Key figures in racial profiling lawsuit in Ariz.
Key figures in a class-action lawsuit that alleges that an Arizona sheriff's office has racially profiled Latinos in its immigration patrols:
ARPAIO: Sheriff Joe Arpaio has aggressively pursued local immigration enforcement. The sheriff has been accused of launching some immigration patrols based on letters from people who complained about people with dark skin congregating in a given area or speaking Spanish but never reporting an actual crime. Arpaio denies the racial profiling allegations, remains popular with voters and has raised $4 million for his November re-election campaign.
SNOW: The racial profiling lawsuit will be decided by U.S. District Judge Murray Snow, not a jury. In December, Snow barred Arpaio's deputies who are enforcing Arizona's 2005 immigrant smuggling law from detaining people based solely on the suspicion that they're illegal immigrants. Although Snow hasn't yet ruled on the ultimate question of racial profiling, he noted that the case's evidence could lead a reasonable trier of fact to conclude that Arpaio's office racially profiles Latinos.
ORTEGA-MELENDRES: Manuel de Jesus Ortega-Melendres, a citizen of Mexico who had a U.S. tourist visa, and two other men got into a truck during September 2007 in the parking lot of a church where day laborers congregated and where deputies were posing as day laborers. Another officer was called in to find probable cause to pull over the truck, whose driver was traveling 34 mph in a 25-mph zone. Once the truck was stopped, the deputy said he suspected the passengers were in the country illegally. Ortega-Melendres handed over his visa. The driver was let go with a warning, but Ortega-Melendres and the other passengers were detained. In the end, Ortega-Melendres was held for about eight hours and released once he was finally examined by a federal immigration agent. Snow concluded that the stop was justified, but also said the deputy didn't have reasonable suspicion that Ortega-Melendres and the other passengers were committing crimes.
RODRIGUEZES: Jessika and David Rodriguez were stopped by a deputy in December 2007 while driving on a closed road. The deputy, who had stopped other motorists and turned them over to forest rangers, ticketed David Rodriguez. The Rodriguezes said other drivers were let off with only a warning. The judge found the deputy had probable cause to pull over the Rodriguezes because they were traveling on a closed road — and had signs saying so. Both sides disagree over whether the deputy had asked David Rodriguez for his Social Security card.
NIETO AND MERAZ: Manuel Nieto and Velia Meraz were pulled over by deputies while Arpaio's office was conducting a special operation in north Phoenix during March 2008. Their encounter with deputies began when they drove to a convenience store where a deputy was standing next to a vehicle that he had pulled over. The deputy ordered Nieto and Meraz to leave and called for backup. Nieto and Meraz left the convenience store. The backup officers began pursuing Nieto and Meraz, who were stopped in a nearby auto repair shop owned by Nieto's father. Nieto was removed from the vehicle, handcuffed while his ID was checked and released without being charged. Many key details in the encounters between the deputies and Nieto and Meraz are in dispute, such as the behavior of Nieto and Meraz when they pulled at the store, the nature of the stop in which Nieto was handcuffed and Nieto's behavior before he was removed from the vehicle.