Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Next Mugshot of the Day? Sheriff Joe Arpaio Willing to Accept Civil Contempt to Avert Possible Criminal Contempt Charge

Joseph M. Arpaio


Reuters reports that controversial Maricopa County (Arizona) Sheriff Joe Arpaio, known as "America's Toughest Sheriff" and whose office's official website includes a "Mugshot of the Day" feature,  offered yesterday in a motion to accept civil sanctions for contempt of court, in an attempt to avoid a hearing next month in a federal court in Phoenix.  U.S. District Court Judge Murray Snow ordered the four-day hearing, which could lead to penalties, such as fines or jail time for Arpaio, four other individuals, and the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office.

Judge Snow ordered the hearing after because of concerns that Sheriff Arpaio failed to comply with preliminary injunction prohibiting immigration enforcement operations. Sheriff Arpaio said that they would not present evidence at the hearing to counter Snow's points and that the Sheriff would publicly take personal responsibility for the shortcomings, his office would set up a fund of at least $350,000 to reimburse victims of its immigration enforcement efforts, and defendants would personally donate $100,000 to civil rights bodies, among other steps.

Judge Snow would have to approve the offer. The civil contempt penalty might avoid possible criminal referrals to federal prosecutors.

The contempt charge follows a 2013 ruling in which Judge Snow held that he and his deputies racially profiled Latino drivers during traffic stops and unreasonably detained them, violating their constitutional rights.  The court appointed a court monitor to oversee the operations of the MSCO and ordered changes to the department.

The "Preliminary Statement" to Arpaio's motion reads as follows:

"The purpose of this Motion is to convey to the Court and to Plaintiffs that Defendants Joseph M. Arpaio and Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office, and identified non-party Chief Deputy Gerard Sheridan (collectively, “Defendants”) consent to a finding of civil contempt against them and the imposition of remedies designed to address their conduct. Under these circumstances, a 4-day evidentiary hearing, which would cost the county taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars, and which would consume significant time of the Court, is unnecessary. Defendants acknowledge and appreciate that they have violated the Court’s orders and that there are consequences for these violations. There is nothing Defendants can do to change what has already been done, but through the entry of an order finding them in civil contempt and by implementing remedies discussed herein, Defendants can express sincere remorse to the Court and to Plaintiffs, begin to make amends to those who have been injured and take affirmative steps to ensure nothing like this occurs in the future. Defendants respect the Court and the Court’s Orders."

Arpaio's motion stipulates to the facts outlined in the order to show cause why a contempt citation was in order.  "The Order to Show Cause identifies the following three areas of contemptuous conduct: (1) a `failure to abide by and apprise MCSO deputies of the terms of the [December 23, 2011] preliminary injunction.' . . . ; (2) the failure to disclose audio and video recordings made and maintained by MCSO deputies, as well as other materials maintained by or relating to the MCSO HSU. . . . ; and (3) the failure to cooperate with the Court’s May 14, 2014 oral directives with respect to the collection of recordings that were in the possession of patrol deputies. . . . ."

 Click here for more on this story.

UPDATE (MARCH 21):  AP reports that Judge Snow has declined Sheriff Arpaio's proposal to cancel hearings next month to determine whether Arpaio should be held in contempt of court. But  Judge Snow said Friday that Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio's proposal to make a $100,000 donation to a civil rights group to atone for the violations was an adequate personal financial punishment. Snow wants the money to come from Arpaio's own pocket - not from a legal defense fund or contributions from supporters.


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