Arpaio to pursue appeal, jury trial after conviction
Judge finds ‘flagrant disregard’ for court
Joe Arpaio was found guilty Monday of criminal contempt for defying a judge’s order to stop detaining illegal immigrants, but the former sheriff isn’t going down without a fight.
Shortly after U.S. District Court Judge Susan Bolton issued her verdict, Arpaio attorney Jack Wilenchik said the longtime lawman of Maricopa County, Arizona, once known as “America’s toughest sheriff,” plans to appeal and press for a jury trial.
“Joe Arpaio is in this for the long haul, and he will continue his fight to vindicate himself, to prove his innocence and to protect the public,” Mr. Wilenchik said in a statement.
He said the judge “violated the United States Constitution by issuing her verdict without even reading it to the defendant in public court. Her
verdict is contrary to what every single witness testified in the case. Arpaio believes that a jury would have found in his favor, and that it will.”
Mr. Arpaio, 85, who served as sheriff for 24 years before losing his seventh bid for office in November, faces a maximum six months in jail at his Oct. 5 sentencing, but court watchers say the judge is unlikely to put him behind bars, given his age.
Critics of Mr. Arpaio’s hard line on illegal immigration, his penchant for seeking publicity and his unorthodox incarceration methods — he built a tent city for inmates and had them wear pink underwear — cheered the verdict.
“For more than 24 hours, Joe Arpaio has sowed fear in our communities and tarnished the public’s confidence in our law enforcement,” said Rep. Raul M. Grijalva, Arizona Democrat. “Today’s ruling confirms what many of us have known all along: Mr. Arpaio’s actions as sheriff were well beyond his jurisdiction, and he knowingly abused his authority for years.”
Meanwhile, Arpaio supporters slammed what they described as the injustice of the verdict, insisting that the former lawman was guilty only of attempting to protect the public by enforcing the nation’s immigration laws when the Obama administration would not.
“This is a complete travesty of justice,” said James Fotis, president of the National Center for Police Defense, who observed the five-day trial in Phoenix.
“As I sat in the courtroom and listened to Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s trial, I knew any reasonable man or woman who was there to pass judgment on this honest, law-abiding man who gave his life to the rule of law could never find him guilty on the evidence presented,” Mr. Fotis said.
Judge Bolton found that Mr. Arpaio violated a 2011 court order barring him from detaining suspected undocumented aliens unless they were implicated in criminal offenses other than being in the country illegally.
From May 2011 to December 2013, the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office Human Smuggling Unit’s shift summaries showed that 171 people were turned over to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement without being charged with crimes.
Judge Bolton said Mr. Arpaio showed a flagrant disregard for U.S. District Court Judge G. Murray Snow’s preliminary injunction, which became permanent two years later, by conducting “business as usual no matter who said otherwise.”
“Defendant stated on numerous occasions that he would continue to keep doing what he had been doing,” Judge Bolton said in her 14-page decision. “Defendant said he ‘will continue to enforce illegal immigration laws’ just seven days after the issuance of the preliminary injunction.”
Mr. Wilenchik, who argued during the trial that the Snow order was murky and subject to misinterpretation, said Judge Bolton found that it “clearly said something that it did not even say: that the MCSO was prohibited from turning illegal aliens over to Border Patrol or ICE.”
“Every witness in the case testified that the order was not clear, even though Judge Bolton and her fellow judge say so,” Mr. Wilenchik said. “Numerous law enforcement agencies also continue to do this. In fact, the DOJ now goes after agencies that refuse to do this.”
Before the trial began June 26, Arpaio attorneys fought to bring the case before a jury, but Judge Bolton and the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected the request.
In May 2016, Mr. Arpaio was found guilty of civil contempt of court, along with three of his aides, in connection with a racial profiling case. Judge Snow said they demonstrated a “persistent disregard for the orders of this court.”
The legal battle has proved costly to taxpayers: The county last year established a $400,000 fund to pay victims of racial profiling up to $10,000 each while spending nearly $80 million on legal bills associated with cases from his office, according to last year’s Associated Press estimate.
Cecillia Wang, deputy legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union, said the contempt conviction was “vindication for the many victims of Joe Arpaio’s immigration policies, which were unconstitutional to begin with, and were doubly illegal when Arapio flouted the court’s order.”
“Joe Arpaio learned his lesson the hard way — no one, not even America’s so-called toughest sheriff, is above the law,” she said in a statement.
The trial ended with closing statements on July 6. Early on, Mr. Arapio’s legal team attempted to call Attorney General Jeff Sessions to testify, but Judge Bolton quashed the defense subpoena.
Mr. Arpaio lost his re-election bid in November by 56 percent to 44 percent to Democrat Paul Penzone, who announced in April that he would shutter the 23-year-old tent city.