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Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio Admits To Illegally Detaining People Despite Court Order

The self-proclaimed “toughest sheriff in America” admitted to violating a court order to stop detaining people suspected of being in the country illegally. The admission comes a month before a hearing that could disclose details of his department.

Last updated on March 19, 2015, at 1:08 p.m. ET

Posted on March 19, 2015, at 12:06 p.m. ET

Ross D. Franklin / AP

Joe Arpaio – Arizona’s self-fashioned “toughest sheriff in America" – and his chief deputy admitted they violated a court order to stop detaining people suspected of being in the country illegally.

The admission, filed in federal court Tuesday by Arapio and his lawyers, comes a month before Arpaio and Chief Deputy Jerry Sheridan were scheduled to appear in court for an evidentiary hearing that could disclose the inner workings of the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office.

The motion to vacate the hearing said "a 4-day evidentiary hearing, which would cost the county taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars, and which would consume significant time of the Court is, unnecessary."

In the court documents filed Tuesday, Arpaio offered to work on creating a $350,000 fund to pay at least five people who were held in violation of the Dec. 2011 injunction.

In the filing, Arpaio also offered to publicly acknowledged that he violated the court's orders and make a personal $100,000 payment to a Latino civil rights organization based in Maricopa County.

U.S. District Judge Murray Snow will have to decide whether to call off the hearings scheduled for April 21 to April 24. Last year, Snow found that Apraio and his sheriff's department racially profiled Latinos.

The hearings are expected to focus on the department's failure to adhere to the injunction and the apparent failure to turn over audio recordings of arrests or detainments.

Evidence of recordings that could be used to prove the department violated the inunction first surfaced last year when Arpaio and the department told the court they found numerous video recordings of traffic stops at the home of former deputy Ramon Charley Armendariz, who appeared to have committed suicide. Some of the footage depicted what the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office described as "problematic activity," according to court documents.

It was also revealed that Arpaio and the rest of the defendants never disclosed to the plaintiff's lawyers, despite their asking, that some – if not most – deputies had audio-recording devices.

As a result, the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office was ordered to collect all of the recordings. An email went out to the department's commanders asking them to "simply gather" all of them, though Snow expressed concern that the message could've prompted deputies to destroy them.

Thomas P. Liddy, one of the attorneys representing Arpaio and the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office, said the sheriff didn't admit to violating the court order to avoid exposing potentially embarrassing details about the department during the evidentiary hearings.

"He admitted to violating the injunction because he found evidence the injunction was violated," Liddy told BuzzFeed News, referring to the recordings found inside Armendariz's home.

Liddy said Arpaio and the department would be happy to comply with court and ensure that "everyone's constitutional rights are fully protected."