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Attorneys: MCSO Chief Deputy Sheridan May Face Termination, Criminal Contempt Unnecessary

High-ranking members of the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office will head to court Friday where lawyers are expected to argue they should not face criminal contempt referrals for failing to follow a judge's orders.

Attorneys for Chief Deputy Jerry Sheridan argued in a memo filed Monday that prosecution isn’t necessary because Sheridan’s career is already on the line.

Sheridan’s lawyers wrote that he did not willfully violate a federal court order, which is a key element needed to refer someone for criminal contempt.

But Judge G. Murray Snow has ruled the opposite, finding in May that Sheridan intentionally violated court orders and lied under oath.

Sheridan’s attorneys wrote that he was unaware of the details of a preliminary injunction blocking deputies from detaining people solely on suspicion of their immigration status. The attorneys say it was not Sheridan’s job to implement it. Someone else was assigned the task before Sheridan rose to second in command.

Further, they argued the chief deputy had a massive workload when the injunction was issued, and he did not open, forward, delete or print an email that contained a copy of it.

Sheridan has long acknowledged that he failed to follow Snow’s order. His lawyers wrote that civil contempt penalties are enough because internal investigations could lead to him being fired, which would affect his pension and end his 38-year career with MCSO.

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Matthew Casey has won Edward R. Murrow awards for hard news and sports reporting since he joined KJZZ as a senior field correspondent in 2015.