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Maricopa County opposes more time to find victims of Arpaio detentions

(AP Photo)

PHOENIX — Maricopa County is opposing a request to give Latinos six more months to apply for taxpayer-funded compensation after they were illegally detained when then-Sheriff Joe Arpaio defied a 2011 court order.

The one-year period for filing claims is scheduled to end Dec. 3, but immigrant rights advocates say more time is needed to locate those who were illegally detained when Arpaio defied the order to stop his traffic patrols that targeted immigrants. Two years ago, a judge presiding over a racial profiling lawsuit targeting Arpaio’s immigration patrols had ordered the county to create a $500,000 compensation fund as a remedy for the sheriff’s acknowledged disobedience.

Earlier this week, the county said in court records that the attorneys who filed the profiling case had originally suggested the one-year application period and are now trying to rewrite the terms of the compensating plan. The county’s lawyers said it’s unclear whether more people will file claims even if the judge agrees to a six-month extension. “A deal is a deal,” wrote Richard Walker, an attorney representing the county.

In the past, lawyers who filed the profiling lawsuit had said at least 190 people were detained in violation of the order. But with three weeks left in the application period, far fewer people than expected are filing claims, because of the difficulty of locating victims.

Of the 93 people who filed applications, only one claim totaling $1,095 has been paid. Twelves other claims are considered payable, but are awaiting a rebuttal from the sheriff’s office, according to county records.

Lawyers for Arpaio’s successor, Sheriff Paul Penzone, said in court records that their client takes no position on extending the application period.

Arpaio, who was accused of prolonging the patrols to boost his successful 2012 re-election campaign, was later convicted of criminal contempt of court for violating the 2011 order. A pardon by President Donald Trump spared Arpaio, who lost the 2016 sheriff’s race, a possible jail sentence.

While the pardon led to the dismissal of Arpaio’s criminal case, taxpayers in metro Phoenix remain on the hook for compensation for the illegal detentions in the patrols between late December 2011 and May 2013.

Under the compensation fund, Maricopa County will pay $500 for the first hour of a person’s illegal detention and $35 for each additional 20-minute increment.

A $10,000 cap was imposed on such compensation, but victims can also seek money for other injuries resulting from the illegal detentions such as lost wages and emotional distress.

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