Wednesday, June 1, 2016

ACLU Wants Criminal Probe of Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio

PHOENIX (CN) — ACLU attorneys urged a federal judge Tuesday to refer Sheriff Joe Arpaio to the U.S. Attorney's Office for criminal investigation, two weeks after Arpaio was found in contempt of court for disobeying orders to stop racially profiling Latinos.
     The ACLU asked U.S. District Judge G. Murray Snow to send a referral to the U.S. Attorney to investigate Arpaio and his Chief Deputy Jerry Sheridan for possible criminal charges of contempt of court, perjury, obstruction of justice, and making false statements to a court-appointed monitor.
     "Sheriff Arpaio and Chief Deputy Sheridan, the two top commanders of the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office ('MCSO'), have repeatedly and willfully defied the rule of law and this Court. During the course of the underlying litigation, they spoliated evidence and violated their obligations to preserve and to produce critical evidence," the ACLU wrote in its memorandum on remedies for civil contempt.
     U.S. District Judge G. Murray Snow ordered Arpaio and Sheridan in October 2013 to stop illegally targeting Latinos, but they "have openly defied the Court's authority in front of subordinates, repeatedly violated the Court's discovery orders, deliberately misled the Court appointed monitor, and willfully subverted MCSO's internal affairs system to evade being held responsible for their misconduct. And even after they were called to account in a civil contempt proceeding, Arpaio and Sheridan continued to flout the rule of law by lying on the witness stand," the 37-page memo states.
     The contempt proceedings stem from a 2007 class action from lead plaintiff Manuel de Jesus Ortega Melendres, accusing Arpaio and several sheriff's officers of racial profiling.
     After Arpaio admitted that he allowed officers to conduct immigration patrols after Snow barred them, and failed to turn over traffic stop video evidence for trial, Judge Snow held hearings to determine whether Arpaio and his top aides had defied court orders.
     In mid May, Snow issued a 162-page ruling that found Arpaio, Sheridan, retired Chief Brian Sands, and Lt. Joe Sousa in contempt of court for not turning over video evidence, enforcing banned immigration laws, and refusing to collect evidence despite court orders.
     Among other things, sheriff's officers continued using race as a determining factor when initiating traffic stops; detained and transported at least 157 people to Immigration and Customs Enforcement though they could not be charged with federal crimes; and refused to investigate complaints of mistreatment by officers. Sheriff's officers also withheld documents for the trial, lied about their existence, and lied under oath during the evidentiary hearing.
     "In short, for more than eight years, Sheriff Arpaio has defied this court and his obligations in the litigation. He has proved unwilling to comply with the law. Strong remedies are needed to protect the rights of the plaintiff class," the ACLU wrote.
     In the two years since Snow issued the injunction, Arpaio's office has achieved 61 percent compliance with promulgating court-mandated policies, but only 38 percent compliance with enforcing those policies. Additional reports demonstrate that the office has increased compliance with these two criteria by 4 and 1 percent respectively over the previous quarter, a pace the ACLU calls "unacceptable."
     Arpaio also has a record of willfully defying court orders, such as missing deadlines for initial training, implementing use of body cameras, and conducting periodic analysis of traffic stop data, by years, making it clear that typical remediation measures have little effect, the memorandum states.
     The ACLU asked the court to modify the injunction to allow the monitor to compel officers to comply with court orders, assign personnel to units charged with compliance tasks, and use resources to achieve compliance.
     Since Arpaio and his cronies have subverted the office's internal affairs system to conceal wrongdoing and avoid accountability, the monitor should assume control of these investigations. And the Professional Standards Board must be transferred to outside authorities to prevent Arpaio from tainting proceedings with bias and favoritism, the memo states.
     The ACLU also asked the court for new deadlines, to be enforced by fines and other sanctions, to keep Arpaio from dragging his heels.

Among other things, it recommends imposing a supervisor-to-deputy ratio of 1:8 to ensure supervisors have time to read daily reports, review traffic stop data, and evaluate deputies for signs of racial profiling; maintain accurate data on civilian complaints; make it easier to file complaints by establishing a 24-hour hotline in English and Spanish; and impose disciplinary measures on officers who harass complainants or deliberately log complaints incorrectly.
     Due to Arpaio's primary role in flouting Judge Snow's injunction, the ACLU wants him to spend $300,000 of his own money to create a compensation program for victims of his office's racial profiling and of his contempt of court, including $200,000 for outreach and a $1,500 minimum award to those unlawfully detained.
     The ACLU said it is unlikely that all of Arpaio's victims can be found and properly compensated, so it asked for the criminal referral.
     Attorneys Daniel Pochoda and Brenda Furnish with the ACLU's Arizona office did not immediately return emailed requests for comment on Tuesday.