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Deputy's Exoneration by Joe Arpaio's Office in Tribune Investigation Light on Facts

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An allegation of racial profiling in the East Valley Tribune's Pulitzer-prize-winning series on Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio was unsubstantiated by the Sheriff's Office because of a series of memory lapses. We've been waiting for months for this report, the record of an internal affairs investigation against a 287(g)-trained deputy assigned to Arpaio's human smuggling unit.

Reporter Ryan Gabrielson wrote about his experiences on the ridealong with deputies in his July 9 series, reporting that a deputy seemed to have spotted a violation that wasn't really there. The alleged violation became the probable cause for a traffic stop of a minivan that netted eight illegal immigrants who were being smuggled into the country.

The Sheriff's Office investigation frowns on Gabrielson's lack of formal police training, saying his assessment of the situation was in doubt.

"I am suspicious of a civilian making a determination about probable cause and traffic violations with probably no formal training," the November 6, 2008 report states.

The MCSO states that Gabrielson erred when he reported he was riding with Deputy Jesus Cosme in Cosme's "Jeep Commander."

According to a sheriff's office narrative of what happened that night, as detailed in court records, two other deputies that participated in the bust were riding in a Jeep Commander. Court records don't say what Cosme was driving. The Sheriff's Office insists Cosme was driving a Dodge Charger.

Gabrielson says he stands by the facts as laid out in his article, which were based on the "copious" notes he took during the ridealong.

Even if you give the MCSO that one, Gabrielson's memory still comes off as better than that of Cosme, who didn't even remember Gabrielson riding in his vehicle, the internal affairs report states. A dispatch document shows that Cosme did report a "civilian observer" riding with him that night. Cosme did remember seeing Gabrielson, but that's about it.

As for the Sheriff's Office narrative to the courts used to justify the traffic stop and begin prosecution against the immigrants -- who were quickly hustled out of the country -- well, no one 'fessed up to who wrote that. The narrative states that the minivan's driver failed to use his turn signal when two lanes merged into one. Though Cosme is listed as the arresting officer, he told internal affairs deputies he didn't think he wrote the narrative.

In a report to the U.S. Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement required by the 287(g) agreement, Deputy Baranyos wrote that the driver "failed to properly signal a turn."

Back to the internal affairs report: It just sort of throws out there that Gabrielson had a warrant out for his arrest from Tucson Justice Court. Gabrielson said it was an unpaid $900 fine for driving on a suspended license.

Unknown is whether the minivan driver was in the left or right lane when the two lanes merged, the internal affairs report states. The question wasn't resolved by either of the deputies involved, who couldn't recall much, or Gabrielson, who cited Arizona's shield law and refused to talk with the sheriff's investigators.

"Investigators could not find any illegal act on the part of sheriff's employees," the report concludes.

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