Arpaio Will Continue to Defy Judge Snow Until He's Held in Contempt
Among other things, Sheriff Joe Arpaio is a liar and a coward.
To prove my point, I could go into Arpaio's history of dodging debates with re-election rivals, his opportune moments of amnesia under oath, and his sloughing off responsibility for MCSO scandals onto subordinates.
But let's examine more recent events: Arpaio's latest shenanigans regarding the ACLU's groundbreaking civil rights case Melendres v. Arpaio.
You'll recall what Arpaio and his henchmen regularly "forget": That last May, as a result of a 2012 bench trial, federal Judge G. Murray Snow found the MCSO guilty of racially profiling Latinos in Maricopa County and ordered that this unconstitutional activity cease.
In October, after the parties in Melendres failed to come up with an agreement implementing Snow's order, the judge issued a 59-page final injunction, giving the MCSO a laundry list of reforms and requirements to institute and follow.
Then in January, Snow appointed Robert Warshaw, a former Rochester, New York, police chief, to act as monitor over the MCSO.
Arpaio is appealing Snow's rulings to the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals — with our money, naturally.
So far, the county tells me that Joe's defense in Melendres, including the appeal to the Ninth Circuit has cost taxpayers $1.7 million, a pittance for Joe.
Remember the $100 million he swiped from protected accounts so he'd have the cash to chase Latinos and pursue his political enemies?
That's not to mention the scores of millions in lawsuits he's cost us, or the millions more it will cost us in Melendres to bring Arpaio into compliance with the U.S. Constitution and Snow's order.
Costs aside, the curious thing about Arpaio's appeal is that it essentially admits that the MCSO is guilty, just not quite as guilty as Judge Snow says it is.
In fact, the appeal brief states that:
"Defendants are not challenging the court's findings and conclusions with respect to the immigration-related saturation patrols. They do challenge the injunction as it relates to MCSO regular patrols."
Thus, the appeal concedes that Arpaio's beige shirts violated the constitutional rights of Latinos during Arpaio's infamous Hispanic-hunting sweeps.
"Leaving aside the saturation patrols," reads the appeal, "the record lacks evidence that MCSO has a pattern, practice, or policy of violating Hispanics' Fourth or 14th Amendment rights during regular patrols." The appeal further insists, "The judgment and injunction should be vacated as to all activities outside of saturation patrols." (Italics are mine.)
Within the context of the saturation patrols, however, the appeal doesn't even quibble.
And yet, Arpaio, Chief Deputy Jerry Sheridan, and Deputy Chief David Trombi all have been caught mischaracterizing Snow's judgment to the public and to patrol deputies.
Sheridan was captured on video calling Snow's injunction "absurd," "ludicrous," and "crap" as he spoke to deputies before an October "crime-suppression operation" in the West Valley.
Arpaio followed up by informing deputies at the same meeting that "we don't racially profile. I don't care what everybody says."
Similarly, in a recent fundraising letter, Arpaio called the charges of racial profiling "unfounded."
The assertion is an outright lie. It even contradicts a "corrective statement" that MCSO counsel Tim Casey recently coughed up, per Snow's demand.
After finding out about Sheridan and Arpaio's comments before MCSO personnel, Snow ordered Casey to collaborate with plaintiffs' lawyers in drafting a statement — to be signed by Arpaio and sent to all MCSO employees — that would summarize his findings and set the record straight.
The document Casey initially submitted to the court for approval, one he suggested Arpaio was willing to sign, included the following passage:
"Based on the evidence presented at trial, the court found that the MCSO has violated the Fourth and 14th Amendment rights of Latinos because the MCSO used race or ethnicity in conducting traffic stops.
"We are appealing the court's order only as far as it covers traffic stops outside of saturation patrols. We are not appealing the court's findings that the MCSO violated the constitutional rights of Latinos during saturation patrols. That conclusion of the court will not be altered by the appeal even if the MCSO prevails on that appeal."
These admissions were reported by various news outlets. And this adverse publicity stung Arpaio so badly that he had his legal valet, Casey, resubmit the document with amendments, one of which dealt with the embarrassing reality of the appeal.
"The sheriff's decision not to appeal some of the court's findings," Casey wrote in one suggested change, "is based solely on legal strategy and his decision not to appeal on such issues should never be construed as the sheriff's agreement with the court's findings on those issues."
Here, the phrase "legal strategy" should be read as "abject cowardice."
If Joe really believes that he and his deputies are innocent of racial profiling, then he should have his lawyers act accordingly.
After all, he already is wasting taxpayer cash on an appeal that is sure to fail. And our county supervisors, excepting Mary Rose Wilcox, are even bigger yellow-bellies than Joe. They dare not stop him.
On April 17, Snow shot down Casey's proffered amendments and ordered that the corrective statement be sent immediately to all MCSO personnel, without Arpaio's signature.
Snow further dictated that MCSO higher-ups will have to read Snow's lengthy rulings and be prepared for pop quizzes from the monitor's staff.
The same day, the MCSO sent out a quote from Arpaio claiming he'd instructed all personnel to read the court's statement.
"Additionally, the court previously requested my signature to be part of this statement, which I opposed," it read. "So I am pleased that today the court recognized my position on the matter, and my signature will not be a part of this statement."
This is another lie. Casey originally told the court that Deputy Chief Jack MacIntyre indicated Arpaio would sign the first draft of the corrective statement.
It was only after local media reports ticked off Arpaio that the sheriff had any issues with affixing his autograph.
The court won this game of chicken. But knowing Arpaio's predilection for such schoolyard tests of manhood, there will be more.
Arpaio has done it so many times over the years with the U.S. Department of Justice, with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and with Snow himself that the pattern is as predictable as 100-plus-degree summer heat here.
For instance, the MCSO was caught destroying documents en masse in Melendres, despite repeated legal holds issued by plaintiffs' counsel.
In December 2011, Snow issued his first ruling in Melendres, ordering, in part, that the MCSO could not detain individuals solely on suspicion they might be in the United States without authorization.
Snow later found that the MCSO had ignored the order.
This year, the MCSO has dragged its heels on getting together materials for the re-training of MCSO deputies.
And Arpaio and his chiefs have made clear what they think of Snow and his ruling.
As much as I admire what Snow so far has achieved in this case, he has been pussyfooting around the real problem: the head of the proverbial rotting fish, Arpaio himself.
It's not Sheridan or Trombi or Casey who really needs a reaming in open court, though I'm glad they've gotten theirs. It's Arpaio.
Until Snow cites Arpaio for contempt and metes out punishment up to and including spending a night or two in a federal pen, Joe's monkeyshines will continue apace.
And Snow may end up pulling out what little is left of his hair.
Get the Weekly Newsletter
Our weekly feature stories, movie reviews, calendar picks and more - minus the newsprint and sent directly to your inbox.