Judge questions Ariz. sheriff's truthfulness on the stand

The six-term sheriff could face fines and, if a criminal contempt case is later filed, jail time

By Jacques Billeaud
Associated Press

PHOENIX — A judge presiding over an Arizona sheriff's racial profiling case is questioning whether the lawman testified truthfully about a secret investigation that critics say targeted the judge.

U.S. District Judge Murray Snow said Friday he believes metro Phoenix's sheriff, Joe Arpaio, was involved in his office's investigation that erroneously tried to show the judge and federal authorities were conspiring against the lawman.

But Snow said he's more concerned about Arpaio's truthfulness, pointing out the sheriff provided conflicting testimony on his knowledge of the investigation.

"He has not been fully forthcoming with this court," Snow said, noting taxpayer dollars had to be spent uncovering information about the investigation that Arpaio should have disclosed earlier.

The investigation was examined in Arpaio's contempt-of-court hearings over his acknowledged defiance of court orders in the profiling case. Lawyers made closing arguments Friday. The six-term sheriff could face fines and, if a criminal contempt case is later filed, jail time.

Arpaio has acknowledged violating Snow's orders, including letting his officers conduct immigration patrols for 18 months after the judge ordered them stopped.

Arpaio's critics say the secret investigation was intended to discredit Snow, who ordered a sweeping overhaul of the sheriff's office after ruling its officers racially profiled Latinos.

Arpaio insists he didn't investigate Snow and instead maintains the investigation centered on a claim that the bank information of thousands of people had been breached.

John Masterson, Arpaio's lead attorney, said the secret investigation wasn't relevant to the contempt case.

"No one at MCSO (Maricopa County Sheriff's Office) was actively investigating you," Masterson said, pointing out that Arpaio's second-in-command warned his officers not to investigate the judge.

In the past, Arpaio has been accused of investigating judges who were at odds with him. The contempt hearings mark the boldest public attempt to confront Arpaio on the recurring retaliation allegation.

The judge was the second person at Friday's hearing to question Arpaio's honesty.

Stan Young, a lawyer leading the case against Arpaio's office, said documents from the investigation undermine Arpaio's claim that he wasn't targeting Snow.

"They have been lying," Young said, contending Arpaio and a top aide acted as "shady characters" for launching an investigation that they should have known was illegal.

In the contempt case, Arpaio also has accepted responsibility for his agency's failure to turn over traffic-stop videos before the profiling trial and bungling a plan to gather such recordings from officers once some videos were revealed publicly.

Young said Arpaio violated the order barring his immigration patrols because he wanted to look tough on immigration in an election year.

He also said the sheriff used his powerful position to insulate himself from the consequences of defying a judge's orders.

Young said an internal investigation into the violation didn't find any policy infractions, didn't result in any discipline and didn't examine Arpaio's role in defying the order.

Copyright 2015 The Associated Press

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