No Probable Cause? No Problem!: A U.S. Citizen Says He Was Detained Without Probable Cause by the MCSO, and Then Jailed for Traffic Violations

Editor's note: This is one of a group of individual accounts of racial profiling by Sheriff Joe Arpaio's forces.

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What's important to remember about 18-year-old Jerry Cosio's arrest by the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office is that he was confronted without apparent probable cause. Cosio's not perfect — he was driving on a suspended license — but that's not why he was approached.

He wasn't even driving when a sheriff's deputy asked for his identification.

Cosio, a U.S. citizen, believes he was confronted because he's brown. He was minding his own business, he says, when the deputy suddenly walked up.

In any case, the deputy got lucky when he radioed headquarters and found that Cosio had a suspended license for not paying speeding tickets.

This is not the way arrests are legally handled in the United States. A police officer must have a legal reason to detain a suspect — probable cause.

The deputy trumped up something later, Cosio maintains: that Cosio wasn't wearing a seatbelt and that his car wasn't insured. (Remember, he wasn't driving when the deputy encountered him.)

The incident occurred during Sheriff's Joe Arpaio's immigration sweep in Mesa last July. Cosio was sitting in his parked vehicle when the deputy approached. For the MCSO's part, its offense report doesn't say why Cosio was questioned in the first place.

"It was discrimination," contends Cosio. "It was because of the way I look."

On the afternoon of his arrest, Cosio, a student who was a full-time mechanic at a Checkers Auto Parts store at the time, had gotten a nervous call from his mother. A deputy had arrested his uncle, who (unlike Cosio) is an undocumented immigrant. She wanted Cosio to check on him and, if possible, arrange to get his paycheck after his deportation to Mexico.

When Cosio arrived on Mesa Drive and Holmes Street, he saw his uncle's truck and a sheriff's patrol car parked behind it. His uncle had a defeated look in his eyes, as if he clearly knew he was headed for detention.

Cosio parked his two-door Ford outside an apartment complex, about 25 yards away from the incident. He says he was sitting in the car and still on the phone with his mother when the deputy appeared.

The deputy asked for his ID, but Cosio didn't have it on him, since it was suspended for failure to pay fines for his speeding tickets. (He admits to New Times that he made a stupid teenage mistake by not taking care of the tickets before $3,000 in fines accrued. Nevertheless, he couldn't afford to pay what he came to owe.)

Cosio was asked for his name and date of birth, which he provided. The deputy radioed in the information and came back, Cosio says, with a smile on his face.

"You want to know what's funny?" the deputy asked. "I'm going to arrest you."

Cosio was handcuffed and taken in a van with his uncle and other people detained during the sweep. A young mother was crying in a corner because she was going to be deported.

Cosio knew that authorities couldn't deport him because of his U.S. citizenship, but he had doubts about whether the deputies knew that.

Cosio and others were driven to the Sheriff's Office command center on Lewis Street and Baseline Road, where he says the vehicle sat parked, with the detainees inside, for two hours.

Cosio overheard deputies talking about him. He says it sounded like they were in competition to catch undocumented immigrants.

"I heard you got two birds with one stone," Cosio says one deputy said to the officer who had arrested him.

Another one mentioned that he'd discovered Cosio is a U.S. citizen.

After that, Cosio was taken to the Fourth Avenue Jail, where he was held for more than eight hours overnight. (Cosio has agreed to pay off his fines in $50 a month installments.)

Cosio says the deputy had no reason to walk over to his car and question him, much less give somebody who wasn't driving a ticket for operating a motor vehicle without a seatbelt.

And about the MCSO's claim that he lacked insurance, Cosio says, not only did he have insurance, but the deputy never asked him for proof of it.

The Sheriff Office didn't return calls in reference to this case. Cosio confirmed that he was interviewed by the Justice Department as part of what federal investigators said was an ongoing probe of alleged racial profiling by the MCSO.

"Why did the deputy walk up to me? My car's paint job is fading away," Cosio says. "I think they where [going after people in] ugly cars."

At least, he says, the ugly ones containing brown people.

 
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13 comments
Stephan
Stephan

"Billy Jack" once said, "When policemen break the law, then there is no law!" How very true. Lead by example policemen, you represent your city, state, county and country. Thanks for your service, I also have served my country.

Stephan
Stephan

I was a victim of racial profiling, any cop who does this should be held accountable as ordinary citizens are to obey laws also. It just goes to show the ignorance in our society. Police aren't perfect either, but you can't just pull people over for no reason. It's not rocket science.

kate
kate

I got stopped for no reason all the time in the suburbs that has nothing else to do but "revenue". I wish I could say it was racial profiling or female discrimination. Life is tough play by the rules, a license is a privilege. We all have to wear are seat belts, show proof of a valid drivers licenses, and proof of insurance, at a minimum when stopped.

We have a duty to fellow drivers to make sure our car is in good condition, break and signal lights are working and all outstanding tickets and stickers are up to date and then your covered. If not, you deserve your punishment, we all hate it but it's the way it goes for everyone. Most of the time I get very uncomfortable when a police car is behind me....and I am not illegal.This is just another avenue for people to continue to take advantage of our system and remember American's pay for it.

Tough it up or leave Dodge!

clr
clr

My son is white - in orlando - and has had similar things happened. This is not a "brown" thing. And changes don't appear to have been trumped up from what this article says - the person has unpaid speeding tickets - which is a crime if left past the due date. Do citizens not know that an open arrest report can be filed in most states if you do not pay your debts? They can just as easily start running your name in the system and come knocking on your door... no matter what color you are. Stop trying to give law breakers and excuse for breaking the law. I support LEGAL hispanics. I also support carding any American - and if necessary - ALL Americans in the border States to get control over the ILLEGAL immigrant problems. I think that is better than the other option - which is just use the drones to shoot fence climbers as the come over the fence - don't you?

Miles Monroe
Miles Monroe

Joe if you wear out your welcome in Phoenix we have a real mess to clean up in Las Vegas and we'd love to have you set up some tents here.

I'll buy the first package of bologna.

AZJayMan
AZJayMan

Driving on a suspended license is illegal in Arizona. I will concede that the deputy had no probable cause to cite this young man for any reason. It is unfortuante what happened to his uncle. Here's my question: Did the deputy actually Mirandize this young man? On a totally separate note... If anyone read in today's Valley & State section of The Arizona Republic, Sheriff's Deputies got into trouble for sneaking a peek at documents shielded by attorney/client privilege. The detention officer was cited for contempt of court by Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Gary Donahoe and ordered to hold a press conference to apologize for his wrongdoings. Sheriff Joe told the paper that "I decide when press conferences will be held regarding this Sheriff's Office." Score one for the good guys! Who knows? Maybe the feds can actually use 18USC241 and 18USC242 to get Arizona government to open their eyes about Sheriff Joe, the MCSO, and the abuses they inflict upon this county and its citizens, and maybe, just maybe, they can order Andy Thoams to actually prosecute Joe for these abuses.

Mike Wells
Mike Wells

>>"the kid is driving without a license."

David
David

One legal fact is that he had a suspended license (we don't know if Mom knew about it or not) but in most states, you can still drive with a suspended license in an extreme emergency (you are the only driver and someone is injured extremely). Sitting in the car on the cell phone is not justification for an arrest. If he was leaning against his car, then the officer would have even less cause. It shows racism that the one officer congratulating the other officer with the "two birds with one stone" comment.

Apparently, if you are low income and nonwhite, don't get your teenage driver a wreck of a starter car or MCSO will pull you over as a suspected illegal immigrant. This story is the start of the movie Born in East LA (Cheech Marin played a US Citizen in that movie).

Chad Snow
Chad Snow

BTW, Pinkus, someone with your spelling and grammar shouldn't be calling anyone stupid or idiot. I bet Cosio knows how to spell "orchard"...

You're who Lisa Allen was talking about.

Chad Snow
Chad Snow

You know what, Pinkus Fingerhut, you're right - the Constitution doesn't apply to stupid people. The Fourth and Sixth Amendments specifically say that they only protect geniuses like you.

pinkus fingerhut
pinkus fingerhut

wow, this is why the hispanic community is being targeted. mom calls son to tell him there illegal relative was being detained by the sheriffs deputies. the kid jumps in his car and drives over to meet up with his uncle.the uncle is a illegal immigrant the kid is driving without a license.hey mom take note,if your looking for an banana you dont go to a apple orchid get it ? profiling is they only way to go.1. moms stupid2.junior is an idiot3.the uncle is a criminal, when will the insanity stop?

chrislongski
chrislongski

So,like, he should have paid his tickets...

tourist
tourist

thanks for keeping the public informed. the world is watching maricopa county az and after becoming informed will stay away and move their business elsewhere.

 
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