Will Arizona sheriff be held in contempt for rogue immigration patrols?

Sheriff Joe Arpaio will testify in court Wednesday during his second round of contempt hearings following a 2013 ruling that he stop unjust immigration arrests.

Ross D. Franklin/AP/File
Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio speaks with the media in Phoenix, Jan. 9, 2013. Arpaio, known for his political defiance will undergo a second round of contempt-of-court hearings Thursday, for his acknowledged disobedience of a judge's orders in a racial profiling case that centered on his signature immigration patrols. Arpaio could face fines as a result of the hearings and could later be called into criminal court on the same grounds.

Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio is expected to testify in an Arizona courtroom Wednesday about his acknowledged disobedience of court orders. US District Court Judge Murray Snow had already found in 2013 that Arpaio’s office racially profiled Latino drivers and wrongfully detained them on the assumption that they were in the United States illegally. 

Sheriff Arpaio, whose territory covers metropolitan Phoenix, faces a contempt-of-court hearing after he allowed his deputies to continue immigration patrols 18 months after Judge Snow had ordered them to stop.

The hearing will also address other allegations against Arpaio. The sheriff is accused of privately investigating Snow to get him disqualified from the case and deliberately withholding traffic-stop recordings from the original profiling trial in 2013. The hearing will also examine accusations that Arpaio’s deputies pocketed personal items seized during traffic stops.

Although Arpaio insisted in April during the first round of contempt hearings that he had not investigated Snow, documents have since been released that show emails were exchanged between Arpaio’s office and his investigator the evening before the hearings.

Arpaio, who calls himself “America’s Toughest Sheriff,” has already admitted to committing civil contempt by violating court orders, but he insists it was not deliberate. “I want to apologize to the judge that I should have known more of his court orders,” Arpiao testified in April. “It slipped through the cracks.” 

Snow convened the first round of the civil contempt hearing in April, after he grew frustrated with the conduct of Arpaio’s top officials.

Arpaio’s chief deputy, Gerard Sheridan, and three other aides appeared in court again last week before Snow in the second round of contempt hearings. Deputy Sheridan insists that he had been unaware of Snow’s ruling to stop any form of immigration control.

“It is difficult for me to be specific on what I recall,” Sheridan testified when questioned by the plantiffs’ attorney Cecillia Wang.

Snow is using Sheridan’s testimony to help him decide the outcome of the case. Non-compliance with a judge’s orders could call for fines or greater oversight over Arpaio’s office. But if Snow decides that Arpaio’s misconduct should be transferred to prosecutors, the six-term sheriff could face criminal charges.  

This report contains material from the Associated Press and Reuters.

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