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Ariz. Sheriff Investigated by Federal Grand Jury

Two officials said Thursday night they have been subpoenaed to answer questions next week before a federal grand jury about a high-profile Arizona sheriff who gained attention for aggressively cracking down on illegal immigration.

In statements read by a county spokesman, Maricopa County Manager David Smith and Deputy County Manager Sandi Wilson said they met with a federal prosecutor to discuss the case and will testify Wednesday.

Wilson said the general subject of the inquiry was abuses by Sheriff Joe Arpaio's office. Neither Wilson nor Smith offered specifics, said county spokesman Richard de Uriarte, who spoke with the two officials Thursday night.

Arpaio is widely known for tough jail policies and pushing the bounds on local immigration efforts. He has led a dozen crime and immigration sweeps, some in heavily Latino areas.

Critics allege that some of Arpaio's deputies racially profiled people during immigration sweeps. But Arpaio maintains that people pulled over in the sweeps were approached because deputies had probable cause to believe they had committed crimes.

Sheriff's spokesman Brian Lee said Arpaio was declining to comment on reports of the investigation. "He has stated that we will conduct business as usual," Lee said.

Sandy Raynor, a spokeswoman for the U.S attorney's office in Phoenix, said she couldn't confirm or deny a grand jury investigation.

Arpaio and an ally are embroiled in nasty legal disputes with county officials and judges. Two county supervisors and one county judge have been criminally charged in investigations by Arpaio and County Attorney Andrew Thomas.

Last month, Arpaio and Thomas filed a federal racketeering lawsuit against a group of county administrators, judges and attorneys, accusing them of participating in a conspiracy to hinder an investigation into a $341 million court building under construction in Phoenix and the investigation of Supervisor Don Stapley.

He was told in March that his office is being investigated by the U.S. Department of Justice over allegations of discrimination and unconstitutional searches and seizures. Arpaio had said he believed the investigation was spurred by his immigration efforts.

Last year, Arpaio was stripped of some of his special authority to make federal immigration arrests, though he retains some federal power that allows his jail officers to speed up deportations.

A half-day after his powers were limited, he launched a crime and immigration sweep and has since continued his enforcement of state laws banning immigrant smuggling and prohibiting businesses from knowingly hiring illegal immigrants.

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