Mi­grant-tar­get­ing sher­iff found guilty of con­tempt

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - NEWS - JACQUES BIL­LEAUD

PHOENIX — For­mer Sher­iff Joe Ar­paio was con­victed of a crim­i­nal charge Mon­day for re­fus­ing to stop traf­fic pa­trols that tar­geted peo­ple in the coun­try il­le­gally, 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 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 the pa­trols ra­cially pro­filed His­pan­ics.

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-year-old faces up to six months in jail, though at­tor­neys who have fol­lowed the case doubt some­one his age would be in­car­cer­ated. He will be sen­tenced Oct. 5.

Crit­ics hoped Ar­paio’s eight-day trial in fed­eral court in Phoenix would bring a long-awaited come­up­pance for the six-term law­man.

Pros­e­cu­tors say Ar­paio vi­o­lated the or­der so he could pro­mote his im­mi­gra­tion en­force­ment ef­forts in an ef­fort to boost his 2012 re-elec­tion cam­paign and even bragged about his con­tin­ued crack­downs.

He had ac­knowl­edged pro­long­ing his pa­trols but in­sisted it was not in­ten­tional. He also blamed one of his for­mer at­tor­neys in the pro­fil­ing case for not prop­erly 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 peo­ple 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. “Ar­paio be­lieves that a jury would have found in his fa­vor, and that it will.”

His defense fo­cused on what his at­tor­neys said were weak­nesses in the court or­der that failed to ac­knowl­edge times when deputies would de­tain aliens and later hand them over to fed­eral author­i­ties.

Un­like other lo­cal po­lice lead­ers who left im­mi­gra­tion en­force­ment to U.S. author­i­ties, Ar­paio made hun­dreds of ar­rests in traf­fic pa­trols that sought out aliens and busi­ness raids in which his of­fi­cers tar­geted peo­ple in the coun­try il­le­gally who used fraud­u­lent IDs to get jobs.

The ef­forts are sim­i­lar to lo­cal im­mi­gra­tion en­force­ment that Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump has ad­vo­cated. To build his highly touted de­por­ta­tion force, Trump is re­viv­ing a long-stand­ing pro­gram that dep­u­tizes lo­cal of­fi­cers to en­force fed­eral im­mi­gra­tion law.

Ar­paio’s im­mi­gra­tion pow­ers were even­tu­ally stripped away by the courts and fed­eral gov­ern­ment.

The con­tempt-of-court case marked the first time fed­eral author­i­ties had pros­e­cuted Ar­paio on a crim­i­nal charge, though his of­fice had been the sub­ject of past in­ves­ti­ga­tions.

Fed­eral author­i­ties had looked into Ar­paio’s mis­spending of $100 mil­lion in jail funds and his crim­i­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tions of po­lit­i­cal en­e­mies. Nei­ther in­ves­ti­ga­tion led to pros­e­cu­tion of the sher­iff or his em­ploy­ees.

Ar­paio’s crim­i­nal charges are be­lieved to have contributed heav­ily to his de­feat in Novem­ber to lit­tle-known re­tired Phoenix po­lice Sgt. Paul Pen­zone.

Ar­paio was ousted in the same elec­tion that sent Trump to the White House. Trump used some of the same im­mi­gra­tion rhetoric that helped make Ar­paio a na­tional fig­ure in the de­bate over the U.S.-Mex­ico bor­der.


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