- Associated Press - Tuesday, August 4, 2015

PHOENIX (AP) - Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s top managers won’t face discipline for failing to halt the lawman’s signature immigration patrols after a judge in a racial profiling case had ordered them stopped, according to records released Tuesday.

The documents show the results of an administrative investigation launched by Arpaio’s office to determine who was responsible for letting the patrols continue for about 18 months after U.S. District Judge Murray Snow had barred them.

Arpaio, who wasn’t a target of the examination, told an investigator that he learned of Snow’s December 2011 order several months after it was issued, even though the decision was the subject of several stories at the time that appeared in local media.

The sheriff and four aides are undergoing contempt-of-court hearings for failing to carry out the order. Arpaio and his second-in-command, Jerry Sheridan, have acknowledged this and other contempt allegations.

Contempt hearings that began in April are scheduled to resume in late September. The hearings could lead to fines, increased oversight of the agency and a possible criminal contempt hearing for the sheriff.

During a February 24 interview with an investigator, Arpaio said he doesn’t get involved in the details of legal cases against him and instead delegates those duties to others. The sheriff said he wasn’t briefed on the facts of the case, though he believes it’s possible he could have had a passing conversation with someone about it.

The sheriff was asked about a tense encounter with Sgt. Brett Palmer about a month after the 2011 order was issued in which federal immigration authorities had refused to accept immigrants who hadn’t committed a violation of state law.

Palmer said Arpaio wanted the immigrants held until the sheriff and media could arrive before being handed over to the Border Patrol. Palmer told the investigator that he told the sheriff that doing so would violate the order.

Arpaio said he wanted to publicize that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement had refused to accept the immigrants. “It wasn’t telling them to violate any judge’s order,” Arpaio said.

Sheridan said he was focused on other issues at the time Snow issued his order and regrets not focusing on the profiling case sooner.

Sheridan said he became aware of the court order during a March 2014 deposition in another civil rights case. “Somebody should have grabbed me from the face and said, Jerry, wait a second,” Sheridan told the investigator. “Pay attention to this. This is important.”

The documents also provided a rare window into the inner workings of the sheriff’s office.

Lt. Joseph Sousa, the former leader of Arpaio’s now-closed immigrant smuggling squad, said it was difficult to do his job amid all of the sheriff’s efforts to publicize his enforcement efforts. Sousa cited an incident in which the agency put out a news release on a search warrant before the warrant was served.

Palmer also said the agency’s leaders wanted to pursue unrealistic enforcement plans, such as setting up roadblocks to check for people who were in the country illegally. “Lower-level supervisors found themselves researching rules and laws so they could explain to higher-ups why people are not allowed to do that,” Palmer told the investigator.


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