case, which has gone on for years, Mr. Arpaio has vigorously denied the allegations. And although he remains a polarizing figure, his supporters have stuck by him: Donations to his campaign fund have continued to pour in, from inside and outside Arizona, and have already surpassed $3 million for the 2016 election, when he plans to seek a seventh term as sheriff. Although he has floated the idea of running for governor of Arizona this year, to replace Jan Brewer, a Republican, as she leaves office, even some of his closest advisers doubt he will do so.
The case before Judge Snow is a class-action lawsuit on behalf of Latinos who have been or will be stopped by Mr. Arpaio’s deputies in Maricopa County. But Mr. Arpaio and the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office still face another lawsuit, filed by the Justice Department, claiming civil rights violations, based on, among other things, a longstanding pattern of discrimination against Latinos.
To Judge Snow, the hearing was an opportunity to put the alleged violations and mischaracterizations of his orders on the record. He made clear that if there were any further violations, he would not hesitate to use his authority to impose further sanctions on the sheriff’s office, like hiring more monitors to make sure the deputies were no longer discriminating against Latinos.
To underscore his points, Judge Snow asked that the lawyers on both sides of the case prepare a summary of his order and that Mr. Arpaio and his deputies use it as a training tool, ideally to make sure none of it was misinterpreted. He also asked both sides to sign a letter attesting to the intentions of the order, which Mr. Arpaio’s lawyers said they would have to discuss before accepting.
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