Feathered Bastard

Joe Arpaio Loses Again: Maricopa County Settles for $200K in Mora Racial-Profiling Case

As Sheriff Joe Arpaio plots to humiliate Arizona by deploying a chain gang of illegal immigrants to clean up around Chase Field, where the Major League Baseball All-Star Game is scheduled to take place July 12, there's ample evidence Arpaio should be in stripes right along with them, cleaning the sidewalks of cigarette butts and soda cans.

Not only is Arpaio the subject of a federal grand jury probe looking into abuse of power allegations against his office, he's also guilty of racial profiling by proxy. And for all of you nativists out there, racial profiling is illegal, no matter how much you may cotton to the idea.

See, the American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona has just announced that it's reached a settlement in the federal lawsuit Mora v. Arpaio, one of the most egregious cases of ethnic and racial profiling to come out of Arpaio's campaign of Hispanic-hunting sweeps and anti-immigrant raids on local businesses.

Arpaio's lawyer Tim Casey today threw in the towel, essentially agreeing to a $200,000 payout to Julian and Julio Mora, the father and son zip-tied and held for three hours during a 2009 MCSO raid of the Phoenix landscaping firm Handyman Maintenance Inc., where the elder Mora worked.

Joe's boys-in-beige were after illegal immigrants that day, but Julian Mora is a legal permanent resident. His son Julio is an American citizen. 

But all that mattered to Arpaio's goons was the Moras' skin color. Because they were brown, sheriff's deputies pulled over their truck as the elder Mora drove to work. They were zip-tied and laughed at when they asked to use the facilities. 

Mora senior, who suffers from diabetes, was finally allowed to make water behind a parked vehicle. The junior Mora was allowed to go to the bathroom, but deputies refused to remove his zip-tie, and mocked him as he struggled to relieve himself.

The Moras had done nothing wrong, yet they were treated like criminals. 

So they sued Arpaio and the other idgits involved, like the bigoted Barney Fife, MCSO Lt. Joe Sousa, the brain surgeon in charge of the sheriff's human smuggling unit, best known for telling elected officials critical of his jefe to "shut up" at a deputies' press conference in 2009.

Oh, if only the $200K could come from the pocket of an aggro idiot like Sousa. But, alas, as with all of the settlements and judgments that result from the misdeeds of Arpaio and his dull-witted minions, it's the county that has to pick up the tab for this Keystone-Koppery.

Interestingly, one reason the defense in this suit flopped on its face is that the MCSO's moronic administrators could not determine which MCSO goons in particular pinched the Moras. Flip to the word "incompetence" in Webster's Dictionary, and I can almost guarantee there's an illo of an MCSO badge.

In April, District Court Judge David Campbell ruled that the Moras' Fourth Amendment right to be free of unreasonable search and seizure had been violated.

"Julian had committed no traffic violation, and neither plaintiff was ever charged with a crime," Campbell wrote at the time.

"In short," he added, "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."

Campbell's April ruling practically guaranteed Arpaio's capitulation. On the Fourth Amendment claim, the defendants already knew they were going to lose.

Annie Lai, the ACLU's lead attorney on the case, warned the county that it will be on the hook for Arpaio's continued unconstitutional shenanigans.

"Sheriff Arpaio's deputies are not free to ignore the Constitution when they are enforcing immigration laws," Lai said in a statement released by the ACLU. "County officials should take heed that the Moras and hundreds of other Latino residents who have been detained in the raids without any evidence of wrongdoing have recourse in the courts."

Lai just left the ACLU this week, on her way to a teaching gig at Yale University. I interviewed her before she left, and she will be the subject of a future blog post.

Congrats to her, the Moras and all the lawyers at the ACLU and elsewhere who helped win this one. Occasionally, there's a little justice here in Sand Land, though I won't be satisfied till I see Arpaio suited up in stripes, working the side of the road, hopefully with all of his henchmen right beside him.

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Stephen is a former staff writer and columnist at Phoenix New Times.
Contact: Stephen Lemons

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