The infamous "Sheriff Joe" Arpaio, who was voted out of office this past year after 24 years as Maricopa County Sheriff, was found guilty of criminal contempt on Monday by Federal District Judge Susan Bolton for willfully violating an order of Federal District Judge Murray Snow.
"Not only did Defendant abdicate responsibility, he announced to the world and to his subordinates that he was going to continue business as usual no matter who said otherwise." The order prohibited Arpaio from "detaining persons for further investigation without reasonable suspicion that a crime has been or is being committed." Bolton found that Arpaio knew of the order and 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."
Arpaio faces up to six months in jail for the crime. At sentencing, Judge Bolton may consider Arpaio's entire career in law enforcement, including his 24 years as sheriff of Maricopa County. Sentencing is currently set for October 5th.
Background: In 2009, the Department of Justice (DOJ) opened an investigation into the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office (MCSO). After filing suit to obtain documents MCSO refused to provide, the DOJ issued its findings: "MCSO engaged in a policy of stopping, detaining, and investigating persons of Hispanic ancestry based on their race, in traffic and during worksite raids; failed to provide language access assistance to Hispanic jail inmates with Limited English Proficiency (LEP); and unlawfully retaliated against individuals who complained about or criticized MCSO’s practices."
The criminal contempt charges arises from a refusal to follow of a 2011 order from Judge Snow in a class action lawsuit brought by the ACLU of Arizona (the DOJ was later permitted to join as a plaintiff and worked with the ACLU). The plaintiffs alleged that MCSO engaged in unconstitutional racial profiling and made illegal traffic stops targeting Latinos. Judge Snow's order required MCSO to undergo reforms to prevent further discriminatory law enforcement practices and appointed an independent monitor to oversee implementation of the injunction. It also barred Arpaio and his deputies from detaining individuals on mere suspicion of their immigration status without evidence they had broken state law.