In Snow's December 23 order, he granted the plaintiffs' request for class certification allowing all Latinos stopped by the MCSO from 2007 on to sue the department. And he observed that a number of the aforementioned "citizen communications . . . described Latinos congregating, but did not provide evidence of a crime."

Regardless, Arpaio made notes on the letters — such as "for our operations" and "I will be going to Mesa" — and forwarded them to MCSO Deputy Chief Brian Sands for action.

Judge Snow writes, "MCSO subsequently conducted special operations in the areas described by the letter writers and the sheriff's annotations."

The judge also mentioned that MCSO deputies, including those in Arpaio's Human Smuggling Unit, circulated e-mails with racist pictures and jokes that "compared Mexicans to dogs, ridiculed stereotypical Mexican accents, and portrayed Mexicans as drunks."

Continued the judge, "From the totality of this evidence . . . it would be possible for a fact finder to conclude that the MCSO engaged in an intentional policy of racial profiling (italics mine)."

It's important to note that this "finder of fact" in the bench trial will be Snow.

Perhaps it's my familiarity with Melendres that explains my brief befuddlement upon hearing Montgomery's suggestion that the feds were lying about what they had on Arpaio.

"If the Department of Justice actually has information that supports their assertion that there continue to this day systemic concerns of discriminatory policing or racial profiling," Montgomery said in full pound-the-lectern mode, "I demand as the chief prosecutor of Maricopa County . . . to be given that information immediately."

Um, okay. First off, since the DOJ probably will sue because of Arpaio's bad-faith negotiating strategy, Montgomery no doubt will be able to review everything in triplicate, as part of the case's discovery, since his office surely will defend Joe in court, along with Arpaio's other lawyers.

Secondly, though the DOJ didn't cite the proper names of witnesses and victims in its December findings, nearly all the historical evidence mentioned should be familiar to Montgomery, as most has been covered extensively in the local media.

This was a point I made a few months ago rebutting comments by Arpaio's top flack Jack MacIntyre that there were "no specific allegations" in the Perez letter ("Arpaio Corruption," December 22, 2011).

And are we to believe Montgomery's so dense that he fails to recognize the case of Armando Nido, who was intentionally run over by an MCSO officer in 2009, later sued, and ended up winning a $600,000 settlement? Or that of human rights activist Salvador Reza, falsely arrested and imprisoned by the MCSO in a highly publicized 2010 incident?

Both cases are described by Perez in his letter, albeit without names.

All Montgomery really has to do is jump on the court docket for the four-year-old Melendres case and read. There is a mountain of evidence there, including the experiences of the plaintiffs, and a study commissioned by the plaintiff's lawyers, which rigorously demonstrates that Latinos are more likely to be stopped during the MCSO's crime-suppression sweeps, and that those stops are longer on average than for other ethnicities.

The Melendres trial is scheduled to begin July 19. In a recent hearing to set that date, Snow told lawyers for both sides they could dispense with opening arguments, as he's already cognizant of the case's details.

Additionally, the plaintiffs told Snow they have an agreement with the DOJ to share info. Which explains the overlap between the evidence in Melendres and that in the Perez letter.

In his rulings to date, Snow hasn't been favorably inclined toward the defendants. Indeed, Snow has seemed ticked off since it was discovered that the MCSO withheld reams of documents and shredded reams more.

Destroying evidence tends to have that effect on federal judges.

The Melendres case was filed in late 2007 and is only now close to going to trial. We can expect a similar wait when the DOJ files its suit against the MCSO — and a similar cost. I recently noted in a blog post that the law firm representing Arpaio so far has made more than $735,000 for work on Melendres.

That said, Melendres may well stop Arpaio from racially profiling sooner than the DOJ's impending lawsuit.

Former Arizona U.S. Attorney Paul Charlton, an Arpaio critic and a Republican, believes Melendres will "be a much quicker decision." That case, Charlton says, "has a narrower scope than the DOJ's December letter, which includes retribution, abuse of power, [and] hundreds of sex-abuse cases."

Bottom line: Snow — who already is irritated by Arpaio's office over lost and destroyed records — could rule for the plaintiffs and enjoin the MCSO along the lines of what the ACLU wants. And that injunction could include a court-appointed monitor to make sure the ornery sheriff stops racially profiling.

In this scenario, Arpaio wouldn't be able to play the Barack Obama card — that is, blame everything on the feds, as he loves doing.

Ironically, the DOJ investigation began under President George W. Bush, and it was Bush who put Judge Snow on the bench. If Snow finds for the plaintiffs, Arpaio and his underlings will have no choice but to obey.

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