- The Washington Times - Friday, May 13, 2016

A federal judge in Arizona found Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio in contempt of court Friday, saying the controversial lawman deliberately violated court orders, hid evidence and failed to clean up after his department was found to be conducting illegal racial profiling.

“In short, the court finds that the defendants have engaged in multiple acts of misconduct, dishonesty, and bad faith,” Judge G. Murray Snow concluded in a withering 162-page document laying out the case against Sheriff Arpaio.

The controversial sheriff, who’s been in office for more than two decades, has made headlines in the past for investigating President Obama’s birth certificate and, more recently, for endorsing GOP presidential hopeful Donald Trump.

The sheriff has also had repeated run-ins with federal authorities who say he’s violated civil rights with the way he’s run his department.

In the current case Judge Snow ruled Sheriff Arpaio’s deputies engaged in illegal racial profiling of Hispanics during traffic stops. The judge ordered the sheriff’s department to take steps to end the behavior, including ordering him to prohibit deputies from stopping people on the belief they may be in the country illegally.

But even after that 2011 injunction, the sheriff stymied those cleanup efforts, Judge Snow said in his latest ruling. He said Sheriff Arpaio didn’t change any policies and still allowed stops of people based on the belief they were in the country illegally — even though his top lieutenants urged him to make changes.

The sheriff’s office referred questions to John Masterson, the lawyer handling the case for the sheriff, who said they are still digesting the judge’s extensive order.

“It does confirm the finding of civil contempt against the sheriff and the chief deputy, as expected,” Mr. Masterson said. “As you know, both the sheriff and the chief deputy admitted civil contempt prior to the start of the hearing back in April of 2015.”

Mr. Masterson’s response to the court is due at the end of this month, and Judge Snow has already scheduled hearings to figure out his next step.

But he said he is considering ordering an independent investigation into what went wrong at the department. The independent investigation would also go back and review previous misconduct cases to make sure the sheriff and his aides didn’t go too easy on deputies who engaged in illegal behavior.

The judge’s investigation described a department reeling from lack of oversight, where deputies inappropriately targeted people for stops, seized their property, lost or destroyed it, then covered up their own actions.

When those targeted complained, the department failed to conduct a thorough investigation — and at times even put people in charge of the investigations who had a stake in the outcome.

“Ultimately, few persons were investigated; even fewer were disciplined. The discipline imposed was inadequate. The only person who received a suspension — for one week — was also granted a raise and a promotion,” the judge wrote.

Also troubling, the judge said, was that during his own hearing, Sheriff Arpaio and his chief deputy “made multiple intentional misstatements of fact while under oath.”

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