Controversial Arizona lawman Joe Arpaio, who bills himself “America’s Toughest Sheriff,” and his chief deputy offered on Tuesday to accept civil sanctions for contempt of court, ahead of a hearing next month in a federal court in Phoenix.
U.S. District Court Judge Murray Snow ordered the four-day hearing, which could lead to penalties, such as fines or jail time for six-time sheriff Arpaio, four other individuals, and the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office.
Snow said there were grounds for the hearing after Arpaio failed to comply with a court order to stop immigration enforcement operations and turn over evidence to opposing trial lawyers, among other issues.
Lawyers for Arpaio, 82, who has vowed to run for a seventh term as sheriff, acknowledged the problems, saying they would not present evidence at the hearing to counter Snow’s points.
“There is nothing defendants can do to change what has already been done,” they said in their motion.
They added, “Defendants can express sincere remorse to the court and to plaintiffs, begin to make amends to those who have been injured and take affirmative steps to ensure nothing like this occurs in the future.”
The lawyers said Arpaio would publicly take personal responsibility for the shortcomings, his office would set up a fund of at least $350,000 to reimburse victims of its immigration enforcement efforts, and defendants would personally donate $100,000 to civil rights bodies, among other steps.
Snow would have to approve the offer. Snow’s previously scheduled proceeding could lead to possible criminal referrals to federal prosecutors.
Arpaio’s troubles follow a 2013 ruling in which Snow held that he and his deputies racially profiled Latino drivers during traffic stops and unreasonably detained them, violating their constitutional rights.
The finding was a major blow for the sheriff, with Snow installing a court monitor to oversee the operations of his office and ordering changes made to the department.
Arpaio appealed against the ruling and denied that his office was guilty of racial profiling. But in Tuesday’s filing his lawyers said they would seek to drop that appeal.
Cecillia Wang, an American Civil Liberties Union attorney representing plaintiffs in the profiling case, declined to comment on the motion when reached by email on Tuesday night.
(Reporting by David Schwartz; Writing by Curtis Skinner; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)