A U.S. judge moved a step closer to pursuing possible contempt charges against Arizona lawman Joe Arpaio on Thursday, accusing the Maricopa County sheriff of failing to follow court mandates in a 2007 racial-profiling case.
Last year, U.S. District Court Judge Murray Snow ruled that deputies working for Arpaio, an 82-year-old who bills himself as "America's Toughest Sheriff," racially profiled Latino drivers and held them for too long during traffic stops.
Snow ordered that they stop, and he also appointed a court monitor to oversee the operations of the sheriff's office.
On Thursday, the judge ordered that attorneys for Arpaio, Maricopa County, and the plaintiffs file court papers by Jan. 8 on the issue of civil and criminal charges that could be leveled against the sheriff.
"I have some deep concerns," Snow told a hearing in federal court in downtown Phoenix, citing instances where deputies were not told of the court's order, and where material was not turned over to Latino drivers' lawyers.
"I believe there have been some serious violations. ... There are a lot of matters that are of concern," Snow said.
In May 2013 the judge issued his ruling in response to a class-action lawsuit filed by Latino plaintiffs who argued their constitutional rights had been violated because deputies singled them out for traffic stops based on their race.
Arpaio, who attended Thursday's hearing with a criminal defense attorney, has denied any racial profiling and has appealed Snow's ruling from last year.
The sheriff declined to comment following the session.
(Reporting by David Schwartz; Editing by Daniel Wallis and Eric Walsh)