Lawyers who won profiling suit pan bid to end contempt case

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(Source: MGN Online) (Source: MGN Online)

Lawyers who won a racial-profiling lawsuit against Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio's office are urging a judge to reject a proposal to settle civil contempt-of-court proceedings against the sheriff for violating the court's orders.

The attorneys told U.S. District Judge Murray Snow in a filing Thursday to turn away Arpaio's offer to publicly apologize and fork out money from his own pocket for his acknowledged violation of a 2011 order in the profiling case that barred his immigration patrols.

The judge has scheduled hearings next month to determine whether Arpaio and four top aides are in civil contempt of court for violating the order. The sheriff's managers never told rank-and-file members of his immigrant smuggling squad about the order, leaving officers to violate the order for 18 months.

Next month's hearings also would address a botched effort by the sheriff's office to gather videos of traffic stops that were supposed to be turned over but were withheld in the profiling case.

The decision over whether to call off the hearings is up to the judge, who has questioned whether the fines from a civil contempt finding would adequately address the violations. The judge also is considering launching a separate criminal contempt case that could subject Arpaio to more fines and even jail time.

Arpaio has proposed making a public apology for the violations and pressing county officials to create a $350,000 fund to compensate people harmed. Arpaio, top aide Jerry Sheridan and perhaps others would pool together contributions to make a $100,000 donation to a Hispanic civil rights group.

The lawyers opposing the sheriff say Arpaio and Sheridan are proposing the bare minimum of changes needed to address the violations and that more fact-gathering is needed to determine whether the violations were the result of intentional misconduct. They say willful violations would call for more severe remedies.

They say the deal offered by Arpaio doesn't address the precise cause of the violations and the role that the other three sheriff's officials played in the violation of the 2011 court order.

Arpaio's proposal marks a rare public expression of contrition for the normally unapologetic lawman. It's also an attempt to head off court hearings in late April that would likely provide embarrassing details about the sheriff's office.

Arpaio's attorneys say the hearings would unnecessarily waste hundreds of thousands of dollars of county taxpayer money.

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