Judge: Arpaio, chief deputy disrespecting court order

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The self-proclaimed "toughest sheriff in America" got hit with some humility Monday.

Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arapio was in federal court to explain why his office seemed to be making light of a court order stemming from a racial-profiling lawsuit.

Arpaio didn't have much to say to reporters when he walked out of the federal courthouse in downtown Phoenix Monday morning.

"I'm only saying a few words. This is a court issue," said Arpaio. "All I'm going to tell you is that we will be appealing the case."

The sheriff and his Chief Deputy Jerry Sheridan, spent about an hour getting a lecture from U.S. District Judge Murray Snow.

Snow had called Arpaio and Sheridan into court after learning that MCSO leaders seemed to be trivializing a court order that required federal oversight of the sheriff's office, which was found to be engaging in racial profiling.

"When the top brass at a law enforcement agency makes statements that tend to undermine a federal court order, they need to rescind that," said ACLU attorney Cecilia Wong.

The focus of Monday's hearing was on an October 2013 training session with deputies, where Sheridan characterized the court order as "absurd" and "ludicrous."

"Judge Snow violated the U.S. Constitution. It's judge Snow that violated 10th Amendment," Sheridan told deputies.

On Monday Sheridan told the judge, "I'm ashamed of the things I said during the briefing. I mischaracterized your order. There is no doubt about that. I had gotten some facts incorrect. I was very emotional."

"Chief Deputy Sheridan said a lot of things - several of them were factual erroneous," said MCSO attorney Tom Liddy. "The biggest concern of the court is that it is completely understood by Sheridan that the tone and tenor perceived by an objective observer, was not one of a commander being absolutely clear that every member of MCSO has got to respect and comply with letter and spirit of this court order."

The federal court order requires that MCSO:

  • Have a monitor to oversee Sheriff's Office operations.
  • Place cameras in all patrol cars.
  • Create new training materials/procedures.

The sheriff did not speak at Monday's court hearing, but some people, including Hispanic community activist Lydia Guzman, were pleased with the message the judge sent.

"The judge did give him a second chance, and I'm hoping the sheriff heeds this warning," said Guzman. "I'm hoping the judge will finally take this seriously."

Liddy said they will comply with the entire court order, while they continue the appeal process.

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