Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio has been on the witness stand for days. He’s testifying in his contempt of court case. Arpaio, as well as five former or current aides, have been charged with violating three orders entered by United States District Judge G. Murray Snow.
Back in 2007, a federal lawsuit alleged that Arpaio and his office were guilty of racial profiling in connection with traffic stops and “saturation patrols.” After five years, the case went to trial before Judge Snow, and in May 2013, the judge found that Arpaio’s office had indeed engaged in racial profiling. He issued a lengthy ruling in the case, and announced sweeping reforms to prevent sheriff’s deputies from using race as a factor in their law enforcement decisions. But the case was not over. During and after the ruling, a series of events were reported that called into question the issue of whether these and related orders were being complied with. The allegations include:
- Continuing “immigration enforcement” for a year and a half after a preliminary injunction was issued ordering a halt to the practice.
- Failing to collect and hand over footage from on-duty deputies as required.
- Discovery that ID’s, license plates, wallets and recordings had been stashed by a former deputy.
But what’s more interesting than the specific violations alleged in the case is the conduct the plaintiffs say Arpaio has engaged in during the course of the lawsuit. The conduct includes Arpaio allegedly engineering an investigation of Judge Snow in an effort to discover some way to avoid being punished for violating the court orders. The plaintiffs say that the sheriff pursued a retaliatory investigation of the judge, his wife, and the husband of a former Maricopa County supervisor who was an outspoken critic of Arpaio.
In any event, the defense does not challenge the claim that the orders were violated; rather, they assert that the violations were “inadvertent.” Unfortunately for the MCSO, it looks like the attempt to defend the case is bringing out more and more allegations of potential wrongdoing. We expect that more will be revealed as the case continues.
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