Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio Found Guilty of Criminal Contempt of Court


The immigration policies that elevated former Sheriff Joe Arpaio to fame were the same that would ultimately lead to his political demise, and now have convicted him of a federal crime.

On Monday, U.S. District Judge Susan Bolton found Arpaio guilty of criminal contempt of court, finding that he willfully violated a federal judge’s order.

The sentencing phase will begin Oct. 5. Arpaio faces up to six months in confinement, a sentence equivalent to that of a misdemeanor.

Bolton’s ruling follows a five-day June and July trial, in which Department of Justice prosecutors argued that the 85-year-old had intentionally flouted a federal judge’s orders halting Arpaio’s signature immigration round-ups.

The verdict is a rejection of Arpaio’s defense: That the order was unclear and that, although mistakes had been made, the violations were unintended. Willful intent is required to prove criminal, rather than civil contempt.

Arpaio issued a statement Monday saying he will appeal the ruling and will continue to press for a jury trial.

“The evidence at trial proves beyond a reasonable doubt and the Court finds that
Judge (G. Murray) Snow issued a clear and definite order enjoining Defendant from detaining persons for further investigation without reasonable suspicion that a crime has been or is being committed; that Defendant knew of the order; and that Defendant willfully violated the order by failing to do anything to ensure his subordinates’ compliance and by directing them to continue to detain persons for whom no criminal charges could be filed,” Bolton wrote in the ruling. “Because the Court finds that Defendant willfully violated an order of the court, it finds Defendant guilty of criminal contempt.”

Monday’s decision was the culmination of a decade-long racial-profiling case that began after allegations that Arpaio’s deputies were targeting Latinos during their immigration-enforcement operations.

In the late 2000s and early 2010s, Arpaio’s office was known as the “tip of the spear” that would enforce the state’s hardline immigration efforts. Its crackdowns included “pretextual” traffic stops to net those in the country illegally, and patrol sweeps that zeroed in on Hispanic neighborhoods.

Many of those taken into custody were not accused of violating a state crime, but only of living in the country illegally. Once they were detained, deputies would turn over the individuals to Immigrations and Customs Enforcement or Border Patrol officials, who would initiate deportation proceedings.

The intent was to essentially act as another arm of the federal government, which has exclusive power to enforce civil-immigration violations.

At the time, the ruling seemed to signal the end of a costly county battle with civil-rights advocates, including the American Civil Liberties Union.

But the case only continued to expand as the office struggled to implement mandated reforms, and as allegations of the office violating Snow’s orders began to cement.

In 2015, Snow ordered a civil trial of sorts, to determine whether Arpaio’s office had violated three separate orders. Two centered on allegations that the department had failed to turn over evidence in case, and the third on whether Arpaio had violated a 2011 preliminary injunction that barred deputies from detaining migrants not suspected of a crime.

Last year, Snow found Arpaio and three aids guilty of civil contempt. He then referred Arpaio, two aides and a former attorney for criminal contempt charges, though federal prosecutors opted to only pursue Arpaio, and to only charge him on preliminary injunction violation.

The proceedings lasted four days in June, and closing arguments were heard July 6. It was Arpaio’s first major court appearance since his crushing defeat to Paul Penzone in November’s election.

During the trial, prosecutors from the Justice Department’s Public Integrity section showed how Arpaio’s deputies illegally detained 171 individuals after Snow’s December 2011 injunction.

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Filming Cops
Filming Cops 5618 posts

Filming Cops was started in 2010 as a conglomerative blogging service documenting police abuse. The aim isn’t to demonize the natural concept of security provision as such, but to highlight specific cases of State-monopolized police brutality that are otherwise ignored by traditional media outlets.

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