On Friday, August 19th United States District Court Judge G. Murray Snow, Phoenix, referred for prosecution Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, Chief Deputy Jerry Sheridan, Captain Steve Bailey, and Attorney Michele Iafrate.

Previously, Judge Snow had held Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio and three others in contempt for disobeying orders meant to curtail racial profiling in the Sheriff’s Department.

The August 19th ruling stemmed from Melendres v. Arpaio, 784 F.3d 1254 (9th Cir. 2015), which involved a class action filed in 2007 against Arpaio and the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office, alleging officers racially profiled latinos and unlawfully detained them during crime-suppression sweeps.

Judge Snow had originally issued a preliminary injunction as far back as 2011 prohibiting Sheriff’s deputies from illegally targeting latinos. Judge Snow issued a subsequent order in 2013, mandating that Arpaio and the Sheriff’s office take a number of specific steps to prevent future racial profiling. It was violations of that injunction primarily which triggered recent contempt & referral determinations.

For example lawyers who argued against Arpaio claimed that at least 190 people were pulled over in violation of the 2013 order to stop immigration patrols, all though they contend the number of victims is likely much higher. They also claimed that Arpaio violated the order because he wanted to look tough on immigration during a difficult election year. See Melendres v. Arpaio, 784 F.3d 1254 (9th Cir. 2015).

Although Arpaio has maintained that his violations were not willful, Judge Snow determined to the contrary that Arpaio’s contempt “was both knowing and intentional.” See Melendres v. Arpaio, 784 F.3d 1254 (9th Cir. 2015).

Moreover, Judge Snow has now determined that there is “probable cause to believe that many if not all of the statements were made in an attempt to obstruct any inquiry into their further wrong doing and negligence.”

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