Joe Arpaio admits contempt of court
Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio has admitted violating a federal court order, which barred him from detaining people on the basis of suspicions that they were in the U.S. illegally. Getty Images

Joe Arpaio, the controversial sheriff of Maricopa County in Arizona, has admitted to violating a federal judge's orders to cease detaining people purely on the basis of suspicion that they may be in the country illegally, according to media reports.

The admission, from both Arpaio and his chief deputy Jerry Sheridan, comes a month before the officers were scheduled to face a court hearing in relation to the breaches of the ruling. Their admission appears to be an attempt to avoid an evidentiary hearing at which Arpaio and other officers could be called to testify, the Los Angeles Times reported.

In a legal motion filed with the court late Tuesday, Arpaio, 82, who has billed himself as "America's toughest sheriff," his deputy and the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office conceded to a finding of civil contempt of court against them. The motion also said that they consented to the "imposition of remedies designed to address their conduct."

Arpaio and his office had been required to carry out changes to the manner in which they operated, which had been stipulated by U.S. District Court Judge Murray Snow, following his loss in a 2007 class-action racial profiling lawsuit. Evidence shows that Arpaio failed to comply with the orders in recent months, leading Snow to call next month's hearing, UPI reported.

“There is nothing defendants can do to change what has already been done,” the motion read. “Defendants can express sincere remorse to the court and to plaintiffs, begin to make amends to those who have been injured and take affirmative steps to ensure nothing like this occurs in the future,” it added.

The motion also proposed that Arpaio, Sheridan and possibly others in the office, would contribute $100,000 to a Hispanic civil rights group as an act of contrition; that Arpaio would make a public apology and personally accept responsibility for the infractions; and that Arpaio's office will request $350,000 from county authorities to compensate victims of their conduct.

The decision on whether the scheduled hearing will be called off or not rests on Snow. The scheduled hearing could lead to possible criminal referrals to federal prosecutors, Reuters reported. The possible penalties that could be imposed include both fines and custodial sentences for Arpaio and his co-defendants.

Arpaio has previously stated his intention to run for a seventh term as Maricopa County sheriff in 2016.