- Associated Press - Tuesday, November 24, 2015

PHOENIX (AP) - A judge has ruled that a restaurant owner can move forward with his legal claim that an Arizona sheriff’s office arrested him in a bid to discourage him from cooperating in a civil rights case.

Uncle Sam’s owner Bret Frimmel alleges Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s office wrongfully arrested him on employment-related identity theft charges after learning that he had talked with the U.S. Department of Justice about its civil rights lawsuit against the lawman.

The ruling Friday from U.S. District Judge Steven Logan kept alive Frimmel’s lawsuit against Arpaio but threw out the restaurant owner’s claim that the sheriff’s office was motivated by racial hostility toward him.

The lawsuit marks one of the most recent retaliation allegations made against the six-term sheriff, who has been dogged for years by claims that he’s launched investigations of judges, politicians and others who are at odds with him in political and legal disputes. Most recently, Arpaio has been accused of investigating a judge presiding over a racial profiling case against his office. The sheriff vigorously denies the allegation.

“We have seen in case after case that the sheriff used his position of authority to pursue a personal or political agenda rather than a law enforcement agenda,” said Leon Silver, one of Frimmel’s attorneys.

Messages left for Arpaio’s office and Michele Iafrate, an attorney representing the sheriff, weren’t immediately returned Tuesday morning. In court papers, Iafrate denied Frimmel’s allegations.

Two of Frimmel’s restaurants were raided by Arpaio’s officers in July 2013 in an investigation into whether some employees were using fraudulent IDs to get jobs.

Frimmel and his manager allege they were later arrested after the restaurant owner was asked by the Justice Department for help in its case, which accused the sheriff’s office of racial profiling, retaliating against Arpaio’s critics and other civil rights violations.

Silver declined to say whether his client was cooperating with the Justice Department, which settled the case this summer.

Frimmel and his manager maintained that they did nothing wrong. Eventually, the case was thrown out earlier this year after a judge ruled investigators made erroneous statements in documents used to get search warrants.

Frimmel claimed the decision to arrest him was motivated by a hostility toward people of Jewish ancestry.

The lawsuit said one of Arpaio’s investigators laughed and agreed when a tipster in the case made a derogatory comment about Frimmel being Jewish. Logan ruled the only factual backing for the claim was the single comment.

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