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Ruling: Sheriff profiles Latinos

| Friday, May 24, 2013, 8:51 p.m.
FILE - In this Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2012 file photo, Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio speaks to a crowd at a hotel in Phoenix. Arpaio plans to return to work Monday, March 18, 2013, after spending more than two weeks recuperating from a broken shoulder suffered when he fell while crossing a street on his way to lunch. (AP Photo/Matt York, File)

PHOENIX — A federal judge ruled on Friday that the office of America's self-proclaimed toughest sheriff systematically singled out Latinos in its trademark immigration patrols — marking the first finding by a court that the agency racially profiles people.

The 142-page decision by U.S. District Judge Murray Snow in Phoenix said Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio's deputies unreasonably prolonged the detentions of people pulled over.

A small group of Latinos alleged in a lawsuit that Arpaio's deputies pulled over some vehicles only to make immigration-status checks. The group asked Snow to issue injunctions barring the sheriff's office from discriminatory policing; the judge ruled that more remedies could be ordered.

Arpaio won't face jail time or fines.

The Latino group, which said it wasn't seeking monetary damages but rather a declaration that Arpaio's office racially profiles, accused the sheriff of ordering some immigration patrols — not based on reports of crime but rather on letters and emails from Arizonans who complained about people with dark skin congregating in an area or speaking Spanish.

The group's attorneys pointed out that Arpaio sent thank-you notes to some people who wrote the complaints.

The sheriff repeatedly denied the allegations, saying his deputies stop people only when they think a crime has been committed.

Snow set a hearing for June 14, when he will hear from the two sides on how to make sure the orders in the ruling are enforced.

“It's a great day for all the people of Maricopa County,” said Cecillia D. Wang, director of the ACLU Immigrants' Right Project. “For too long, the sheriff has been victimizing the people he's meant to serve with his discriminatory policy. Today we're seeing justice for everyone in the county.”

Tim Casey, Arpaio's lead attorney, declined comment until after reading Snow's decision.

Arapio, who will be 81 next month, was elected in November to his sixth consecutive term as sheriff in Arizona's most populous county, which includes Phoenix.

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