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Feds to meet with Sheriff Arpaio's attorneys on civil rights probe

By Terry Frieden, CNN Justice Producer
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • The Justice Department's first deadline for turning over documents has passed
  • Its probe is looking into the Arizona sheriff's policies and law enforcement sweeps
  • Attorneys for the two sides are to meet next week

Washington (CNN) -- Justice Department lawyers investigating controversial Maricopa County, Arizona, Sheriff Joe Arpaio for alleged civil rights violations have extended for another week their demand for his lawyers to turn over documents and cooperate with their inquiry.

The department had given Arpaio until Tuesday to produce documents it believes will help investigators determine whether his policies and law enforcement sweeps discriminate against Hispanics.

Wednesday, the department said its lawyers will meet with Arpaio's lawyers next Tuesday in an effort to resolve the growing dispute. If the effort fails, Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights Thomas Perez has promised the government will sue the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office "to compel access to the requested documents, facilities and personnel."

Arpaio's lawyers, who worked as Justice Department civil rights lawyers during the Bush administration, reject claims Arpaio is uncooperative. The attorneys contend the Justice Department may not require documents simply to see if they can find something to support their suspicions of discrimination.

Arpaio, who has called himself "America's toughest sheriff," is known for his hard-nosed opposition to illegal immigration.

Detractors accuse him of discriminating against Hispanics, while supporters say the Justice Department's civil rights probe and its separate criminal investigation are politically motivated. They charge top Democratic officials in Washington and Phoenix are determined to oust the Republican sheriff, who has been re-elected four times.

Democrats say the investigations are based solely on the facts and the law.