PHOENIX (AP) — In an angry rebuke, a judge on Friday ordered the U.S. Marshals Service to seize a collection of records from Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s office and leveled harsh criticism at the sheriff’s lawyers for failing to turn over documents that had been requested months ago in a racial profiling case.
U.S. District Judge Murray Snow’s criticism centered on the agency’s failure to hand over more than 1,400 identification documents in a related investigation into allegations that deputies pocketed items during busts.
The judge also focused on the agency’s refusal to turn over 50 hard drives from Arpaio’s secret investigation involving the judge.
Arpaio attorney John Masterson said an official who is monitoring the sheriff’s office on behalf of Snow had resorted to threatening to have a court hearing called in a bid to get the records turned over.
“I am sorry your feelings are hurt, but we need to resolve this matter,” Snow told Masterson at an emergency hearing Friday.
Robert Warshaw, the official monitoring the sheriff’s office for the judge, said he learned the ID documents were slated for destruction and that there was an order at the sheriff’s office that the existence of the ID records shouldn’t be voluntarily revealed.
The court monitor said the unit of the sheriff’s office that stores evidence is a lockbox for keeping unflattering documents from public or court scrutiny.
Arpaio didn’t attend the hearing. The sheriff’s office declined to comment on Warshaw’s comments, saying only that the truth of the matter will be revealed in the future.
Warshaw is examining allegations that members of Arpaio’s immigration smuggling squad and other deputies regularly pocketed items from people during traffic stops and busts of safe houses used during smuggling. The judge has complained that Arpaio’s office is conducting inadequate internal investigations of officer misconduct.
The 1,400 ID records were turned in by a sheriff’s sergeant who claims he had them to help teach a class on fraudulent identification, Warshaw said, noting the sergeant never in fact conducted such training.
Warshaw said he tried to find out who at the sheriff’s office issued the order not to voluntarily reveal the IDs but was told that information was protected by attorney-client privilege.
“We did not lie to the monitor or keep that from the monitor,” said Arpaio attorney Michele Iafrate.
The court monitor also is examining Arpaio’s secret investigation involving the judge, who dealt Arpaio one of his toughest legal defeats in 2013 when he concluded deputies had racially profiled Latinos.
Snow has said the investigation was intended to show an alleged conspiracy between him and federal authorities who are pressing a separate civil rights lawsuit against the sheriff.
Arpaio, who in the past has been accused of retaliating against his critics, insists there were no investigations of Snow.
At Friday’s hearing, the judge said the sheriff’s office had handed over only one hard drive related to the secret investigation, but the agency must turn over an additional 50 hard drives that were being kept in the sheriff’s evidence-storage office.
Masterson said there was no evidence to show that the hard drives are relevant to the profiling case.
It isn’t the first time Arpaio’s office has been accused of withholding documents in the profiling case.
Earlier this year, Arpaio acknowledged a contempt-of-court violation in failing to hand over traffic-stop recordings that had been requested before the 2012 trial.
Five years ago, the agency acknowledged that its officers had deleted emails on the sheriff’s immigration patrols and destroyed officers’ records of traffic stops.
Arpaio initially failed — but was eventually forced — to turn over his own personal immigration file that included letters from supporters who sought crackdowns on day laborers.