Joe Arpaio, a former Arizona sheriff whose extreme stance on illegal immigration made him a household name, was convicted Monday of criminal contempt of court for ignoring a judge’s order to stop detaining people because he merely suspected them of being undocumented immigrants. He faces up to six months in jail
U.S. District Judge Susan R. Bolton wrote that Arpaio had shown a “flagrant disregard” for the court’s command and that his attempt to pin the conduct on those who worked for him rang hollow.
Arpaio’s lawyer says his 85-year-old client is appealing a decision that prevented the former sheriff from having a jury, instead of the judge, determine whether he was guilty of criminal contempt.
“Today, Judge Susan Bolton violated the United States Constitution by issuing her verdict without even reading it to the Defendant in public court,” Jack Wilenchik, Arpaio’s attorney, said in a statement. “Her verdict is contrary to what every single witness testified in the case,” the Washington Post reported today.
OUR FREE OPINION
We think former Sheriff Arpaio’s arrest and pending jailing is long overdue; he has thumbed his nose at federal and state Orders mainly regarding immigration enforcement. The instant case stems from Arpaio’s violation of a 2011 federal judge’s Civil Order telling the then sheriff that he was to stop arresting and holding people without state charges.
But instead of ending the “arrest and hold” policy, Arpaio expanded his immigration patrols. He unlawfully rounded up many immigrants without just cause and drug them to Immigration and Customs Enforcement: When ICE refused to take them, he ordered his deputies to transfer these people to Border Patrol. The violation of the civil order morphed into a criminal case where Arpaio was convicted.
Although Arpaio is facing jail for this contempt case, his past barbaric treatment of inmates in the Maricopa County Jail had not been unnoticed. He put into force the practice of housing inmates in tents where the heat was unbearable; he forced offenders to wear pink underwear and maintained over-crowded facilities. The Sheriff was the subject of numerous law suits brought by the United States Justice Department and private individuals. Some concessions were made, and money was paid out by the tax payers, but, Arpaio wouldn’t listen and kept up his inhumane practices.
We salute his arrest and conviction—he certainly deserves a jail sentence.