Jerry Sheridan, center, exits the Sandra Day O’Connor federal courthouse in downtown Phoenix and is surrounded by media and protesters. Photo via Facebook
Jerry Sheridan, who served as Joe Arpaio’s chief deputy and faced civil contempt of court charges alongside his boss in a long-running racial profiling lawsuit, is running for Maricopa County sheriff in 2020.
Sheridan, a Republican, filed to run for sheriff earlier this month. He is running to defeat Sheriff Paul Penzone, the Democrat who defeated Arpaio in 2016, ending his 24-year run as Maricopa County’s top law enforcement official.
A federal judge in 2016 found Sheridan, Arpaio and another top aide from the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office to be in civil contempt of court – the judge later found Arpaio to be in criminal contempt, which President Donald Trump pardoned him for – for ignoring a preliminary injunction ordering them to halt patrols aimed at apprehending illegal immigrants. U.S. District Court Judge Murray Snow found that Sheridan “knowingly and intentionally” failed to implement the injunction, and that he made misstatements under oath. Sheridan unsuccessfully appealed the contempt findings.
Sheridan told Arizona Mirror that he’s innocent of the allegations that Snow levelled against him, reiterating arguments he’s made for years. He said he never opened an email from the sheriff’s office’s attorney informing him of the preliminary injunction, adding that he wasn’t the primary recipient and was only cc’d on the email. And he said he didn’t read the next day’s edition of The Arizona Republic, which had a story about the injunction on its front page.
Despite the fact that he was the office’s second-in-command, Sheridan said he was simply unaware that Snow had issued the injunction. At the time, he said, he didn’t even know what a preliminary injunction was. He noted that an executive chief was responsible for overseeing issues related to the lawsuit. Meanwhile, Sheridan said he was busy dealing with a number of other major issues, including a separate lawsuit filed by the U.S. Department of Justice, the running of the county jail system, and the death of a deputy in a shooting in Anthem.
“I was quite angry. I still am,” Sheridan said of Snow’s findings. “I felt and I do feel still to this day, because my integrity in 38 years has never been questioned, except by the ACLU and Judge Snow.”
Sheridan acknowledged that contempt ruling and the findings in the underlying case that MCSO profiled Latinos and willfully disobeyed the court’s order will make his campaign more difficult. But he said he believes he can still win, and wouldn’t be running otherwise.
“I’ve been through hell and back the last six years of my career,” Sheridan said. “For me to want to leave retirement and subject myself to these questions all over again, and the scrutiny that is going to be shed upon me – I’m sure all the negative arrows and rocks that are going to be thrown at me by my opposition – I’d have to be crazy if those words from Murray Snow had any truth to them at all.”
The Arizona Peace Officer Standards and Training Board has yet to vote on whether to initiate disciplinary proceedings against Sheridan, which could lead to the suspension or revocation of his law enforcement certification. The board tabled a decision on the matter in January after several members recused themselves from the vote.
Sheridan said he doesn’t believe AZPOST proceedings will be a problem. His law enforcement certification will expire at the end of 2019 because he will have been inactive for three years. And even if the board can get a quorum to decide his case, which he said he doubts because he served on the board with many of its members, the case would likely drag on past the end of the year.
Sheridan emphasized his credentials for the job. He spent 38 years with MCSO, starting as a reserve deputy when he was 18 years old, later overseeing the jail system that comprises the bulk of the agency’s work and eventually rising to chief deputy. He pointed out that has a master’s degree in organizational management, a bachelor’s degree in public safety administration, an associate’s degree in administration of justice, and was a certified jail manager.
“Nobody has the experience that I do to run the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office,” Sheridan said.
Sheridan also said he wanted to finish the work he started before leaving the Sheriff’s Office. He said the system that MCSO set up on Snow’s orders to track data on all stop made by Maricopa County deputies has problems that lead to deputies unfairly being labeled as having racial bias, something he wants to correct.
Penzone defended his record as sheriff. In a statement provided by his campaign, the sheriff said he’s spent his first two years in office working to balance MCSO’s budget, establish new programs like his fugitive apprehension task force, build a new animal safe haven center, comply with federal court order, “and above all else, restore integrity and transparency to the Sheriff’s Office to earn the trust of Maricopa County citizens.”
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