Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Sheriff Joe Arpaio, speaking outside a city jail. (photo: Getty Images)
Sheriff Joe Arpaio, speaking outside a city jail. 
(photo: Getty Images)

Sheriff Joe Goes on Trial

By The New York Times | Editorial
16 July 12

ive years after he started "crime suppression" sweeps that terrorized Latino neighborhoods across Maricopa County, Arizona, Sheriff Joe Arpaio is finally having to explain himself. Not to TV crews in Phoenix or to fawning hosts on Fox News, but before a federal judge.
The trial in Melendres v. Arpaio, a class-action civil-rights lawsuit, is scheduled to begin Thursday in Federal District Court in Phoenix. The plaintiffs, represented by the American Civil Liberties Union and the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, accuse the sheriff of waging an all-out, unlawful campaign of discrimination and harassment against Latinos and those who look like them.
They say the sheriff and his deputies - aided by ad hoc civilian "posses," anonymous phone tipsters, even motorcycle gangs - made illegal stops, searches and arrests, staged wrongful neighborhood and workplace raids, and provoked widespread fear among citizens, legal residents and undocumented immigrants alike.
One plaintiff, Manuel de Jesus Ortega Melendres, is a Mexican citizen who had a valid visa when Sheriff Arpaio's deputies arrested him in 2007. He said he was handcuffed and held for hours, not read his rights or allowed a phone call, or told why he had been arrested. Two other plaintiffs, Velia Meraz and Manuel Nieto, were accosted by deputies at gunpoint during a neighborhood sweep, for no explained reason. They are citizens.
The outrages to be presented to the court can be added to a long list of abuses going back years, on the streets of Maricopa and in the sheriff's jails. As early as 2008, The East Valley Tribune of Mesa, a city outside Phoenix, published a series of articles examining the immigration raids as a law-enforcement disaster. While deputies scoured the county making baseless immigration arrests, they neglected other duties, racking up millions of dollars in overtime and showing up ever later to emergencies while the number of criminal arrests and prosecutions plummeted.
Despite those results, Sheriff Arpaio kept going. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano could have condemned his actions years ago and refused to work with him. But instead, he was allowed to continue the abuse, even as his squad of immigration enforcers deputized under the federal 287(g) program grew to 160, by far the country's largest. The sheriff became a right-wing celebrity, courted by politicians eager to win the anti-immigrant vote. One of these was Mitt Romney, who accepted his endorsement for president in 2008.
This case is only the first of what is likely to be a string of civil rights challenges against immigration actions in Arizona. A civil lawsuit, brought by the Justice Department, accusing Sheriff Arpaio of systematic and widespread civil rights abuses, is moving through the courts.
Last month, the United States Supreme Court declined to overturn the section of Arizona's immigration law that requires local officers to check the papers of suspected illegal immigrants. But it said the provision could be challenged on equal-protection grounds, if there is evidence of racial profiling in the way it is carried out. The trial this week does not deal with police conduct under that law, but it does suggest that racial profiling is a deep-seated problem, certainly in Maricopa County.
Sheriff Arpaio is facing the voters for a sixth term this fall. He has long insisted that he answers to no one but the county's residents, who keep re-electing him. If voters won't put an end to his abuses, the courts and the Constitution will have the final word.


We are concerned about a recent drift towards vitriol in the RSN Reader comments section. There is a fine line between moderation and censorship. No one likes a harsh or confrontational forum atmosphere. At the same time everyone wants to be able to express themselves freely. We'll start by encouraging good judgment. If that doesn't work we'll have to ramp up the moderation.
General guidelines: Avoid personal attacks on other forum members; Avoid remarks that are ethnically derogatory; Do not advocate violence, or any illegal activity.
Remember that making the world better begins with responsible action.
- The RSN Team
+68 # X Dane 2012-07-16 20:02
Criminals need to be punished and then serve the sentence, they are given. I do not agree with humiliating prisoners.

That only make them more hateful. They should be rehabilitated, so they can re-enter society.

This sheriff is a sadistic SOB. he takes too much pleasure in being nasty. He does not belong in that position.
A sheriff or prison warden has to be strong, measured and fair. He has none of these qualities.
And the ruthless hunting of Latinos is sickening.

+21 # Doubter 2012-07-16 20:37
Even if he goes, his constituents remain. Who will they elect in his place?
+34 # William Bjornson 2012-07-16 20:23
Joe missed his best opportunity by being born too late to join the Gestapo. When playing soldier as a child, I'll bet he was the only kid who knew what 'Wehrmacht' meant and always wanted to be a German SS officer. But, such is the stuff of so many Americans, immigrants themselves or the progeny of immigrants. My repub neighbor tells me even Latinos here legally are against the new immigrants. (sigh) The bright shining glorious thing that is the human race... Whoever could believe in a god who would design us in such a way? And so many forget their history such as "No dogs. No Irish." or "Irish need not apply". If only psychopaths had some distinguishing physical characteristic so that we could hate someone on sight who deserved to be hated. Instead, we have to wait for them to act out like Joe. Too bad we can't deport them all somewhere, maybe to israel, they'd fit right in.
+43 # wwway 2012-07-16 20:41
No wonder Republicans are working so hard to slam Holder. There's a lot of Republican mess and mayhem to keep us in scandal trials for years. Voter supression and tax fraud and Sheldon Adleson's open defiance of the Foreign Corruption Practices Act. Adleson's dumping unlimited funds to get Romney elected because he's got a lot to loose and needs the Justice Dept off his back.
Republican = the party of the mean and hateful.
+23 # indio007 2012-07-16 20:49
There's also the incident where one his deputies stole a lawyers papers in open court. I just happened to be that inmate was a plaintiff in a lawsuit for denial of medical care. I don't think that's the right way to do discovery.....
-76 # skeptic 2012-07-16 20:55
The sheriff instituted chain gangs, feed prisoners for a few dollars a day and makes them wear pink. He believes they are in prison as a punishment. So do I.
Post a Comment