Offensive emails revealed in Arpaio civil rights trial

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By Andrew Michalscheck By Andrew Michalscheck

PHOENIX -- The personal stories of people who said they were racially profiled in Sheriff Joe Arpaio's immigration sweeps took center stage Wednesday at a trial aimed at settling allegations over whether the lawman's trademark patrols disproportionately single out Latinos.

One witnesses tearfully described feeling "humiliated, worthless, defenseless," saying the emotions were the result of being pulled over without justification and treated disrespectfully by Maricopa County sheriff's deputies.

Arpaio has repeatedly denied charges of racial profiling within his department and says his deputies only make stops when they think a crime has been committed.

The group of Latinos who filed the lawsuit against Arpaio and his office said that the sheriff's officers based some traffic stops on the race of the people who were in vehicles. The plaintiffs said they were pulled over only so deputies could inquire about their immigration status.

Those who filed the lawsuit aren't seeking money. They instead are seeking a declaration that Arpaio's office racially profiles and an order requiring the department to make policy changes.
 
The lawsuit marks the first case in which the sheriff's office has been accused of systematic racial profiling and will serve as a bellwether for a similar yet broader civil rights lawsuit filed against Arpaio and his agency by the U.S. Justice Department.

U.S. District Judge Murray Snow will decide the case. Testimony is expected to wrap next week.

Daniel Magos, 67, a native of Mexico who became a U.S. citizen more than 45 years ago, took the stand Wednesday. Magos told the judge he was pulled over with his wife in the vehicle on his way to work.

Magos said the Maricopa County sheriff's deputy who pulled him over in 2009 didn't explain at first why he made the stop. Magos said eventually the officer explained that the license plate wasn't visible on his truck, which was pulling a trailer. But he testified that the trailer wasn't blocking the plate.

Magos began to cry as described being searched under his armpits and in his groin area, saying he felt "humiliated, worthless, defenseless."

He said the encounter ended with the deputy releasing with only a warning that the trailer needed a license plate, which it did not have, and an apology for yelling.

One of Arpaio's lawyers suggested that the officer who pulled Magos over could not have known the race of the vehicle's occupants because the windows were tinted.

Sgt. Brett Palmer was also called to testify Wednesday. Palmer was head of the MCSO's anti-smuggling unit.

Plaintiffs' attorneys showed emails they said Palmer forwarded to others in the agency, which could be considered offensive.

One showed pictures of men passed-out, surrounded by alcohol, with a caption "Mexican Yoga."

Palmer and Sheriff Arpaio's attorneys called the emails "mistakes."

"Anybody who reads those emails would be concerned," said attorney Tom Liddy, "That's why he was disciplined."

ACLU attorneys, on the other hand, said it took too long for that discipline to occur.

"They were not just a mistake, but an action by a supervising officer which leads to a culture that permits and encourages racial profiling," said ACLU attorney Cecillia Wang.

MCSO Chief Brian Sands will continue his testimony Thursday in court.  Sands was responsible for leading several of the MCSO crime suppression operations, which led to the trial.