Traffic-stop recordings found at deputy's house

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Ramon Armendariz By Catherine Holland Ramon Armendariz By Catherine Holland

PHOENIX (AP) -- Hundreds of hours of recorded traffic stops were discovered inside the home of a former Maricopa County sheriff's deputy who was also found to have also kept evidence from criminal investigations about a week before his death in an apparent suicide, said an attorney in a racial-profiling case in which the recordings might prove relevant.

The 900 hours of recordings by former Deputy Ramon Charley Armendariz of his stops of motorists were publicly revealed Friday in a racial-profiling case against Sheriff Joe Arpaio's office. The recordings were the subject of a nearly two-hour closed-door meeting in federal court on Wednesday.

Dan Pochoda, one of the attorneys pressing the profiling case against Arpaio, said the recordings that Armendariz voluntarily made of his traffic stops from a camera he wore on his glasses should have been turned over to opposing attorneys at trial, but they weren't. Pochoda said he doesn't know the content of the recordings.

"It raises a whole lot of issues," Pochoda said of the recordings.

Armendariz, a witness in the racial-profiling case, was found dead from an apparent hanging at his west Phoenix home on May 8. About a week before his death, Armendariz was arrested on a charge of drug possession after he reported a burglary in progress on April 30 at his home. No burglars were found, and investigators said they believe he was either under the influence of drugs or having a manic episode. He resigned after his arrest.

Days later, police went to the home again after friends of Armendariz became concerned that he was threatening to harm himself. After a nearly nine-hour barricade situation, he surrendered peacefully and was taken to a psychiatric center. He was found dead after he failed to get an electronic ankle monitor ordered as a condition of his release from jail.

Investigators searching Armendariz's home in west Phoenix said they found evidence from criminal cases dating back to 2007, a collection of IDs belonging to other people and suspected illegal drugs.

The sheriff's office didn't immediately return a message Friday afternoon seeking comment.

Armendariz's recordings will be turned over to a court-appointed official who is helping U.S. District Judge Murray Snow monitor the sheriff's office, Pochoda said.

Nearly a year ago, Snow ruled the sheriff's office has systematically racially profiled Latinos in its immigration and regular traffic patrols.

Arpaio denies that his agency profiles people and has appealed the ruling.

In response to the racial-profiling ruling, Snow is now requiring the sheriff's office to install video cameras in hundreds of the agency's patrol vehicles.

Pochoda said there was no such camera requirement before the profiling ruling and that sheriff's deputies at that point could have voluntarily recorded their stops of motorists. It's not known how many other deputies made such recordings.

While Snow has already made his racial-profiling ruling, the sheriff's office faces a similar lawsuit in which the recordings might also prove relevant.

The U.S. Justice Department has filed a civil rights lawsuit against the sheriff's office alleging a broader range of constitutional violations, including racial profiling and retaliating against the agency's critics.

Arpaio's office vigorously denies the allegations in the Justice Department lawsuit.

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