Former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio was found guilty of criminal contempt on July 31, 2017. according to the ruling handed down by District Judge Susan R. Bolton. Sentencing is scheduled for October 5, 2017, at 10:00 a.m.
This is the latest development in the legal troubles facing former Sheriff Joe Arpaio, which stemmed from a class action lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union in 2007. This lawsuit was a response to Arpaio’s efforts to crack down on undocumented immigrants which, opponents and Justice Department officials say, led to racial profiling.
After an inquiry by the U.S. Justice Department, which concluded that Arpaio’s tactics did constitute racial profiling, a federal judge ordered that he discontinue his program. Arpaio refused to comply with those orders which led to the contempt charges.
A guilty verdict in the civil case came down in May of 2016 finding him in civil contempt. The ruling in that case by U.S. District Judge G. Murray Snow states that “the Court finds that the Defendants have engaged in multiple acts of misconduct, dishonesty, and bad faith with respect to the Plaintiff class and the protection of its rights. They have demonstrated a persistent disregard for the orders of the Court, as well as an intention to violate and manipulate the laws and policies regulating their conduct…”
This paved the way for the criminal case, in which Arpaio faces fines and possible jail time. This is a misdemeanor charge that could lead to 6 months in jail.
The ruling cited public statements made by Arpaio in the media and during his reelection campaign which indicated that he was openly refusing to comply with the court’s order. The conclusion of the court of District Judge Susan R. Bolton states, “The evidence at trial proves beyond a reasonable doubt and the Court finds that Judge 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. Because the Court finds that Defendant willfully violated an order of the court, it finds Defendant guilty of criminal contempt.”
Arpaio is a well-known public figure, appearing on many news outlets under the title, “America’s Toughest Sheriff” and is known for the “Tent City” jail in Phoenix where he housed inmates in tents and pink underwear in the notorious Phoenix heat. Much of his bravado may have been to help with the reelection effort.
Joe Arpaio lost his bid for reelection last year to Paul Penzone, formerly a Sergeant with the Phoenix Police Department.