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Victory for the ACLU Against Arpaio and Lieutenant Joe Sousa

Julio Mora and his father, Julian, last year, after the ACLU filed suit on their behalf.
Stephen Lemons

BULLY BEAT-DOWN

I hate bullies, and I hate dumb rednecks, and I particularly despise redneck bullies who go on to become cops.

So I think you can guess what I think about Maricopa County Sheriff's Office Lieutenant Joe Sousa, a vein-popping hick from Rhode Island, infamous for telling elected politicians and critics of his boss Sheriff Joe Arpaio, "Shut up!" during a deputies' press conference, where he and other MCSO brown-shirts vented their spleens.

Sousa is the head of the sheriff's human-smuggling unit, a brigade of pseudo-badasses who pride themselves on raiding Pei Weis, McDonald's, and Sizzlers to arrest harmless dishwashers and potato-peelers.

Interestingly, that unit, which also engages in racial profiling via Sheriff Joe's Hispanic-hunting sweeps, just happens to be one of the MCSO's pet projects that have been funded via the $100 million the Sheriff's Office pilfered from two protected county funds, funds that now will have to be paid back ("Gang of Thieves," April 21).

Also, in a sworn affidavit submitted to the court in the ongoing racial-profiling lawsuit Melendres v. Arpaio, Sousa admitted that evidence sought by the plaintiffs — "stat sheets" with records of who was stopped on immigration sweeps and why — were "discarded" by the MCSO ("Arpaio's Deputies Admit Destroying Evidence," November 21, 2009).

On numerous occasions, Sousa has publicly declared that the MCSO does not racially profile individuals, though the evidence tells a different story.

"We only stop vehicles for traffic infractions that violate state law," Sousa claimed at a 2009 press conference. "Period. That's our only intent" ("We Don't Need No Stinking Badges!" October 23).

Sousa also whined at the same press event about the federal government's nixing the MCSO's 287(g) street authority, which allowed Arpaio's deputy dawgs to act as immigration agents in the field. The MCSO crybabies on Sousa's squad placed their federal badges in a big punch bowl for all the world to see.

"The feds screwed us in Washington!" this buffoon from back east, the nasal-toned nudnik, exclaimed at one point during the presser. "Do we have to bleep that out? Is 'screwed' okay?"

Arpaio sure knows how to pick 'em, don't he?

In any case, I was pleased to see this idgit get his face slapped in federal court recently, right along with his jefe, Sheriff Joe, in the case of Julio and Julian Mora.

The Moras were caught up in one of the anti-immigrant raids Sousa the Oaf supervised in February 2009, that of county contractor Handyman Maintenance Inc.

Julian Mora, 66, and his son Julio, 19, had been driving toward HMI in Phoenix when two MCSO SUVs cut them off 100 yards from the business where the elder Mora worked.

MCSO deputies zip-tied both men, transported them to the worksite and made them wait for three hours, without food or water.

The zip-ties on Julio's wrists were so tight they left marks. At one point, Julian, a diabetic, needed to relieve himself. His requests and his son's, on his dad's behalf, were ignored until the elder Mora finally told deputies he was about to wet himself.

A deputy took Mora to the parking lot, where he was made to urinate next to a car.

When nature called on the younger Mora, MCSO goons escorted him to the lavatory but refused to undo the zip tie. Handcuffed in front, as he struggled to unzip his pants, Sousa's bullyboys laughed at Mora, asking, "What's the matter, you can't find it?"

If the Moras had been in the country illegally, such treatment, though wrong, would likely be considered par for the course.

But the Moras are not undocumented. Far from it. The elder Mora is a legal permanent resident. His son is an American citizen.

Following this ordeal, Julio Mora testified before the U.S. House Judiciary Committee, which was holding hearings on Arpaio's 287(g) agreement with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. It was the first time Mora had visited another part of the United States ("He Never Flinched," December 3, 2009).

He told the congressmen what had happened to him and his father, acquitting himself admirably under the media spotlight.

Nativist Congressman Steve King, a Republican from Iowa, grilled Mora after his testimony, suggesting that his father should have informed on those co-workers he suspected of being illegal.

In an asinine stunt, King asked Mora what he would say to the father of a daughter killed by an undocumented drunk driver, a father who had come to testify that day in favor of the 287(g) program.

Mora, a class act, told the man he was sorry for his loss. He then explained to King that he wanted police to enforce the law, but "be smart about it."

In his earnestness and honesty, Mora undermined King, who had been intent on playing the bully that day.

Come May, the Moras, with the assistance of their attorneys, filed a notice of claim with Maricopa County, asking for $200,000 each for their treatment at the hands of MCSO thugs.

Then in August, the American Civil Liberties Union brought a lawsuit in federal court on the Mora's behalf, claiming the violation of the Moras' rights under the U.S. Constitution as well as charging the MCSO with racial profiling: treating the Moras shabbily because of the color of their skin, the Spanish spoken by the elder Mora, and the tejana cowboy hat he usually wears ("ACLU and Moras Sue Sheriff Joe," August 19, 2009).

There was also the matter of false arrest and false imprisonment, something the MCSO is expert at.

The ACLU sued Maricopa County and Arpaio, in his official and individual capacity, as well as Sousa, Captain Ray Jones, and other non-credits to law enforcement in their individual capacities.

Just this week, District Court Judge David Campbell handed the Moras a victory, finding that their Fourth Amendment right to be free of unreasonable search and seizure had been violated. Maricopa County was found to be liable for damages.

"Julian had committed no traffic violation, and neither plaintiff was ever charged with a crime," Campbell noted in his decision.

He added: "In short, the undisputed evidence shows that when the John Doe Deputies stopped plaintiffs, they had no suspicion, reasonable or otherwise, that plaintiffs were in violation of the traffic laws or engaged in criminal activity."

The judge did not issue a summary judgment on the other claims, so hypothetically, the case can still proceed to trial.

But considering that the judge has already found the MCSO on the hook for the Fourth Amendment violation, this case may never get that far.

Look for the county to make an offer to the Moras. It'd be stupid not to. Although, by not paying the Moras' notice of claim when it had a chance, the county has run up a legal tab defending the indefensible — brutes like Sousa and his paymaster Arpaio.

The ruling strengthens the ACLU's hand in any negotiations over a settlement. So it's no wonder that ACLU attorney Annie Lai was ecstatic when I spoke with her.

"Arpaio has carried out these [immigration] raids with total disregard of people's constitutional rights," she said. "Today's decision should provide some comfort to the citizens of Maricopa County that the MCSO is not above the law."

Amusingly, Arpaio's attorneys tried to assert that Arpaio was not the "final policymaker" in terms of law enforcement for Maricopa County. But the judge found that the buck stops with Arpaio.

Arpaio is responsible for aggro half-wits like Sousa and Sousa's underlings just as he is responsible for the misdeeds of his recently fired Chief Deputy David Hendershott, axed Deputy Chief Larry Black, and the man who "loves" Black so dearly, ex-Captain Joel Fox.

It's gratifying to see Arpaio and Sousa trumped, but it falls short of being completely satisfying. That sort of dish will be served only when Arpaio shares a federal prison cell with Hendershott, and when Sousa is working security full-time at the local Walmart.


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