Entries in Joe Arpaio (8)


Arizona Sheriff to Appeal Judge's Finding His Department was Racial Profiling

Spencer Platt/Getty Image(MARICOPA COUNTY, Ariz.) -- Sheriff Joe Arpaio's attorneys said Saturday they plan to appeal a federal judge's finding that the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office, helmed by Arpaio, racially profiled Latinos while on immigration patrols.

Complaints of deputies pulling over and singling out people who are dark skinned and speak Spanish to check their immigration status have long been levied against the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office.

Tim Casey, the attorney representing Arpaio and the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office said racial profiling has never been a policy of the department, but said deputies may have been given faulty training by federal authorities on immigration enforcement.

"The law clearly says you cannot do that, and this judge has clearly made it known that that is not the law,and ICE (Immigrations and Customs Enforcement) taught that, and that is not correct," he said.

Casey said the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office would appeal the judge's ruling in the next 30 days.

The lawsuit was brought against the department by a group of Latinos who alleged they were racially profiled by Arpaio's deputies for the purpose of immigration status checks.

The group did not seek monetary damages in the lawsuit and instead asked for a judge to declare the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office had engaged in racial profiling and to order policy changes.

"We were looking for a declaration from the court that these are unconstitutional practices as an important first step in stopping those practices," said Don Pochoda, legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union, which has championed the case.

The 142-page ruling was issued on Friday, more than eight months after a seven-day bench trial was held in the case.

U.S. District Court Judge G. Murray Snow wrote that "the evidence introduced at trial establishes that, in the past, the MCSO has aggressively protected its right to engage in immigration and immigration-related enforcement operations even when it had no accurate legal basis for doing so."

A hearing has been set on June 14 in Phoenix to discuss how to carry out the orders in the ruling.
Arpaio, who will turn 81 in June, is serving his sixth consecutive term as sheriff of Arizona's most populous county, which includes Phoenix.

The self-styled "America's Toughest Sheriff" has made national headlines for everything from putting inmates in pink underwear to creating the nation's first all-female chain gang.

In February, he tapped actor Steven Seagal to lead members of the Arizona sheriff's volunteer posse through a simulated school shooting.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Judge Says Sheriff Joe Arpaio Racially Profiled Latinos

PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images(MARICOPA COUNTY, Ariz.) -- Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio is famous for chasing after undocumented immigrants in his Arizona jurisdiction.

But the man known as "America's Toughest Sheriff" hasn't been following the law, according to a decision issued by a federal judge on Friday.

The judge found that the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office (MCSO) has systematically employed racial profiling against Hispanics. The office was ordered to stop using Hispanic ancestry as a factor in making law-enforcement decisions.

"The MCSO is disappointed by the outcome in this decision," said Tim Casey, a lawyer for the sheriff's office. "The MCSO's position is that it has never used race and will never use race in making its law-enforcement decisions."

Arpaio can appeal the decision, but Casey said that they would begin working internally to remedy any problems raised in the ruling.

"The sheriff respects the court and its authority and it will comply," Casey said.

The four-and-a-half-year case involved several plaintiffs, including two Latino siblings from Chicago who believed they had been subject to racial profiling, according to The Arizona Republic.

The parties were represented by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and pro-bono attorneys from a Bay-Area law firm.

Dan Pochoda, the legal director for the ACLU of Arizona, said this was a victory for community members in Maricopa who have spoken out against Arpaio over this exact issue.

"The sheriff's pronouncement that he's never been found to do anything wrong is going to have to go by the wayside," Pochoda said.

The practical implications are unclear -- it's possible the office may need to undergo monitoring for the use of racial profiling, or supply data to the court to authenticate its practices, but not certain. The parties are scheduled to reconvene on June 14 to discuss implementation of the decision.

The ruling is a long-awaited victory for immigrant-rights activists who have criticized Arpaio's tactics for years. The judge's ruling explicitly points out that Arpaio overstepped the line when trying to enforce immigration laws.

"The evidence introduced at trial establishes that, in the past, the MCSO has aggressively protected its right to engage in immigration and immigration-related enforcement operations even when it had no accurate legal basis for doing so," U.S. District Judge Murray Snow wrote.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Steven Seagal Calls Sheriff Joe’s Posse Critics ‘Embarrassment to Human Race’

Matthew Simmons/WireImage(NEW YORK) -- Hollywood action star Steven Seagal has a few choice words for critics of his latest role.

On Saturday, the actor and martial arts expert guided members of Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s volunteer posse through a simulated school shooting. Members of the volunteer posse, some of them armed, began patrolling areas surrounding schools in Arizona’s most populous county, Maricopa, which includes Phoenix, in January.

Seagal’s involvement was called a “mockery” by an Arizona state legislator, while a group of protesters also voiced their concern over Arpaio’s school posse protection plan.

“Anybody who has criticized me or the sheriff for standing up to help the children, in my opinion, is an embarrassment to the human race,” Seagal told reporters on Saturday.

Two dozen high school students volunteered to participate in the simulation Saturday, while SWAT deputies posed as the shooters.

In one scenario, which was allowed to be filmed, students hid under cafeteria tables while under siege by a gunman, who was then taken down by volunteer posse members.

“I want everybody to know that we are going to be around those schools and if you do something, we will be armed and we are going into the schools to save our kids,” Arpaio said on Saturday.

The volunteer posse, which is nearly 3,500 members strong, has been used to patrol shopping malls during the holiday season, scope out undocumented immigrants, and investigate President Obama’s birth certificate.

Seagal occasionally worked as a deputy for the Jefferson Parish sheriff in Louisiana and had a reality show Steven Seagal: Lawman.

Arpaio, the self-styled “America’s Toughest Sheriff,” began sending armed posse members to patrol schools in January, following the Newtown, Conn., elementary school massacre and a more local threat that resulted in the Dec. 20 arrest of a 16-year-old student at Red Mountain High School in Mesa, Ariz., for a plot to bomb the school and shoot the students and faculty.

“We’re not going to wait for all the politicians,” Arpaio said. “Talk, talk, talk.”

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio's Racial Profiling Trial Begins

PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- A civil rights trial against Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio, the self-styled "America's Toughest Sheriff," began Thursday in which Arpaio and his department stand accused of racially profiling Latinos in Maricopa County.

The class-action suit, which started with a complaint by a retired Mexican schoolteacher who was stopped in Arizona in 2007, has grown to encompass all Latinos who were stopped without probable cause from 2007 until the present.

"It's our view that the problem starts at the top," said Stan Young, an attorney for the plaintiffs, at the start of the federal trial Thursday.

Plaintiffs are not asking for damages, but rather an apology from the department and a change in policy.  If found guilty, Arpaio will not face jail time or fines.

"The point is to reform the practices of the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office and get them to stop racial profiling people because they're Latino," said Omar Jadwat, a senior attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union's Immigrants Rights Project, which is representing the plaintiffs.  "As Americans, we expect we're not going to be stopped because of how we look and sound, that we're not going to be arrested because of our race."

Manuel de Jesus Ortega Melendres was visiting Arizona from Mexico and had been carrying his visa, Mexican identification and permit when the car he was riding in was pulled over by police in Queen Creek, Ariz., five years ago.  Officers informed him that he was stopped for speeding but did not give him a citation or take him into custody.

Ortega, one of several passengers, was asked to produce identification and obliged.  Even though he produced the necessary papers to prove he was in the country legally, Ortega said he was told to exit the vehicle.

"After exiting the vehicle, the officers pushed Mr. Ortega against a Sheriff's Department vehicle and patted him down over his entire body in a rough manner," court documents stated.

Officers removed everything from Ortega's pockets and kept him handcuffed for 40 minutes before he was driven to the Sheriff's Office in Cave Creek and placed in a holding cell for four hours with no explanation as to why he'd been arrested.  He was not given access to an attorney, phone or food, court documents stated.

He was cuffed again and driven to the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement office in Phoenix, where he was once again placed in a holding cell for one hour, according to court documents.  An immigration official took a look at Ortega's identification and told him he was free to go.

"Mr. Ortega is frightened to walk on the street or be seen in public in Maricopa County because he fears that the sheriff's officers will come and arrest him again because he is Hispanic and does not speak English," court documents stated.

The Maricopa County Attorney's Office declined to comment on the case, citing pending litigation.

Arpaio is expected to take the stand at some point during the bench trial.

The U.S. Justice Department has also filed a separate suit against Arpaio, alleging discriminatory policing, use of excessive force, running the county's jail unconstitutionally and taking illegal action to silence critics.  A trial date has not been set.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


DOJ Sues Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio in Civil Rights Case

PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The Justice Department has filed a lawsuit against Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio and the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office, alleging the police force discriminates against Latinos, uses excessive force, runs its jail unconstitutionally and has taken illegal action to silence critics.

The civil lawsuit is an ongoing effort by the Justice Department to install an independent monitor to reform the police department. Arpaio, the self-proclaimed "Toughest Sheriff in America," will now have the fate of his office determined by a federal Judge.

Last month the Justice Department broke off negotiations with the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office as talks broke down over having a monitor implement reforms.

"I will not surrender my office to the federal government," Arpaio said then.

The civil lawsuit filed at the U.S. District Court in Phoenix alleges the sheriff’s office has violated the First, Fourth and Fourteenth amendments of the Constitution, which protect free speech, unlawful searches and due process rights respectively.

"The Maricopa County Sheriff's Office (MCSO) and Sheriff Joseph M. Arpaio have engaged and continue to engage in a pattern or practice of unlawful discriminatory police conduct directed at Latinos in Maricopa County and jail practices that unlawfully discriminate against Latino prisoners with limited English language skills," the lawsuit alleges. "Latinos in Maricopa County are frequently stopped, detained, and arrested on the basis of race, color, or national origin, and Latino prisoners with limited English language skills are denied important constitutional protections. In addition, Defendants MCSO and Arpaio pursue a pattern or practice of illegal retaliation against their perceived critics by subjecting them to baseless criminal actions, unfounded civil lawsuits, or meritless administrative actions."

Thomas Perez, the assistant attorney general for the DOJ's Civil Rights Division, told reporters Thursday, "The police are supposed to protect and serve our communities, not divide them. At its core, this is an abuse of power case involving a sheriff and sheriff's office that disregarded the Constitution, ignored sound police practices, comprised public safety, and did not hesitate to retaliate against perceived critics."

In Arpaio's case, Perez said, "The traffic operations have very low 'hit rates,' and very high rates of stopping Latino U.S. citizens and legal residents, the specialized [police] units receive little oversight and inadequate training. If you looked Latino, you were all too frequently fair game for MCSO officers."

The lawsuit notes that Sheriff employees frequently use racial slurs and that supervisors have freely expressed anti-Latino bias in emails.

"MCSO and Arpaio's words and actions set the tone and create a culture of bias that contributes to unlawful actions," the lawsuit alleges. "The Defendants' violations of the Constitution and laws of the United States are the product of a culture of disregard in MCSO for Latinos that starts at the top and pervades the organization."

The Sheriff's office did not respond to an e-mail inquiry from ABC News asking about the filing of the lawsuit.

Aside from demonstrating examples of unconstitutional policing the lawsuit also alleges that Arpaio and Sheriff's employees tried to silence critics who spoke out against their actions.

"Since at least 2006 and continuing to the present, in violation of the First Amendment, MCSO and Arpaio have retaliated against critics of MCSO practices, and particularly MCSO's immigration practices, in an effort to punish these persons for their criticism and to prevent future criticism," the lawsuit alleges.

The lawsuit notes that Sheriff employees filed complaints against county judges with the Arizona Commission on Judicial Conduct and filed complaints with the Arizona state Bar targeting attorneys who publically complained about the Sheriff's office.

In December, the Justice Department released investigative findings of Arpaio's office, revealing significant civil rights violations, including the use of excessive force, and other systemic problems that lead the way to negotiations and the lawsuit.

The Justice Department's investigation into the sheriff's office began during the Bush administration in June 2008. There is also an ongoing criminal investigation into officials at the sheriff's office.

While no monetary damages are being sought by the Justice Department, the sheriff's office does receive federal funds that could be reduced as part of the investigation.

The Justice Department has only filed one other lawsuit against a local police department in the past 18 years since DOJ has been working on police reforms. That case against the Columbus, Ohio police department resulted in a settlement.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


DOJ Breaks Off Negotiations With Defiant Sheriff Joe Arpaio

PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The Justice Department has cut off negotiations with Sheriff Joe Arpaio and officials with the Maricopa County, Ariz., Sheriff’s Office in its effort to install an independent monitor to rein in the unconstitutional tactics used by officers there.

Arpaio, who calls himself “America’s Toughest Sheriff,” defied the Justice Department suggestion that it could sue the county and the sheriff’s office to force the issue.

“I am the constitutionally and legitimately elected Sheriff and I absolutely refuse to surrender my responsibility to the federal government,” he said in a letter the Justice Department Tuesday. “And so to the Obama administration, who is attempting to strong arm me into submission only for its political gain, I say, ‘This will not happen, not on my watch!’”

In December, the Justice Department released findings in its investigation of Arpaio’s office, noting there were significant civil rights violations, including the use of excessive force, and other systemic problems.

The Justice Department said in a letter to Arpaio’s attorney Friday that despite the sheriff’s office acknowledging the need for an independent judicial monitor to oversee reforms, “MCSO has now walked back from its agreement.”

“DOJ considers the oversight of an independent monitor to be an absolute necessity for meaningful and sustainable reform of MCSO,” Roy Austin, the Civil Rights Division’s deputy assistant attorney general, wrote to Arpaio’s attorney.

“It was disappointing, to say the least, for you to contact us 24 hours before our negotiations were scheduled to continue and raise for the first time, a precondition that you understood would result in the cancellation of negotiations,” he wrote.

“We believe that you are wasting time and not negotiating in good faith,” he wrote. “Your tactics have required DOJ to squander valuable time and resources. The violations of the Constitution and federal law identified in our December 15 letter have not been meaningfully addressed and continue to negatively impact the lives of all Maricopa County residents.”

According to the letter, representatives from the MCSO also canceled a meeting at the last minute on Feb. 27 and took more than two weeks to reschedule the meeting with the Justice Department.

In recent weeks, the sheriff’s office has apparently been claiming it needs additional information from the Justice Department in order to reach a settlement.

The Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division has been investigating Arpaio’s office since June 2008.  There is also an ongoing criminal investigation into officials at the sheriff’s office.

In the letter sent Tuesday, the Justice Department said it is moving closer to suing the county and sheriff’s office in federal court, in an effort to implement the federal monitor.

The sheriff’s office said in response that appointing an outside monitor “usurps the powers and duties of an elected sheriff and transfers them to a person or group of persons selected by the federal government … nullifying the authority of the elected Sheriff and eviscerating the will of the citizens of Maricopa County.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Latino Inmate Ernest Atencio Dies at Sheriff Joe Arpaio Jail

PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images(PHOENIX) -- The embattled Maricopa County, Ariz., Sheriff’s Office, which is accused of committing wide-ranging civil rights violations against Latinos in a U.S. Justice Department report, is now at the center of a new controversy.

An attorney for Ernest Atencio claims as the Justice Department’s report was being released Friday, deputies fought with his client, a scuffle that led to Atencio’s death.

When contacted by ABC News, a Sheriff’s Department spokesman said while the department can offer no comment on the case right now, a comprehensive report will be released along with surveillance recordings by Friday evening.

Before Atencio was taken off life support, Sheriff’s Deputy Director Jack MacIntyre released a statement saying that Atencio was combative when police brought him to the jail for booking and that he was placed in a “safe cell” to calm down after fighting with deputies.

MacIntyre said Atencio was watched by medical personnel while in the jail cell but 15 minutes later he was found unresponsive.

Police arrested Atencio for allegedly kicking at the door of an apartment complex last week and aggressively confronting a woman.  Friends said Atencio may have had bipolar disorder.

Manning has told reporters that Atencio was in the Army from 1988 to 1992.  He had three sons who range in age from 15 to 21.

For now, Sheriff’s Department investigators are working the case and say soon the public will hear their side of the story.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Justice Department: Sheriff Joe Arpaio Violated Federal Law

PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Maricopa County, Ariz., Sheriff Joe Arpaio, "has engaged in a pattern or practice of misconduct that violates the Constitution and federal law," according to a new report from the federal government.

“[The Maricopa County Sherriff's Office] is broken in a number of critical respects,” said Tom Perez, who heads the U.S. Justice Department's civil rights division. “The problems are deeply rooted in MCSO's culture and are compounded by MCSO's penchant for retaliation against people who speak out against them.”

Perez said Thursday the sheriff's office performed immigration "sweeps,” searching for illegal immigrants -- gathering up Latinos who had not committed crimes.

“MCSO engages in racial profiling of Latinos and unlawfully stops, detains and arrests Latinos all in violation of the Fourth and Fourteenth amendments,” Perez said.

“We found that MCSO unlawfully retaliates against people who criticize its policies and practices, in violation of the First Amendment,” said Perez, who added, “we found reasonable cause to believe that MCSO operates its jails in a manner that discriminates against Latino inmates who are limited English proficient.”

For years Arpaio has been under fire for his tactics, which he’s defended.

Thursday’s news is the result of a three-year investigation. Arpaio has several weeks to decide if he'll work out an agreement or be sued.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio