Arpaio's Deputy Kept Stash Of Traffic Stop Videos At Home

By Jude Joffe-Block
May 16, 2014
Maricopa County Sheriff's Office
Booking photo of Ramon Charley Armendariz from his May 5, 2014 arrest.

PHOENIX — A Maricopa County Sheriff's deputy who recently died in an apparent suicide was also hoarding hundreds of hours of traffic-stop footage at his home, new evidence showed.

Those recordings might prove relevant in the racial-profiling case against Sheriff Joe Arpaio and his office.

Days before Deputy Ramon Charley Armendariz’s apparent suicide, he was arrested on drug and weapons charges. A search of his home revealed what appeared to be MCSO criminal evidence that wasn't processed properly, including hundreds of license plates and IDs.

Now it has come out that the search also turned up video footage of Armendariz's own traffic stops.

Tom Liddy, an attorney for the sheriff's office, said some senior people at the agency didn’t know Armendariz was recording his stops. 

"It is never going to be appropriate protocol to take that video and store it in a deputy's garage," Liddy said. 

Attorneys on both sides of the class-action racial profiling case against Arpaio said this footage may have been relevant in that case. Armendariz testified in the 2012 trial, since a traffic stop he did as part of the agency's Human Smuggling Unit was scrutinized by the court.

"It may very well be evidence to show that the Human Smuggling Unit did not ever use race in determining whom to pull over," Liddy said. "It may be helpful to the sheriff."

But Liddy also said some of the videos reviewed so far show Armendariz acting unprofessionally. He said the discovered footage could include recordings of over a thousand of the deceased deputy's traffic stops. 

MCSO alerted a court-appointed monitor to the discvery of the recordings. It was the topic of a closed-door hearing Wednesday with the judge presiding over the racial profiling case.

"That [Armendariz's behavior] went on this long and was only discovered accidentally indicates that there is such a laissez faire attitude in that department, and always was," said Dan Pochoda, an attorney from the American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona, which represents plaintiffs in that case.

Originally court proceedings related to the video footage were kept under seal because of MCSO's criminal investigation of Armendariz, Liddy said. That meant that reporters were forced to leave a court hearing on Wednesday.

On Friday, Judge Murray Snow unsealed transcripts and documents related to the issue.

Liddy said Armendariz's death was one reason why it was no longer necessary for the matter to proceed under seal. 

Snow has ordered MCSO to share the video footage with the U.S. Attorney and the County Attorney in case those agencies want to investigate as well.

He has also ordered MCSO to investigate whether other deputies were filming traffic stops and where that footage is stored. The agency must report its findings to the court-appointed monitor.

Arpaio is appealing Snow's order in the racial profiling case, but attorneys say the new information will delay the parties' briefs to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.