Federal Judge: Arpaio “lied to my face”
It has been a long road for everyone involved in what began as a racial profiling case in federal court in Phoenix. And it’s not over yet! The latest development in the case came last week, when United States District Judge Murray Snow considered whether to recommend that Maricopa Sheriff Joe Arpaio be charged with criminal contempt for violating court orders. The judge has already noted that Arpaio lied to him during the course of the proceedings.
You might wonder how in the world a civil case could turn into a possible criminal contempt case with a county sheriff as the potential defendant. In order to understand the current posture of the case, we thought it would be helpful to lay out a brief timeline of the events leading up to last week’s hearing.
In 2008, a civil complaint was filed against Arpaio, the Sheriff’s Office and Maricopa County. The plaintiffs in the case claimed that the policies and practices of the defendants unlawfully discriminated against Latinos. The complaint specifically alleged that traffic stops targeted Latinos, and that Latinos were mistreated by law enforcement.
Hearings were held, and in December 23, 2011, an injunction was issued by Judge Snow. That ruling barred the Sheriff’s Office from systematically stopping and arresting Latinos based solely on suspicion of being an illegal alien, without any evidence of criminal activity. At the same time, Judge Snow said that the case could go forward as a class action. In May 2013, Judge Snow found that the Sheriff and his deputies had committed racial profiling and other discriminatory actions.
From the time the injunction was issued, there were allegations that Arpaio was ignoring the judge’s ruling, and eventually Arpaio was charged with “civil contempt.” He was found to have violated the orders, and reluctantly admitted to conducting secret investigations, including one that targeted Judge Snow’s wife!
As the case moved forward, in addition to finding Arpaio in (civil) contempt, it was also revealed that documents ordered to be turned over to the plaintiffs were discovered at the home of an officer. The documents included traffic-stop videos that related to the racial profiling claims.
The question now being considered is whether Judge Snow will send the case to federal prosecutors with a recommendation that criminal contempt proceedings be instituted against Arpaio. If that happens, the charge could be a felony. A felony conviction would require that Arpaio step down as Sheriff.
We expect to hear more on the case over the next several weeks.
The Feldman Law Firm PLLC
1 E. Washington Street
Phoenix, AZ 85004