Arpaio found guilty of patrol order snub
Decision represents victory for critics of the former sheriff.
Controversial former sheriff of metro Phoenix continued traffic stops that targeted migrants after judge ordered him to stop.
Former Sheriff Joe Arpaio was convicted of a criminal charge Monday for refusing to stop traffic patrols that targeted immigrants, marking a final rebuke for a politician who once drew strong popularity from such crackdowns but was ultimately booted from office as voters became frustrated over his headline-grabbing tactics and deepening legal troubles.
The federal judge’s verdict represents a victory for critics who voiced anger over Arpaio’s unusual efforts to get tough on crime, including jailing inmates in tents during triple-digit heat, forcing them to wear pink underwear and making hundreds of arrests in crackdowns that divided immigrant families. Arpaio is vowing to appeal.
Arpaio, who spent 24 years as the sheriff of metro Phoenix, skirted two earlier criminal investigations of his office. But he wasn’t able to avoid legal problems when he prolonged his signature immigration patrols for nearly a year and a half after a different judge ordered him to stop. That judge later ruled they racially profiled Latinos.
The lawman who made defiance a hallmark of his tenure was found guilty of misdemeanor contempt- of-court for ignoring the 2011 court order to stop the patrols. The 85-yearold faces up to six months in jail, though attorneys who have followed the case doubt someone his age would be incarcerated. He will be sen- tenced Oct. 5.
Critics hoped Arpaio’s eight-day trial in federal court in Phoenix would bring a long-awaited comeuppance for a lawman who had man- aged to escape accountability through much of his six terms.
Prosecutors say Arpaio violated the order so he could promote his immi- gration enforcement efforts in an effort to boost his 2012 re-election campaign and even bragged about his con- tinued crackdowns.
He had acknowledged prolonging his patrols but insisted it was not inten- tional. He also blamed one of his former attorneys in the profiling case for not prop- erly explaining the importance of the court order.
U.S. District Judge Susan Bolton rejected all Arpaio’s key arguments, saying it was clear he knew of the order but still chose to continue the patrols.
“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,” Bolton wrote, citing TV interviews and press releases in which Arpaio said his agency was still detaining immigrants who were in the country illegally.
She said an attorney had clearly informed him of the order, and a top aide also read a portion of it aloud to Arpaio during a staff meeting.
Arpaio’s lawyers said they will appeal the verdict, contending their client’s legal fate should have been decided by a jury, not a judge. They also said Bolton violated Arpaio’s rights by not reading the decision in court.
“Her verdict is contrary to what every single witness testified in the case,” his lawyers said in a statement.
Former Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s lawyers said they will appeal.