Sheriff Arpaio admits violating court order in profiling suit

Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio admits he violated court order in longstanding profiling suit

Joe Arpaio, the outspoken Arizona sheriff who often touted his get-tough approach to combating illegally immigration, has admitted that he violated a federal judge’s orders to stop detaining people simply because of a suspicion they may be in the country illegally.

The admission, which comes one month before the Maricopa County lawman was scheduled to appear in court, appears to be an attempt to avoid an evidentiary hearing in which Arpaio and other officers could be called to testify.

In a court filing, attorneys for Arpaio and Chief Deputy Jerry Sheridan said such a hearing would now be unnecessary, in addition to costing "county taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars.”

Arpaio and Sheridan “acknowledge and appreciate that they have violated the Court’s orders and that there are consequences for these violations,” their attorneys said in court papers filed late Tuesday.

The violations include failing to disclose all required information in pretrial proceedings and failing to follow the court’s 2014 order to “quietly” collect audio and video recording devices from deputies, according to court filings.

U.S. District Judge Murray Snow's ruling in May 2013 found Arpaio’s practices relied heavily on ethnicity, violating the Constitution's 4th and 14th Amendments. The 4th Amendment guards against unreasonable search and seizure; the 14th Amendment guarantees equal protection under the law.

In his ruling, Snow noted that deputies frequented places where day laborers gather. In four day-labor sweeps he cited, none of the 35 people arrested were detained for violation of state or local laws, and all were passengers in vehicles, not drivers.

Maricopa County is home to Arizona's biggest city, Phoenix, and has significant Latino and immigrant populations.

Arpaio and Sheridan are willing to personally pay for the violation, court records show. The pair offered to pay $100,000 to a Latino civil rights organization approved by the court and will also request $350,000 from Maricopa County to compensate victims.

In addition, Arpaio will “personally accept responsibility for himself and for the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office” and apologize to the plaintiffs and the court.  

“There is nothing defendants can do to change what has already been done,” court documents say. “Defendants can express sincere remorse to the court and to plaintiffs, begin to make amends to those who have been injured and take affirmative steps to ensure nothing like this occurs in the future.”

Jessica Karp Bansal, litigation director for the National Day Laborer Organizing Network, said in a statement that Arpaio's department "blatantly violated" the civil rights of Maricopa County residents for years. The group is suing Arpaio in another case concerning workplace raids.

"Today's admission comes too late to help many of those who have been deported as a result of his racial profiling," she said. "But it signals a long-delayed recognition, spurred by years of organizing and advocacy by the very people he sought to terrorize, that no one -- not even the sheriff -- is above the law."

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