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Arpaio lawyers seek to have citizen letters, complaints kept from lawsuit proceedings

In this July 30, 2010 photo, Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio speaks to media in Phoenix. In an ad that aired during the recent GOP debate, the GOP faithful were told that Sheriff Arpaio was an ineffective cop whose office failed to adequately investigate hundreds of sex-crimes cases. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin, File)

Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s lawyers filed motions in federal court Friday to exclude some citizen letters and complaints in a racial profiling lawsuit brought against his office.

The five-page filing in U.S. District Court in Phoenix seeks to exclude “the admission into evidence of racially or ethnically discriminatory or insensitive citizens’ letters and complaints sent to defendants.”

Arpaio’s attorneys say the letters “contain hearsay” and should be deemed inadmissible by the court.

A call to the American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona, one of the groups representing people who filed the suit, wasn’t immediately returned Friday.

A lawsuit by a handful of Latinos alleges that Arpaio’s officers based some traffic stops on the race of Hispanics in vehicles, had no probable cause to pull them over and made the stops so they could inquire about their immigration status.

Arpaio has denied the racial profiling allegations, saying people pulled over in the patrols were approached because deputies had probable cause to believe they had committed crimes and it was only afterward that deputies found many of them were illegal immigrants.

During his immigration patrols known as “sweeps,” deputies flood an area of a city — in some cases, heavily Latino areas — over several days to seek out traffic violators and arrest other offenders. Illegal immigrants accounted for 57 percent of the 1,500 people arrested in the 20 sweeps conducted by his office since January 2008.

Separate from the lawsuit, the U.S. Justice Department has accused Arpaio’s office of racially profiling Latinos, basing immigration enforcement on racially charged citizen complaints and punishing Hispanic jail inmates for speaking Spanish.

The sheriff’s office said it doesn’t discriminate against Latinos and is negotiating to resolve the allegations. But the office says it is prepared to go to court if the Justice Department files a lawsuit.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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