Brian Sands, one of Arpaio's deputy chiefs, told a federal judge today that busting illegal immigrants wasn't the goal of saturation patrols.
Sands said something quite different in 2010 to investigators probing corruption within Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio's Office.
As late as the fall of 2008, Sands claimed, Arpaio's former chief deputy, Dave Hendershott, had instructed a lieutenant during a saturation patrol in the northwest Valley to "round up as many illegal aliens as he could arrest."
And, by Sands' account, that's exactly how it went down.
Sands testified today as part of Arpaio's racial-profiling trial.
He told U.S. District Judge Murray Snow that a "disconnect" existed between Arpaio and the deputies performing crime sweeps.
"When I say a disconnect, oftentimes (Arpaio) doesn't understand what the rank-and-file deputies are doing out there," Sands told Snow.
Yet his 2010 statements, by contrast, indicate a strong link between Arpaio and what his deputies did on the street.
Sands' statements about the mass arrest were made during the so-called "Munnell Memo" investigation conducted by Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu's Office at the request of Arpaio. New Times briefly mentioned those statements by Sands in an April 2012 blog post. Today, we dug out that part of the 30,000-page Babeu report and took a closer look.
Sands, to put the statements in context, had been responding to questions by investigators about the times he had "points of conflict" with Hendershott, who was fired by Arpaio (then allowed to retire) after the investigation concluded he had committed unethical and possibly illegal acts for years as Arpaio's right-hand man. Arpaio later claimed he was "duped" by Hendershott and knew nothing about his chief deputy's activities -- even though evidence showed he had near-daily briefings by Hendershott, and that Hendershott was probably just following Arpaio's orders.
Sands described one point of conflict as taking place on the 2008 saturation patrol. He claimed he "cautioned" Hendershott that "we can't do massive arrests when it comes to illegal aliens" because of the "complexity of our relationship" with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Bureau and the 287(g) cross-training status of sheriff's deputies.
"I think (Hendershott's) issue was that he wanted to see something that would, you know, be very newsworthy out there," Sands told investigators.
But Sands told Hendershott that a mass arrest of illegal immigrants would be problematic because ICE had strict rules on the length of time that the arrested people could be detained. Trying to "dump" a massive number of detainees on ICE would screw up the timing.
Here's the part we found especially interesting in light of Sands' statements today: a mass arrest apparently did occur.
"We got to a situation where the lieutenant was complying with (Hendershott's) directives and called me and said, that, you know, they had like 50 people in custody," Sands said. "My question was, 'did we arrest people on the state charge of human smuggling? And he said that they had more or less looked at arresting VRs, in other words, volunteer removals, and I said, 'no, we got to shut it down.'"
He said he then had an "I-told-you-so" conversation with Hendershott, and that they had an argument.
Just to clarify that part about arresting people on "VRs:" What Sands apparently means there is that Arpaio's office arrested 50 suspected illegal immigrants just for being illegal immigrants.
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Sands claimed that he managed to prevent Hendershott from doing more mass round-ups. Yet Hendershott's directive shows that, contrary to what Sands said today, it really was Arpaio's goal to bust illegal immigrants during the saturation patrols.
It seems like a safe assumption that Hendershott, in ordering a lieutenant to conduct a mass arrest of illegal immigrants, was just following the orders of his boss, Arpaio.
Perhaps the most astonishing thing in all this: The timeframe of Hendershott's mass arrest was in late 2008, about two years after the sheriff's office started doing saturation patrols.
If Arpaio was targeting illegal immigrants directly in late 2008 for headlines, it only makes sense that they were doing it since 2006. And that he's still doing it.