Former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio was charged with misdemeanor contempt of court Monday after supposedly ignoring a 2011 federal judge’s order for refusing to stop traffic patrols that targeted immigrants. Known as “America’s Toughest Sheriff,” Arpaio was once a popular figure for the fact that he was so strong in enforcing such intense immigration laws, though Arizona voters grew weary of his controversial actions and national headlines with legal troubles. He side stepped two earlier criminal investigations of his office, but wasn’t able to avoid legal issues when he prolonged his signature immigration patrols for almost 18 months after a different judge ordered him to cease and desist. That judge later ruled they racially profiled Latinos. It was U.S. District Judge Susan Bolton who found Arpaio guilty of criminal contempt. Prosecutors demonstrated that Arpaio did this because he was running for reelection in 2012, and that Arpaio allegedly used his defiance to raise millions of dollars and brag about it to the media. The decision represents a victory for critics who voiced displeasure over Arpaio’s eyebrow raising efforts to get tough on crime, including imprisoning 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 pleaded not guilty and his trial started last June. Arpaio served as sheriff of Arizona’s largest county from 1993 to 2016, for a total of six terms. He was booted out of office last November, when he lost re-election to Democrat Paul Penzone who succeeded him as sheriff on January 1, 2017. The now 85-year-old’s sentencing will be October 5. At most, Arpaio faces six months of jail time though legal experts say it is not likely Arpaio will be serve any time at all. Arpaio said his “main reaction was disappointment.” Arpaio will now appeal Judge Bolton’s verdict in order to get a trial by jury, according to a statement from his attorneys.
Jeff Kode has previously written articles for The Arizona Republic ALT section, as well as other publications including Echo Magazine and IONAZ Magazine. He is an enthusiastic movie lover, and enjoys discovering new music. He was previously on air middays with his own show The Sugar Rush, and can now be heard 6-9am on The Morning Beat with Steve and Jeff at 88.7 The Pulse.