PHOENIX — Latinos who were illegally detained when then-Sheriff Joe Arpaio disobeyed a 2011 court order barring his immigration patrols can now seek compensation from the government.
The federal judge who barred Arpaio's traffic patrols that targeted immigrants had ordered the creation of a taxpayer-funded compensation system in August 2016 for the illegal detentions. The one-year application period for seeking compensation began on Friday.
Arpaio was convicted of criminal contempt of court for prolonging the patrols for 17 months after U.S. District Judge Murray Snow had ordered them stopped. President Donald Trump spared Arpaio a possible jail sentence three months ago when he pardoned the 85-year-old retired sheriff.
While the pardon led to the dismissal of Arpaio's criminal case, taxpayers are still on the hook for compensating those who were illegally detained in the patrols between late December 2011 and late May 2013.
Under the compensation system, Maricopa County will pay $500 for the first hour of a person's illegal detention and $35 for each additional 20-minute increment.
A $10,000 cap was imposed on such compensation, but the judge said the victims can also seek money for other injuries resulting from the illegal detentions such as lost wages and emotional distress.
County officials have set aside $1 million to cover the compensation costs.
The lawyers who pressed the case against Arpaio have searched for victims by getting help from foreign consulates, watching traffic-stop videos and poring over arrest and other police records. They say at least 190 people were detained in violation of the order.
An advertising campaign is expected to be launched in a bid to locate victims.
The order to stop the patrols was made in a racial profiling case that focused on Arpaio's immigration patrols and ended with the judge concluding the sheriff's officers had singled out Latinos.
The compensation costs are small piece of the overall taxpayer costs of the profile case. Those costs are expected to reach $92 million by next summer.