Frontera Fund News

Contempt Hearing Incriminates Arpaio

Protestors at the court during Melendres v. Arpaio.
Protestors at the court during Melendres v. Arpaio.

Facing possible criminal charges for contempt of court, Sheriff Joe Arpaio and the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office dig themselves into a deeper hole.

The Melendres v. Arpaio trial has revealed the MCSO to be a house of cards, and last week Judge Murray Snow played a trump that threatened to topple the tower.

Sheriff Joe Arpaio took the stand, looking a bit like a deflated gray balloon, and faced questions from the federal judge himself.

Judge Snow was not investigating whether the MCSO had racially profiled Latino drivers during traffic stops. He’d already confirmed that in 2013. Nor was Snow determining if Arpaio and his officers disobeyed the court’s orders to stop racial profiling. Arpaio and Chief Deputy Jerry Sheridan already admitted that before.

Snow was considering whether the MCSO was merely incompetently neglectful for 18 months or had purposely thumbed its nose at the court.

“I have a deep respect for the courts, federal courts, and federal judges,” Arpaio claimed on the stand.

“Are you aware that I’ve been investigated by anyone?” Snow asked.

Arpaio then admitted that his former lawyer, Tim Casey, had hired a private investigator to look into comments Snow’s wife allegedly made about Arpaio.

According to Sheridan’s testimony the following day, Snow’s wife, Cheri, was chatting with a former classmate, Karen Grissom, in a restaurant. Cheri purportedly told her that Snow hates Arpaio and wants to see him out of office.

Grissom sent Arpaio a Facebook message tipping him off. Arpaio discussed the matter with Casey, who sent a PI to interview Grissom, her husband and son about “the veracity of the statement.”

Hiring a PI to investigate the wife of your judge is a strange definition of “deep respect” for courts and judges.

Arpaio detractors made displays outside court.

Arpaio detractors made displays outside court.

Indeed, throughout the hearing the MCSO tried to blur definitions.

When Snow asked about Casey’s denial that he investigated Snow’s wife, Sheridan said, “It depends on how you define ‘investigated your wife.’”

Earlier, Cecillia Wang, a plaintiffs’ attorney with the ACLU, asked Sheridan if the MCSO’s effort to collect all the videos from traffic stops had been successful. “All is a very difficult word to define,” Sheridan replied.

All of this prevaricating calls into question the veracity of the MCSO’s statements.

Especially since Sheridan admitted he called Snow’s injunction “ludicrous” and “crap” during an MCSO training.

Especially since the court monitor team’s report on MCSO’s internal investigation stated, “We have never seen a more deficient set of aimless interviews.”

Especially since minutes after Snow ordered the MCSO to work with the court monitor to collect all traffic stop videos, Sheridan initiated a plan to collect the videos without the monitor’s approval. The same day, he “forgot” to tell the monitor he’d done this. When the monitor said the videos should be collected by subpoena to prevent officers from concealing incriminating evidence, Sheridan tried to take back his earlier order. He then told the monitor he wasn’t sure who made the order only hours before, citing memory lapse due to stress.

And especially since Sgt. Brett Palmer testified that Arpaio ordered him to detain a group of people suspected of being undocumented, in direct contradiction to the judge’s injunction. Why? Because the sheriff wanted to hold a press conference.

Deep respect? That will be up to the judge to define. The hearing continues in June.

Next week, we’ll delve into the MCSO’s and border patrol’s systematic shakedown of immigrants.