Judge to consider punishment for Arizona sheriff in racial profiling case

Reuters News
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Posted: May 31, 2016 10:49 AM

By David Schwartz

PHOENIX (Reuters) - A federal court judge on Tuesday will consider punishments against Arizona lawman Joe Arpaio, known for his tough immigration stance, for committing civil contempt in a 2007 racial profiling case and ensure the violations do not happen again.

U.S. District Court Judge Murray Snow also was expected to hear arguments about how best to compensate hundreds of Latino drivers who were found to have been illegally stopped and detained by sheriff’s deputies.

Tighter oversight of the sheriff’s office are among the remedies that will be considered at the special hearing in federal court in Phoenix.

The hearing was called after Snow found Arpaio, known nationwide for his tough stance on illegal immigration, and three current and former top aides, guilty of civil contempt for violating court orders stemming from the unlawful stops and failing to disclose evidence in the case.

In his May 13 ruling, Snow blasted the sheriff and his aides for intentionally violating the rights of the Latino drivers and “misconduct, dishonesty and bad faith.” He also found the office’s internal investigations lacking.

On Friday, the plaintiffs’ lawyers called for a broad range of reforms of the sheriff’s office and asked the judge to order Arpaio to pay $300,000 to help compensate victims.

The sheriff, who is running for his seventh term, has never had to personally pay in any lawsuits.

The plaintiffs' lawyers also want the judge to hold Arpaio and his top aide, Chief Deputy Jerry Sheridan, in contempt, asking that the U.S. Attorney’s Office investigate their violations. The probe could include perjury and obstruction of justice claims, according to a court filing.

The judge has said he will determine the criminal contempt matter shortly after Tuesday’s hearing.

Arpaio and Sheridan have offered to pay $100,000 to a Hispanic civil rights group, set up a compensation system for harmed individuals and issue a public apology for the contempt violations.

The long-running case has cost county taxpayers about $41 million, with another $13 million budgeted for the next fiscal year, officials said.

(Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe)