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MCSO Sergeant: Sheriff Arpaio Violated Court Order On Immigration Enforcement

The first day of the four-day civil contempt of court hearing against Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio got off to what seems to be a rocky start for the sheriff.

Arpaio’s longtime lawyer withdrew from the case and a sergeant blamed him for continuing immigration enforcement tactics in violation of a court order.

The purpose of the contempt hearing is to examine the extent to which Arpaio and his staff violated the judge’s orders in a long-standing racial profiling suit.

In 2011, the judge ordered the Sheriff’s Office to stop detaining unauthorized immigrants if they couldn’t be charged with other crimes.  Arpaio and his chief deputy already admitted last month that they failed to implement the order, but a remaining question is how willful their actions were.

Sgt. Brett Palmer, who once supervised the Human Smuggling Unit, gave testimony that suggested the failing was more than negligence.

Palmer shared an anecdote about how Sheriff Arpaio had once tried to direct him to continue detaining immigrants in violation of that order.

Palmer also said he began creating training materials to teach all the deputies about the 2011 order, but those above him in the chain of command never arranged for the training to happen.

When asked about his opinion as to why the training never happened, Palmer said he believed “it was contrary to the goals and objectives of the sheriff.”

Palmer also described the sheriff as being focused on media attention.

After the hearing, the ACLU’s Cecillia Wang said her side will continue to present evidence showing that Arapio’s violations were more than just mistakes.

“It is beginning to come out that the violations of the court’s orders were in fact the result of deliberate decisions by Sheriff Arpaio,” Wang said.

Arpaio's office has said it will not comment until after the hearing.

Things took an unexpected turn on the first day of the hearing when Arpaio’s longtime lawyer, Tom Liddy of the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office, announced he would be requesting to withdraw from the case.

Liddy cited a recent appeals court decision that Maricopa County should be the defendant in this case instead of the Sheriff’s Office. Liddy told the judge that change would put him in a complicated position give his responsibilities at the County Attorney’s Office.

The other lawyer who had defended Arpaio in this suit for years, Tim Casey, also withdrew in recent months.

“The two most knowledgeable people on this case were Tom Liddy and Tim Casey and both are now gone,” said Arpaio's criminal attorney, Mel McDonald, in an interview after the hearing. “Our concern is the effect this is going to have on the future of the case.”

Michele Iafrate, the lawyer who replaced Tim Casey on the case, will continue to represent Arpaio and other MCSO staff. 

Jude Joffe-Block Senior Field Correspondent, Fronteras Desk - Phoenix KJZZ Senior Field Correspondent Jude Joffe-Block got hooked on radio while working as an assitant to a radio reporter in Mexico, and has been happiest wearing headphones and pointing microphones ever since. Joffe-Block began serving KJZZ in October 2010 as a Fronteras: Changing America Senior Field Correspondent based out of Las Vegas, Nevada. She joined the Phoenix newsroom in July 2012. Before joining the Fronteras Desk, she contributed stories on immigration and criminal justice to KALW in San Francisco and multimedia content in both Spanish and English to The Associated Press in Mexico. She is a graduate of U.C. Berkeley's Graduate School of Journalism and Yale University, and was a Fulbright Scholar in Mexico.