/ Modified sep 24, 2015 8:59 a.m.

Arpaio Contempt Hearing Over Latino Profiling Resumes

Sheriff, several of his top officers face federal sanctions, possibility of criminal charges.

Joe Arpaio spot Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio.

By Jude Joffe-Block, Fronteras Desk

PHOENIX — Five months after the first round of civil contempt of court hearings against Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio concluded in April, the proceedings will resume again on Thursday.

Arpaio and four others face civil contempt of court for violating U.S. District Court Judge Murray Snow’s orders in a long-standing racial profiling case. The sheriff and his chief deputy already admitted they violated court orders and can be held in contempt.

Snow will decide at the end of these hearings whether the sheriff and his staff disobeyed court orders intentionally or unwittingly, and what remedies — such as civil fines and additional oversight — are necessary. The judge will also decide whether to refer the case to a federal prosecutor to pursue criminal contempt charges against the sheriff and others.

The April proceedings lasted four days and yielded a major surprise when Arpaio confirmed from the stand that he had launched two secret investigations that seemingly related to Snow.

The five-month intermission period since April has also been plenty dramatic.

First the sheriff’s office was forced to turn over records relating to the investigation performed by a confidential informant in Seattle named Dennis Montgomery. Some of those documents may suggest one of Montgomery’s projects was to link Snow in an alleged anti-Arpaio conspiracy with the U.S. Department of Justice and plaintiffs’ lawyers.

Then the sheriff’s lawyers attempted to get Snow to recuse himself from the case, but Snow refused and a federal appeals court sided with the judge.

Tensions escalated in recent months as the sheriff’s office failed to turn over records. When it came out in July that the sheriff’s office had withheld several Montgomery hard drives and other evidence, Snow ordered the U.S. Marshals to go to the sheriff’s office and take the records into the court’s custody.

The DOJ civil rights lawyers who sued the sheriff for discriminating against Latinos in 2012 formally joined this case as intervenors in August and settled their own suit. And as a sign of just how strange this case has become, a separate team from the DOJ is reviewing one of the hard drives Montgomery gave the sheriff’s office since testimony in April alleged Montgomery had claimed to have taken records from the CIA.

This round of hearings is expected to run until Oct. 2, but the parties have also reserved several dates in October and November for additional hearing dates.

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