Feds threaten to sue Arizona sheriff

Liz Goodwin

Just weeks after a judge ruled in favor of the Justice Department's challenge to Arizona's immigration law, another showdown between the federal government and the Southwestern state is brewing.

The Department of Justice is threatening to sue Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio — known among his admirers as  "the toughest sheriff in America" and tagged as ruthless and corrupt by his detractors — if he does not cooperate with the feds' year-long civil rights investigation into his police practices.

Arpaio is already the target of another federal inquiry into whether he misappropriated funds and intimidated political opponents, the Washington Post reports. The civil rights department of the Department of Justice, meanwhile, is looking into whether he subjected Hispanics to unlawful search and seizure while conducting crime sweeps in Hispanic neighborhoods. Federal prosecutors are also investigating his "English-only" policy in jails, the Arizona Daily Star reports, which they say may have left Spanish-speaking inmates without access to services.

Arpaio's attorneys told the Post they have been cooperative with the investigation, and contend that the charges against the sheriff are baseless. The ant-illegal-immigration movement in the state has adopted Arpaio as one of its leading spokesmen.

Some Maricopa County officials are worried they may lose millions of dollars in federal funds if the impasse is not resolved.

(Photo: AP)