PHOENIX (AP) — A judge presiding over Sheriff Joe Arpaio's racial profiling case is holding a hearing Friday to examine relaunching several internal investigations into alleged officer misconduct at the sheriff's office.
U.S. District Judge Murray Snow has signaled that he wants an independent party to redo several internal investigations as a remedy to his earlier ruling that found the sheriff to be in civil contempt of court for ignoring an order to stop his immigration patrols.
The profiling case that Arpaio lost three years ago led to the contempt proceeding after Snow accused the sheriff and some of his aides of violating court orders. It morphed into a bruising review of the sheriff's internal investigations, which have been criticized as fraught with biased decision-making and conflicts of interest.
The civil contempt finding brings the six-term sheriff one step closer to a possible criminal contempt case that could expose him to fines and even jail time.
Snow hasn't yet imposed punishments but is expected to order an overhaul of internal affairs investigations and create a fund to pay damages to Latinos who were illegally detained when Arpaio ignored the order to stop his immigration patrols.
Snow has said he wants to throw out several of the agency's inadequate internal investigations and have someone else re-examine the allegations and impose discipline.
The judge has already voided an internal investigation into an allegation that members of Arpaio's immigrant smuggling squad had regularly pocketed items during traffic stops and safe-house busts.
Attorneys pressing the profiling case against Arpaio have told the judge that Jerry Sheridan, Arpaio's second-in-command, should be fired for knowingly making false statements when he claimed he didn't know about the order to stop the immigration patrols until more than two years after it was issued.
Sheridan has agreed to accept a 40-hour suspension for violating the court order to stop the patrols. A previous internal investigation into which managers were responsible for violating the order concluded without anyone being disciplined.
The sheriff's lawyers have accused opposing attorneys of trying to ruin the careers of some sheriff's employees and called the request to fire Sheridan "spiteful malevolence fueled by a vengeful rancor."