Sheriff's Office Gets More Time to Sort Through Recovered E-mails in Racial Profiling Case

A federal judge today allowed the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office more time to sort through recovered e-mails for confidential info that doesn't pertain to an ongoing racial-profiling lawsuit.

The company that saved the recovered data has until April 11 to produce it for the lawyers on each side, says Cari Gerchick, spokeswoman for Maricopa County.

U.S. District Judge Murray Snow ruled that Tim Casey, the sheriff's lawyer in the case, has 60 days after that date to pull privileged e-mails from the data pile.

Then he'll turn over the remaining -- potentially relevant -- e-mails to one of the local lawyers hired by the Arizona chapter of the ACLU, the plaintiff. The ACLU will have another month to look over the data, according to Gerchick.

We tried calling Casey for comment, too, but he blew us off.

The ACLU lawsuit, as we've covered extensively, involves three racial profiling allegations by: a green-card holder, members of a family-run auto shop and an aide to Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon.

The case took a potentially explosive turn recently when documents that the sheriff's office thought it had destroyed turned up in a secret, disaster-recovery database maintained by the county.

We're betting some of these e-mails will be quite damning -- why else would sheriff's officials have tried to permanently delete them, when they knew the e-mails had been requested by plaintiffs in the case?

Gerchick says the total amount of data in the recovered database would equal 4 1/2 billion pages if printed out, so lawyers refined their search of it to specific names and key phrases.

Casey will have to log all of the e-mails he's claiming as privileged, and a judge will have the final say on the matter -- a process that should prevent any germane e-mails from being hidden, she says.

The judge also ruled against a request by Casey to make the e-mails the sole property of the sheriff's office, Gerchick added.

We wonder how Casey could have asked for that with a straight face -- as if the judge is really going to give Arpaio's minions the opportunity to delete the data completely this time.

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