Judge finds Arpaio, 3 top aides in civil contempt

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Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio (Photo source: KPHO/KTVK) Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio (Photo source: KPHO/KTVK)
Former Maricopa County Board Supervisor Mary Rose Wilcox held up the judge's decision at a news conference Friday afternoon at which several member of the Latino community praised the decision to hold Arpaio in civil contempt. (Source: KPHO/KTVK) Former Maricopa County Board Supervisor Mary Rose Wilcox held up the judge's decision at a news conference Friday afternoon at which several member of the Latino community praised the decision to hold Arpaio in civil contempt. (Source: KPHO/KTVK)
Dan Pochoda, the ACLU lawyer who has been working the case since 2008, described Snow's ruling as an "appeal-proof comprehensive decision." (Source: KPHO/KTVK) Dan Pochoda, the ACLU lawyer who has been working the case since 2008, described Snow's ruling as an "appeal-proof comprehensive decision." (Source: KPHO/KTVK)
PHOENIX -

A federal judge on Friday ruled that Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio and three of his top aides are in civil contempt of court in connection with the ongoing racial profiling case.

In a strongly worded 162-page document, Judge Murray Snow wrote that Arpaio's office violated court  orders intended to end racial profiling practices by his department.

"They have demonstrated a persistent disregard for the orders of this Court, as well as an intention to violate and manipulate the laws and policies regulating their conduct," Snow said.

Arpaio was found guilty on three counts of civil contempt, Chief Deputy Jerry Sheridan on two counts and retired Chief Brian Sands and Lt. Joe Sousa on one count each.

At this point, Arpaio has not commented. He did, however, tweet about his lack of comment.

"I never hide from media, but my policy has been I don't talk about ongoing litigation," he said. "Last wk. did not talk about 9th cir fed. victory."

RELATED: Defiant Arizona sheriff has been found in contempt of court

They are expected back in court at the end of the month to discuss potential penalties.

"We have just received the Court’s Findings of Fact and various civil contempt findings relating to four individuals in Melendres v. Arpaio," John Masterson, the attorney for Arpaio and his office in this case, wrote in a statement. "We have begun our reading and analysis of this lengthy document, and expect to file a responsive memorandum.  Despite disagreeing with some of the Court’s findings, the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office will continue to work with the court appointed Monitor, the ACLU and Plaintiffs to comply with the Court’s Orders, as it has since January 2014.  

Arpaio and his aides still face the possibility of criminal contempt charges which carry hefty fines and potential jail time.

The civil contempt ruling stems from a 2011 court order to end  the sheriff's law enforcement tactics -- such as his well-known immigration sweeps -- that targeted Hispanics.

Arpaio admitted to violating the order but maintained it was unintentional.

Snow disagreed, saying, "In their testimony during the evidentiary hearing, Sheriff Arpaio and Chief Sheridan made multiple intentional misstatements of fact while under oath."

Following the judge's ruling today, the American Civil Liberties Union, which brought the suit against the sheriff's office, issued the following statement:

"The court has found that Sheriff Arpaio intentionally and repeatedly violated federal court orders. His recalcitrance ends here. Strong remedies are needed to protect the community’s rights, starting with internal investigations that root out and punish misconduct. Willing or not, the sheriff will be made to comply with the law."

"The Latino community has been waiting for this judgement (sic) for months," former Maricopa County Board Supervisor Mary Rose Wilcox said.

Dan Pochoda, the ACLU lawyer who has been working the case since 2008, described Snow's ruling as an "appeal-proof comprehensive decision." He also pointed out that Snow described Arpaio's actions as intentional and knowing as opposed to merely negligent.

RAW VIDEO: Watch the entire news conference

"Today’s ruling by Judge Snow is the first step toward achieving justice for those whose civil rights were intentionally violated by Sheriff Arpaio. It is unfortunate, that once again the taxpayers of Maricopa County have to pick up the tab for his mistakes," Supervisor Steve Gallaro said. "When we vote on the FY ’17 budget next week, the Board of Supervisors will appropriate millions of dollars so the sheriff’s office comes into compliance with the court orders. The irony is, while citizens pay the bill for the Sheriff’s violation of the previous court orders, they are the only ones who can remove Arpaio from office and restore professionalism to our law enforcement agency.

"This is not a partisan issue," Gallardo continued. "All of us who live in Maricopa County should be alarmed that his actions damage the reputation of the County and to date has cost us at least $40 million on this one case."\

Some local leaders have called for Arpaio's resignation.

"No elected official would hold public office after being found guilty of racial profiling and now in contempt of court," Carlos Garcia, the executive director of Puente Human Rights Movement," said. "Arpaio should resign immediately, given criminal charges and be put behind bars."

Dan Saban, one of Arpaio's challengers in the upcoming election, also released a statement.

"With this ruling and because of Arpaio's reckless disregard of the rights of American Citizens, Maricopa County, and the State of Arizona, have yet another unnecessary stain on our reputation.  Arpaio's arrogance and blatant disregard for the Constitution has cost us over $40 million taxpayer dollars, and counting, for this single lawsuit.  We cannot afford any more of this (so-called) "America's Toughest Sheriff."  It is time for him to resign.  It is time to bring back the rule of law and the rule of fiscal responsibility.  When elected, I will honor these sacred rules while restoring honor and integrity back to the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office leadership; as I have done throughout my professional law enforcement career."  

PDF: Read the ruling

The racial profiling case against the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office and Arpaio goes back years. The culmination was a federal ruling almost three years ago that Arpaio's officers profiled Latinos. U.S. District Judge Murray Snow ordered a series of changes at MCSO, including training on making constitutional traffic stops and requiring officers to wear body cameras. The judge appointed a court monitor to oversee those mandated changes.

That monitor, Robert Warshaw, said in a report last month that Arpaio has been slow in implementing the reforms and even let immigration patrols continue for nearly two years after Snow ordered them stopped. That's when Snow started considering holding Arpaio in contempt.

RELATED: Report: Arizona sheriff is slow in making profiling reforms

Mounting costs

Taxpayers in metro Phoenix will have to pick up an additional $13 million over the next year to cover the costs of a racial profiling case that has proven to be the thorniest legal entanglement faced by Arpaio.

Maricopa County, which has already shelled out $41 million over the past eight years in the case, must keep covering those legal costs until Arpaio's office is released from the supervision of the case judge - a resolution that is years away.

RELATED: Taxpayer costs of sheriff's profiling case keep climbing

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