Criminal Justice

Former Sheriff Arpaio found guilty of criminal contempt for defying court order on immigration

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Joe Arpaio/

Joe Arpaio, the former sheriff of Maricopa County, Arizona, has been found guilty of contempt of court for violating a federal judge’s order to stop detaining citizens based only on a suspicion they were in the country illegally.

U.S. District Judge Susan Bolton convicted Arpaio after a five-day bench trial that included testimony from a lawyer for the sheriff’s department, Tim Casey. The lawyer had testified he told Arpaio that immigrants could not be detained unless they were arrested on state charges. The Arizona Republic, the Associated Press and KJZZ are among the publications covering Monday’s decision.

Arpaio, 85, served as sheriff for 24 years until 2016. He issued a statement saying he “will appeal to get a jury.”

U.S. District Judge G. Murray Snow, who issued an injunction barring immigration arrests, had found Arpaio in civil contempt last year for violating his order. Snow then referred the case for criminal contempt. Snow was presiding in a civil-rights case filed by the American Civil Liberties Union targeting Arpaio’s arrests of Hispanics, according to an ACLU press release.

Bolton said Snow’s order was clear and Arpaio could not disclaim responsibility by saying he had delegated the matter to others. “Not only did defendant abdicate responsibility,” Bolston said in her opinion, “he announced to the world and to his subordinates that he was going to continue business as usual no matter who said otherwise.”

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