Joe Arpaio's Taliban, Nativist Steve Camarota, and More Problems for the MCSO
See also: MCSO Sergeant Says Main Goal Is to Catch Illegal Immigrants, Contradicting Deputy Chief Brian Sands' Testimony See also: Joe Arpaio Struggles in Racial-Profiling Trial See also: Joe Arpaio Looks Like Tired, Old Racist on Stand During Racial-Profiling Trial See also: Joe Arpaio's (ahem) Legal Scholar Brett Palmer and Brian Sands Under Oath If all goes well (cross your fingers), we could have a decision in the ACLU's big racial-profiling case Melendres v. Arpaio by the end of August.
That's considering federal Judge G. Murray Snow's ruling today that he will allow closing submissions by the plaintiffs and the defendants in the case, with the first round due from both sides August 9, and responses from both sides due in August 16.
The trial itself seems headed for a conclusion either tomorrow or Thursday. So there's light in yon tunnel. Though for Arpaio, I suspect that glimmer is actually an oncoming locomotive.
Because as much as Tom Liddy of the Maricopa County Attorney's Office likes to bloviate before the TV cameras, insisting that the MCSO does not racially profile and that the plaintiffs have presented zero evidence of discriminatory policing, there is little doubt that the trial is not going the defendants' way.
Lead counsel Tim Casey looks resigned, as if the trial's conclusion is already written on his forehead and he's calculating how much to charge the county in legal fees for those written submissions.
His firm has already tucked away $755,000 on Melendres. Maybe he can push that figure past $1 million. Win or lose, it's always Casey who wins.
Not that I'd say Casey's worth a $1 million in taxpayer cash.
For example, today, after the plaintiffs rested, the defense began putting on its case. However, its witnesses did more good for the plaintiffs than for the sheriff's office.
Before I jump to those witnesses, allow me to digress a bit, and mention how the Taliban squirmed its way into this morning's court action, which featured testimony from MCSO Sergeant Manuel Madrid and from human rights activist Lydia Guzman of the activist organization Respect/Respeto.
My colleague Uriel Garcia covered ACLU attorney Cecillia Wang's expert interrogation of Madrid, but there was an amusing exchange between Liddy and Guzman during Liddy's cross-examination of Guzman, that I should relate.
Under Wang's questioning, Guzman detailed how the community responded to Sheriff Joe Arpaio's Hispanic-hunting sweeps and the terror these sweeps wrought in Latino neighborhoods. Guzman was perfect for this role, as she's been involved as a leader in the effort to educate the community about the saturation patrols and document the abuses of Arpaio's boys in beige.
Guzman discussed how MCSO deputies treated white drivers and Hispanic drivers differently, how most of the arrestees she witnessed were Hispanic, and how stops of Hispanic drivers she witnessed tended to last longer.
Wang also asked her about the ski masks some of the MCSO deputies would wear, known as balaclavas.
The veteran activist described the masks as "intimidating," especially since some of the deputies were wearing tactical gear as well.
"I mean, I hate to say this but it kind of looked like something out of the Taliban," she explained. "I'm sorry, but, you know, that's what it looked like. And it was very scary."
And very unnecessary, I might add. Particularly for the enforcement of traffic laws. But when you're terrorizing civilians, best to look like a terrorist. Or so goes the MCSO's logic.
Liddy seemed to take great umbrage at Guzman's Taliban reference, and so wasted his time and the court's with a silly line of questioning, berating Guzman about similar masks she'd seen the Taliban wearing on TV.
"What was [the Taliban mask] made of?" Liddy asked.
"I don't know," said Guzman.
"Was it made of cloth?" pressed Liddy.
"I don't know," replied Guzman. "I mean, are you asking if it was made of, like, cotton, silk? I wouldn't know."
"Was it made of Kevlar?" Liddy demanded.
"I don't know," Guzman said again.
Kevlar? Hey, your guess is as good as mine, people. Liddy then went on to ask Guzman if the Taliban wore utility belts like MCSO deputies do.
That's another non sequitur, counselor. Remember, you're only allowed a half-dozen of those per day. So save them for the post-court press briefings.
He was there to rebut the testimony of Dr. Ralph Taylor, a Temple University criminologist who found that Hispanics were far more likely to be stopped during Arpaio's sweeps -- anywhere from 39.5 to 53.7 percent, depending on how you slice the statistical salami -- and that Hispanics' stops would last up to 22 percent longer.
Questioned by Liddy, Camarota tried poking holes in Taylor's conclusions. He cited problems in assumptions made with Hispanic surnames, with the data itself as provided by the MCSO, and the fact that socio-economic factors were not taken into consideration, among other quibbles.
Lunch interrupted Camarota's testimony, but before breaking, Casey moved for the court to "render judgment on partial findings," arguing that the plaintiffs had not demonstrated that the MCSO had engaged in a pattern and practice of racial discrimination or animus.
Plaintiffs' attorney Stanley Young disagreed, of course, and in short order, Judge Snow dismissed the motion.
After lunch, when Young finally got his crack at Camarota on cross-examination, he carefully led Camarota into admissions that were damaging to the defense's case.
Camarota granted that Hispanic name-checks (done during traffic stops) were higher on the days of a saturation patrol. He conceded that the saturation patrols targeted illegal immigration, and he testified that he expected the rate of Hispanics stopped would be high because illegal immigration was being targeted.
In his somewhat laconic, Gary Cooper-ish fashion, Young got Camarota to say that he'd made an adding mistake with the data at one point. Then Young hoisted Camarota on this petard: The data showed that in order for the MCSO to apprehend some 308 illegal immigrants during 11 sweeps, vastly more legal Hispanic residents and visitors had to be stopped, in the neighborhood of 1,000 to 1,600.
Also, Camarota agreed with Taylor that if there was just one Hispanic name checked in a vehicle, the stop would last longer.
"In fact, you think that somewhat longer traffic stops are to be expected for Hispanics in Maricopa County, is that right?" Young asked Camarota.
"Yes, I do," confessed Camarota.
Young then offered some devastating hypotheticals regarding stop length.
"If an officer had a carload of Hispanic eight-year-old Boy Scouts and decided to ask for their identification, that could also make the stop longer, correct?" asked Young.
"I guess so, yeah," said Camarota.
"If an officer decided to do a full body pat-down of a 65-year-old landscaping worker, that could make that stop longer, correct?" wondered Young.
"I think it could," Camarota said, looking a little disturbed.
No wonder Casey wanted to end the trial early.
By the end of his testimony, Camarota's own words had been used to undermine his testimony. He might as well have been a witness for the plaintiffs.
Defendants then called MCSO Deputy Matt Ratcliffe, the officer who stopped driver David Rodriguez and his family on Bartlett Dam Road, supposedly for going around a Road Closed sign, back in 2007.
Casey questioned Ratcliffe, running over the details of the stop, but once plaintiffs' attorney Lesli Gallagher finished with him, he, too, sounded like a witness for the plaintiffs.
Like Camarota, Ratcliffe's testimony was full of embarrassing admissions.
That he allowed others to pass the Road Closed sign, while stopping Rodriguez; that he asked Rodriguez for his Social Security number at some point during the day, though he'd already gotten a valid ID and registration from him; that Rodriguez's wife accused him of "selective enforcement"; and that after issuing Rodriguez a citation, he followed the family's car for a mile and a half after that, snapping photos of the Road Closed sign, though he swears he was not trying to intimidate the family.
And Casey called this guy for what reason?
After this, Casey began to play videotaped testimony from Jason Kidd, former number two guy in Phoenix with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
Kidd testified that everything the MCSO did while he was monitoring their use of federal 287(g) immigration authority was A-OK with him, which as far as I'm concerned means squat, because federal immigration officers routinely use race in determining who to question.
Don't believe me? Check out the drivers the U.S. Border Patrol stops next time you go through one of their extra-constitutional check points. You'll see that the pale faces are waved through, but the brown people suffer a lot more scrutiny.
What's lost in all this is that the federal government's 287(g) program, brought to Arizona by then-Governor and now-Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, empowered Arpaio's minions in their racial-profiling ways.
In large part, the 287(g) program taught Arpaio's goons how to profile Latinos. And long after ICE stripped the program from the MCSO, the damage is still being done to the U.S. Constitution, and to all Hispanics who pass through or live in Maricopa County.
Tomorrow, more from the defense. Let's hope Casey and company keep up the stellar work.
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you'll never miss Phoenix New Times' biggest stories.