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Updated Jan 27, 2014 - 3:32 pm

Maricopa County sheriff lawsuits costing taxpayers millions

PHOENIX — Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio has made a name for himself
on the national political stage with his crackdowns on illegal immigration and
tough jail policies.

But his efforts have also have cost Maricopa County tens of millions of dollars
in court cases. Several people who were the target of Arpaio’s investigations
have sued the county and walked away with large checks.

On Monday, records released by county officials show a four-year political feud
with county officials in which Arpaio was a central player has cost taxpayers
$38 million.

The following is look at some of Arpaio’s legal costs over his 21-year tenure
as sheriff.

Official charged: $3.5 million

Maricopa County taxpayers paid former Supervisor Don Stapley $3.5 million to
settle his abuse-of-power lawsuit against Arpaio. Stapley’s lawsuit arose out of
two failed criminal cases brought against him by the sheriff and an Arpaio ally
who was then the county’s top prosecutor. Both criminal cases collapsed in
court, without either case ever going to trial. Stapley contended that he had
been wrongfully targeted, while Arpaio and his ally maintained they were trying
to root out corruption in county government.

Police dog’s death: $775,000

The county agreed to pay $775,000 to settle a lawsuit that alleged Arpaio
violated Chandler police Sgt. Tom Lovejoy’s rights by arresting him on an
animal-abuse charge after the officer’s police dog died from excessive heat in
August 2007 after being left in a hot police vehicle for 12 hours. Lovejoy was
acquitted of the misdemeanor charge and accused Arpaio of trumping up the
criminal case so the sheriff could exploit the publicity. The sheriff argued
the arrest was constitutional because investigators had probable cause to arrest
Lovejoy.

Racial profiling: $21 million

Arpaio’s office estimates that it will cost taxpayers more than $21 million
over the next 18 months to pay for changes required by a judge who found the
agency had systematically racially profiled Latinos in patrols. The compliance
costs including hiring a court-appointed official to monitor the agency’s
operations, installing video cameras in hundreds of the agency’s patrol vehicles
and carrying out additional training to ensure officers aren’t making
unconstitutional arrests. Arpaio has said he doesn’t regret getting involved in
immigration enforcement and is appealing the judge’s racial-profiling ruling. He
has asked the federal government to pick up the compliance tab.

Jail death: $3.2 million

The county paid $3.2 million to settle a lawsuit by a diabetic woman’s family
members who alleged she was denied medical treatment while incarcerated in one
Arpaio’s jails. Deborah Ann Braillard was brought to the jail in January 2005
and died more than two weeks later at a hospital. The lawsuit alleged that
detention officers and health workers within the jail system knew of her
condition but did nothing to treat her. Braillard received no insulin or a
diabetic diet after she was brought in the jail system and was found face-down
her cell after her daughter called the jail. She died 18 days after she was
taken to hospital, the lawsuit said. Lawyers for the county said Braillard
failed to advise the jail of her condition and denied that she complained about
her condition.

Restraint chair death: $8.25 million

The county and its excess insurance carrier shared the costs of an $8.25
million settlement in a wrongful-death lawsuit filed the family of a man who
died in 1996 during a struggle with detention officers who forced him into a
restraint chair and pushed his head into his chest. A medical examiner ruled
that Scott Norberg died accidentally by “positional asphyxia.” The lawsuit
alleged that Arpaio’s officers suffocated Norberg and the medical examiner’s
office covered up evidence of a beating. Federal investigators dropped their
investigation of Norberg’s death, saying the evidence is consistent with the
opinion of medical examiner. Arpaio said he was confident his officers didn’t do
anything wrong and that he believes the Justice Department’s decision exonerated
his officers.

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