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Judge rules Sheriff Joe Arpaio in contempt of court in racial profiling case

By Marilyn Malara
Judge rules Sheriff Joe Arpaio in contempt of court in racial profiling case
Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio and three of his department's top employees have been ruled in contempt of court by a federal judge in an ongoing racial-profiling case. A hearing has been set for May 31 to determine what penalties Arpaio could face. File Photo by Mike Theiler/UPI | License Photo

PHOENIX, May 14 (UPI) -- Controversial Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Maricopa Country, Ariz., has been found in civil contempt of a court order to enforce reforms and halt discriminatory practices in his department.

U.S. District Judge G. Murray Snow on Friday ruled Arpaio in contempt on three counts in a 162-page document stating the lawman, who became a national figure for his crackdown on illegal immigration, consistently ignored advice and continued his practice of racial profiling.

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Three subordinates of Arpaio's department were also ruled in contempt Friday: Chief Deputy Jerry Sheridan on two counts, and both Chief Brian Sands and Lt. Joe Sousa, on one count each.

"The court finds that the defendants have engaged in multiple acts of misconduct, dishonesty, and bad faith with respect to the plaintiff class (Latinos) and the protection of its rights," Snow wrote.

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"They have demonstrated a persistent disregard for the orders of this court, as well as an intention to violate and manipulate the laws and policies regulating their conduct as they pertain to their obligations to be fair, 'equitable and impartial' with respect to the interests of the plaintiff class."

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Following the ruling, Arpaio -- often referred to as "America's toughest sheriff" -- tweeted, "I never hide from media, but my policy has been I don't talk about ongoing litigation."

Arpaio, who has maintained a "tent city" jail where inmates are made to sit outside in the Arizona sun, also endorsed Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump in January in support of his stance on immigration.

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The ruling comes almost three years after Snow found Arpaio and his office explicitly used racial profiling and illegal detentions to target Latino residents in Maricopa County, which includes the city of Phoenix. Snow had ordered reforms be made by the sheriff's office to prevent the future violations of the Fourth and 14th Amendments. Snow's ruling comes six months after official court arguments ended.

A hearing is reportedly set for May 31 in order to assess potential penalties in relation to Snow's decision.

Eric DuVall and Danielle Haynes contributed to this story.

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