Defiant Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio held in contempt of court for disobeying judge in racial profiling case

PHOENIX — A judge has found the longtime sheriff of metro Phoenix in contempt of court Friday for disobeying his orders in a racial profiling case, bringing the lawman who calls himself “America’s Toughest Sheriff” a step closer to a possible criminal contempt case that could expose him to fines and even jail time. The ruling Friday marked one of the biggest legal defeats in the six-term career of Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who is known for cracking down on illegal immigration, and was expected to lead to greater court oversight of his office. A hearing will be held May 31 to examine whether he will face a criminal contempt case. Arpaio and three of his deputies “have demonstrated a persistent disregard for the orders of this court, as well as an intention to violate and manipulate the laws and policies regulating their conduct,” U.S. District Judge Murray Snow wrote in a 162-page ruling. Arpaio has acknowledged violating Snow’s orders, including letting his officers conduct immigration patrols 18 months after the judge barred them. The sheriff also has accepted responsibility for his agency’s failure to turn over traffic-stop videos before the profiling trial and bungling a plan to gather the recordings from officers once some videos were revealed publicly. The sheriff also conducted a secret investigation that critics say was intended to discredit Snow, who had ordered a sweeping overhaul of the agency after finding its officers had profiled Latinos. In the past, Arpaio has been accused of retaliating against his critics. The civil contempt finding doesn’t disqualify Arpaio from holding office. It’s unclear whether a criminal contempt finding would prevent Arpaio from serving as sheriff. A felony contempt conviction would force him from office, but the judge has the option of recommending either a misdemeanor or felony contempt case. Snow is expected to require Continue Reading

Muslim woman ordered to remove full-face veil to present evidence in London court

A Muslim woman standing trial in London has been ordered to remove her full-face veil to present evidence but will be permitted to wear it during the remainder of the proceedings. The 22-year-old who argued it being against her religious beliefs to show her face in public was over ruled by a judge at Blackfriars Crown Court who could threaten her with jail time if she refuses to comply. "The ability of the jury to see the defendant for the purposes of evaluating her evidence is crucial," Judge Peter Murphy said in his final ruling Monday, as the BBC reports. The judge last week ruled that the defendant could wear her veil while testifying at trial. That decision proved only relevant to her testifying, however, and not to her presenting evidence. The woman from Hackney who is only identified as "D" consequently pleaded not guilty to a charge of intimidation while wearing a niqab which covers every part of her face except her eyes. As for presenting evidence, the judge said the veil will have to go. The judge gave her the option of sitting behind a screen to shield her from the public's view during the presentation of evidence but will have to show herself to him, the jury and lawyers. If she refuses she could be jailed for contempt of court. Murphy who acknowledged the woman's only recent conversion to wearing a veil in May 2012, further defended his decision as solely necessary to the proceedings. He also expressed his confidence in the woman's religious claims. "I accept for the purposes of this judgment that D sincerely takes the view that as a Muslim woman, she is either not permitted or chooses not to uncover her face in the presence of men who are not members of her close family," Murply said. "I have been given no reason to doubt the sincerity of her belief." Currently there is not a unanimous decision on niqab's being worn in British courtrooms which Murphy described as creating "judicial anarchy" because of any judge's ruling Continue Reading

Single mom battled NYCHA for two years over lack of hot water, finally gave up

Another single mom has come forward charging the  New York Housing Authority deprived her of hot water for two years and then drained her will to fight during a fruitless court battle. Estefany Hernandez, 26, the mother of two young girls who lives at the East River Houses in East Harlem, said she went to court six times to force NYCHA to fix the water problem. She finally gave up. “I got worn down,” Hernandez told the Daily News on Thursday. “It was too much.” Hernandez lashed out a day after The News’ front page story about Cheryl Brown, a single mother of three who lives in the same uptown housing project. Brown was also without hot water for two years. In Brown’s case, a judge held the Housing Authority in contempt of court and fined it $19,205 for making the family go without the basic household necessity. Instead of paying up, NYCHA is mulling an appeal of the judge’s ruling. Hernandez — who lives with her two daughters, Jazmyne, 2, and Jazleen, 11 months — said she endured a similar nightmare. “I went six times [to court] and I gave up,” Hernandez said. “ Nothing happened, nothing changed.” She said she couldn’t afford a lawyer to fight her battle, and that NYCHA officials kept asking for delays. Meanwhile, the stay-at-home mom had to bring her older daughter with her to court because she couldn’t pay a baby-sitter. NYCHA’s big-bucks lawyers seemed more interested in dragging out the legal fight than expediting the order to fix her hot water problem, said Hernandez. “They rescheduled and rescheduled and rescheduled,” she said . She said the judge handling her case accommodated NYCHA’s delay tactics without the threat of any consequences. “NYCHA sent a lawyer to fight the case. It was always, ‘Thirty days more, 30 days more,’” Hernandez said. Hernandez said she went without hot Continue Reading

Arpaio admits contempt of court, offers public acknowledgement

Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio has admitted he violated several federal court orders resulting from a long-running racial-profiling suit, a confession that comes a month before he was scheduled to respond to allegations of contempt.In a Wednesday filing, attorneys for Arpaio and Chief Deputy Jerry Sheridan consented to a finding of civil contempt and said it was unnecessary to go forward with a contempt hearing scheduled for April 21-24.Attorneys representing the Sheriff's Office suggested that possible remedies might include Arpaio admitting violations of the court's orders in a "public forum" and requesting a compensation fund footed by Maricopa County taxpayers."Defendants acknowledge and appreciate that they have violated the Court's orders and that there are consequences for these violations," the statement reads. ROBERTS: Arpaio admits (gulp) wrongdoing in race case RELATED: Citizens demand apology from ArpaioPlaintiffs' attorneys from the American Civil Liberties Union declined to comment Wednesday morning.Arpaio's attorneys have previously attempted to settle the dispute out of court, but the motion is the first clear admission of guilt.Arpaio and Sheridan admitted to three areas alleged in contempt proceedings:Evidence that the agency failed, for 18 months, to abide by U.S. District Judge G. Murray Snow's December 2011 preliminary injunction to stop enforcing federal immigration law.Wednesday's statement explicitly states that both Arpaio and Sheridan were aware of this injunction but failed to pass the information along to deputies.Evidence that sheriff's officials did not disclose all required information in pretrial proceedings, including deputies' audio-recording devices.Arpaio's attorneys used several points to affirm this allegation, noting that some deputies had been issued recording devices as a matter of policy.They also admitted that the human-smuggling unit actually maintained a catalog of DVDs containing the recording of deputy traffic Continue Reading

Of Presidents, power and the press

Dropboxes. Disposable cell phones. Encryption technology. Is this what American journalism has come to? James Goodale, the former New York Times general counsel who ran the Pentagon Papers case in 1971, says that the Justice Department’s secret seizure of reporters’ phone and email records and its use of official press passes to track reporters’ movements in government buildings make President Obama’s record on press freedom worse than President Richard Nixon’s. But we live in a very different, far more dangerous time than the America of Watergate. Protecting the nation post-9/11, when the world’s worst people seek to obtain the world’s worst weapons, means taking aggressive measures. The fact that terrorists have not succeeded in staging a WMD strike does not mean they have given up trying. And blowing the cover of agents and other sources, even inadvertently, who have infiltrated Al Qaeda in Yemen or brutal regimes undermines our national security. Obama is right to be alarmed by that danger and, yes, to rely on some of the same methods invoked by his predecessors, to keep Americans secure. There may also be a long-term need to recalibrate the balance between freedom of the press and national security in such a world. But a secret war on journalism is the wrong approach. This needs to be done with eyes wide open, with a robust public and legal debate about executive power and its consequences. On its face, the Justice Department’s seizure of months of records across 20 Associated Press phone lines was an overreach. The AP, after all, had delayed publishing the story in question for five days at the government’s request to avoid endangering national security. Even worse, it now appears, is the department’s argument that Fox News reporter James Rosen was “aiding and abetting” the violation of the Espionage Act of 1917 by “soliciting” news. That led to the department Continue Reading

Editorial: Lafayette City Marshal should be ashamed of his actions

Lafayette City Marshal Brian Pope’s demonstrated contempt of court in 15th Judicial District Court and consequent punishment for violating the state’s public records law marked not a sad day for local voters and taxpayers but a good one.Judge Jules Edwards’ ruling provides ready evidence that no citizen is above the law, even if he or she carries a badge and gun.Edwards said Pope willfully violated the state’s public records law.Pope, who has said he would appeal the ruling, was booked into the Lafayette Parish Correctional Center on Monday and released on bond.Pope should be embarrassed for his actions.Edwards rightly ruled that the marshal, elected in 2014, had denied The Independent access to emails concerning the 2015 sheriff’s race that they had requested from his government email account and to which they were lawfully entitled.Nor did Pope respond in timely fashion to the newspaper’s request, waiting 173 days for what should be been turned over immediately.Don’t mistake this for a simple beef between a newspaper and an obstinate government official.The emails concerned a serious charge that Pope had leveled against a sheriff’s office candidate, a groundless accusation later proved untrue.Had Pope responded in timely fashion, voters would have had a clearer picture — before the election — of the political slime in which Pope was swimming while using the City Marshal’s Office equipment. MUST-READ: Taxpayers could be on the line for marshal's $10K public records fineThere’s a pattern to Pope’s actions and his cavalier attitude toward state law.After his own 2014 election, Pope was fined for filing his campaign finance report late, according to the Louisiana Ethics Administration. He also filed his personal financial disclosure documents late, months after they were due and only after a subpoena had been issued.In seeking election to his own office, Pope told voters the Continue Reading

Criminal contempt trial of former Sheriff Joe Arpaio set to open

Joe Arpaio — the man, not the lawman — is the defendant in a federal criminal trial scheduled to begin in Phoenix on Monday.Unlike before, efforts by his attorneys to delay, dismiss or otherwise adjust the trial this time around have not been successful so far.The court proceeding is scheduled to last for two weeks, with prosecutors from the U.S. Department of Justice’s Public Integrity Section.The former Maricopa County sheriff is accused of defying a federal judge's orders that barred Arpaio from enforcing federal immigration law.The alleged criminal contempt of court happened over a period of 18 months in 2012 and 2013, when Arpaio was still in office.Arpaio already has been found in civil contempt for the same case. Under the law, the difference between civil and criminal contempt is intent — whether the defendant willfully or unintentionally violated a judge’s order.Defense attorneys are pursuing a bold strategy: They will argue that U.S. District Judge Murray Snow’s initial order was invalid, or at the very least unclear, and Arpaio is therefore blameless.“He’s being prosecuted for doing something that the federal government has always told (local law enforcement) to do,” said Jack Wilenchik, one of Arpaio’s attorneys. “It’s an assault on logic to say that local law enforcement cannot even cooperate with federal authorities, if that’s what federal law enforcement wants you to do.”Defense attorneys are sticking to this tack despite earlier futile efforts to further the narrative.Arpaio's attorneys have repeatedly sought a jury trial, presuming that an audience without legal acumen would be more likely to sway in their favor.And they've tried to subpoena U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who would offer testimony on current federal immigration-policing policies. Though a judge hasn't explicitly ruled against this, legal experts say he's unlikely to show.  Prosecutors Continue Reading

Allhands: Why aren’t heads rolling at DCS after contempt ruling?

Why aren't heads rolling for this?A boy was removed from his mother's care. The court ordered services to help the child.The Department of Child Services caseworker was aware of the orders and had the ability to fulfill them. But it took months for anything to happen. RELATED: 4 fixes for Arizona's broken child-welfare systemMeanwhile, the mother -- who had done what the court had asked her to do -- was twice barred from seeing her kid, making a traumatic situation for the child even worse.That honked off Juvenile Court Judge Karen O'Connor enough to take the rare step of holding DCS in contempt of court.Not just the caseworker. The entire agency.Obviously, DCS disagrees with the ruling. The agency points out that the child eventually received the services he needed. And DCS put measures in place to stop this sort of thing from happening again.But that doesn't diminish the weight of the ruling. O'Connor is basically saying that the entire agency ignored its duty to protect kids. It failed to do its job.Yet DCS is receiving a slap on the wrist: Additional monitoring of the case and more employee training on how to quickly provide services for the children in its care. If the agency fails to have the training program in place by Nov. 1, it'll face a $9,000 fine. EDITORIAL: Replace Greg McKay now (for the kids)I know. No one wants to hit the battered agency too hard as it works to turn itself around. Despite additional funding and a slate of reforms, DCS is still struggling to handle its heavy caseload and follow up on the thousands of cases it never investigated a few years ago.I agree, to a point. Heavy financial sanctions just take money away from the kids who need it. And employee turnover is already a problem. Demonizing caseworkers who are overworked, underpaid and highly underappreciated doesn't help.Still, it seems like if a judge thinks things are bad enough to hold Continue Reading

‘Chicago 1968’ the most controversial convention of them all

When Chicago Mayor Richard Daley realized that sizable dissident groups planned to mount highly visible demonstrations against the Vietnam War outside and around Chicago's Democratic presidential nominating convention in 1968, one imagines that a polite paraphrase of his response would be, "We don't need this." Which is exactly how the protesters felt about the war, along with other policies of Daley's Democratic Party that they considered insufficiently progressive. The result has come to be known in near-universal shorthand as "Chicago 1968," a political convention that barreled off the rails to become as tumultuous and unsettling as the year in which it took place. CLICK TO SEE IMAGES FROM THE 1968 CHICAGO DEMOCRATIC CONVENTION. In a way, the 1968 exchange of accusations and insults was not much different from the one that always has and still does take place daily in a country that at least theoretically embraces free speech. Flip on any cable news channel or talk-radio show today, and you'll hear someone telling you why someone else is a dangerous idiot. The difference in 1968 was that each side took it to the streets, sparking the kind of bloody physical showdown that a generation later would be more associated with Serbia or Somalia. Not to our credit, images of violent domestic confrontation were common on American television screens through the 1960s, a decade that began with vicious beatings of peaceful civil-rights demonstrators and later grew into urban riots and rebellion. Even in that context, though, what happened at the Democratic convention 40 years ago was intense enough to stop everything. As Democrats gathered inside the International Amphitheater to nominate Minnesota Sen. Hubert H. Humphrey for President and endorse most of the legacy of outgoing President Lyndon B. Johnson, demonstrators outside sought to draw attention by any means possible to their criticism of Johnson's Vietnam War. The demonstrators never Continue Reading

Sheriff Joe Arpaio officially charged with criminal contempt

PHOENIX — With a federal judge's signature on a proposed order initially submitted by prosecutors Oct. 17, the deal is sealed: Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio is criminally charged with federal contempt of court.A trial has tentatively set for Dec. 6 in U.S. District Court in Phoenix.Since early 2015, criminal-contempt charges have loomed over Arpaio, the potential consequence for violating a federal judge’s order to stop enforcing civil immigration laws.The threat of criminal prosecution became increasingly likely after a prolonged series of hearings last year. A federal judge’s finding of civil contempt came in May 2016, followed by his referral for criminal prosecution in August, followed by the Department of Justice’s announcement on Oct. 11 that its attorneys would, in fact, prosecute the six-term lawman.In signing the agreement Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Susan Bolton agreed that a maximum penalty of six months in jail would be appropriate for the 84-year-old sheriff if he is convicted.In past statements, Arpaio had assailed a criminal-contempt charge as a politically motivated plot to derail his chances at re-election.The charges are rooted in a 9-year-old racial-profiling case against the Sheriff's Office. Plaintiffs including the American Civil Liberties Union alleged that the sheriff’s signature immigration patrols violated Latinos’ constitutional rights.In December 2011, months before the trial was to begin, U.S. District Judge G. Murray Snow issued a preliminary injunction over the Sheriff's Office. The order banned deputies from detaining anyone solely on suspicion they were undocumented immigrants, and without cause to believe a crime had been committed.Arpaio’s attorney boiled the order into simpler terms: “Arrest or release,” he told his client at the time.In May 2013, Snow officially determined the office had racially profiled Latinos. The following months would introduce Continue Reading