UPDATE: Judge Arpaio won his primary bid on August 30 and will run for reelection this fall.
U.S. District Court Judge G. Murray Snow of Phoenix Arizona found has asked the US Attorney’s Office for Arizona to look into possible criminal proceedings against Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio. Snowe found Arpaio in contempt of court, but what the US Attorney’s office will do remains to be seen.
On August 19, Snow, appointed by Bush in 2007, ruled that Arpaio potentially committed criminal contempt of court for violating a court order to not enforce federal immigration law and for his alleged failure to produce materials about an investigation that Arpaio’s associates conducted on Snow. Criminal contempt is usually classified as a misdemeanor.
Snow also ruled that Arpaio and Deputy Jerry Sheridan may have lied to him. If convicted, they could face felony charges of perjury before a federal court.
Arpaio has been consistently re-elected as the Sheriff since 1993, after a decades-long career in the DEA. For more than 20 years, he has sought publicity while fighting the federal government over enforcing immigration law. He appeared at the 2016 Republican National Convention, and is a supporter of Donald Trump.
For two decades, the Maricopa Sheriff’s office has been accused of racial profiling in lawsuits filed by the ACLU, and the Mexican American Legal Defense Fund, for alleged unlawful stopping and mistreatment of individuals because they were Latino. The MALDEF lawsuit alleges that the Maricopa sheriff’s office violated the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution, Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and the Arizona Constitution.
In a 2013 civil lawsuit, in which the ACLU alleges that the sheriff’s office engaged in racial profiling of Latinos, Judge Snow appointed a court monitor that required video cameras in every police cruiser, and training of staff.
The Obama administration also investigated Arpaio. In 2012, the Justice Department filed suit against the sheriff’s office and Arpaio for allegedly engaging in discriminatory conduct directed at Latinos, and in jail practices that unlawfully discriminate against Latino prisoners.
If Arpaio is convicted, it's unlikely that he would spend much time behind bars, if any.
Prosecuting such a high-profile law enforcement officer is without precedent, according to former US Attorney for Arizona Paul Charlton, who said that prosecutors will “literally be blowing dust
off the volumes” of law books to research what to do in this case, “because no one has done it before."
If history is a guide, the popular sheriff will take his fight to the media. Recently, his attorney Mel McDonald said that he will meet with the US Attorney before any decision is made “to discuss multiple issues." He did not reveal what cards he may hold up his sleeve. When asked if Arpaio would seek a plea agreement, McDonald emphatically said "There will never be a plea. He's not going to admit to something he didn't do."
UPDATE: On August, 30, at 84 years-old, Arpaio won the nomination to run again for Sheriff in November.
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