Feathered Bastard

Joe Arpaio's (ahem) Legal Scholar Brett "Shut Up" Palmer and Flunky Brian Sands Under Oath

See also: Joe Arpaio Struggles in Racial-Profiling Trial to Answer Examples of Seemingly Bigoted Leadership See also: Joe Arpaio Looks Like Tired, Old Racist on Stand During Racial-Profiling Trial See also: Joe Arpaio's Racial Profiling Trial Begins, and, Yes, He's Guilty as Sin See also: Joe Arpaio's Deputy Thinks Most Day-Laborers Are Undocumented

Early this morning, I obtained what I was looking for: A legal document highly-valued by the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office, researched by a scholar of such repute that he's known for telling elected officials to, "Shut up!"

The "scholar" in question is Sergeant Brett Palmer, a supervisor in Sheriff Joe Arpaio's notorious, racial-profilin' Human Smuggling Unit.

No, he doesn't have a law degree, or any legal training to speak of. But he does have a direct line to high MCSO muckety-mucks, including HSU Lieutenant Joe Sousa, Deputy Chief Brian Sands, and Arpaio himself.

See, Palmer took the stand yesterday in Melendres v. Arpaio, the big ACLU lawsuit that's trying to bring Arpaio to heel on his pattern and practice of discriminatory policing. There, Palmer discussed his involvement in a couple of major scandals that have hit the MCSO concerning its Hispanic-hunting ways.

One was a direct embarrassment to Arpaio himself, when Arpaio used misinformation Palmer had forwarded up the chain of command after, Palmer says, Sands asked him to do some "legal research" for the stone-faced deputy chief.

Palmer is the same brain surgeon who participated in a press conference in 2009 where he and other Arpaio employees blasted public officials who had dared to criticize Arpaio's immigration policies.

"We're telling these people in power such as [then Phoenix Mayor] Phil Gordon, [Maricopa County Supervisor] Mary Rose Wilcox and [then Mesa] Police Chief Gascon, shut up!" Palmer practically spat at the time. "They're ignorant. They don't know what it is they're talking about. They don't have their facts straight."

In other words, Palmer isn't the sharpest pencil in the drawer. So what does it say about the guy who asks him to do legal research and passes this "research" along to his boss, the most powerful lawman in the county?

Palmer admitted that he "cut and pasted" info from a website to send to Sands, and the info was, unknown to him at the time, incorrect. The material cited was old, and said that state and local cops have the right to enforce federal immigration statutes without prior approval of the "INS."

That mention of the no-longer-extant INS should have been a tip off for Palmer and his superiors. But they were eager to make the case that local law enforcement has "inherent authority" to question folks about immigration status.

In fact, that is incorrect. As federal Judge G. Murray Snow pointed out in his decision granting Melendres class action status, and as the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has held, "Local law enforcement officers...do not have the `inherent authority' to investigate civil immigration violations."

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