A U.S. District Court judge found infamous Maricopa County, Ariz., Sheriff Joe Arpaio in civil contempt of court on Friday for ignoring court orders handed down in 2013, after Arpaio’s office was sued for illegally targeting Mexican-looking motorists.
Arpaio was cited on three counts of contempt, along with two counts for Maricopa County Chief Deputy Gerald Sheridan, after Judge Murray Snow ruled the Office’s profiling practices unconstitutional in Ortega Melendres, et al. v. Arpaio, et al.
The class action lawsuit was first filed in 2007 by the American Civil Liberties Union’s (ACLU) Arizona chapter, along with the Mexican-American Legal Defense and Education Fund.
As a result of the Judge Snow’s ruling in 2013 that the targeting of Latinos violated the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, a series of instructions were given to the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office which included the institution of a monitor overseen by the Justice Department, audio and video documentation of all traffic stops and compliance training for all of Arpaio’s deputies.
On Friday, Judge Snow found Arpaio had ignored three of the District Court’s orders, by failing to produce video footage of the profiling in question; continuing to enforce immigration law after ordered to stop (157 suspects were detained and released to federal authorities by Sheriff’s Office, later found not to have committed a state crime); failing to collect relevant evidence after 2013 trial.
“His recalcitrance ends here,” said ACLU attorney, Cecilla Wang. “Strong remedies are needed to protect the community’s rights, starting with internal investigations that root out and punish misconduct. Willing or not, the Sheriff will be made to comply with the law.”
Arpaio openly admits that his office hasn’t complied with the court orders from 2013, but argues that failure to do so is a result of a communications breakdown, and not willful disobedience — a distinction which could be the difference between civil contempt and more serious criminal charges.
“Despite disagreeing with some of the Court’s findings, the Maricopa, County, Sheriff’s Office will continue to work with the court appointed Monitor, the ALCU and Plaintiffs to comply with the Court’s Orders”, Arpaio’s attorneys said in a statement.
Judge Snow has set a May 31 court date to hear oral arguments on subsequent legal actions, which could include fines to the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office, compensation for victims, more federal oversight and possible criminal charges for Arpaio.
[Reuters] [Arizona Republic]