Arizona’s deposed Sheriff Joe Arpaio, once self-dubbed “America’s Toughest Sheriff”, was found guilty of criminal contempt today, capping off some ten years of legal efforts against Arpaio.
The sheriff known for tent cities, forcing inmates to wear pink underwear, a fervently pugilistic anti-immigrant stance, and a belief that he is above the law was found by US District Judge Susan Bolton to have “willfully violated” a 2011 order to stop racial profiling Latino drivers in Maricopa County, Arizona. Arpaio faces a maximum penalty of six months in jail and a fine, though he says he will appeal.
As ACLU Deputy Legal Director Cecillia Wang said today in a statement:
This verdict is a vindication for the many victims of Joe Arpaio’s immigration policies, which were unconstitutional to begin with, and were doubly illegal when Arpaio flouted the court’s orders. Joe Arpaio learned his lesson the hard way — no one, not even America’s so-called toughest sheriff, is above the law.
Puente Arizona agreed, and added that Arpaio’s legacy remains in place as long as ICE has a role in Arizona’s jails:
After ten years of a long and arduous people’s struggle against Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s terrorism of the immigrant community in Maricopa County, Puente Arizona marks today’s guilty verdict of the cruel and racist Sheriff as historic.
The community has always known Arpaio is guilty. He has always been guilty of racism and hatred, guilty of breaking families apart, disappearing thousands of people from their communities and of a gross abuse of his powers.
The case against Arpaio dates all the way back in 2007, when the ACLU and other organizations sued Arpaio and the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office for illegally singling out Latino drivers during immigration enforcement operations. In 2011, a federal court found Arpaio guilty of racial profiling and ordered his officers to stop pulling over Latino drivers solely on the suspicion that they were in the country without papers. But Arpaio’s office continued the practice for about 18 months afterward, with 170 more people wrongfully detained. Arpaio repeatedly ignored orders from the court to follow the law, and in May of last year, Judge Murray Snow — who handed down the 2011 ruling — found Arpaio and three top aides to be in civil contempt. In November, Arpaio was booted from office after 24 years as Maricopa’s Sheriff.
Arpaio’s time in office was marred by more scandals than can be recounted. Arpaio and Donald Trump are avid supporters of each other; Arpaio endorsed Trump for president and tried to subpoena Attorney General Jeff Sessions to the stand in his defense. Arpaio was a birther and bragged about being the only lawman to try and investigate President Obama’s birth certificate (he still maintains it isn’t real). Multiple times, Arpaio was found to be investigating or persecuting political opponents.
Maricopa County suffered under Arpaio, shelling out hundreds of millions of dollars to defend him against countless lawsuits over the years. Arpaio, meanwhile, in his dogged determination to hunt down people of color, left 40,000 felony warrants un-served and 400 sex crimes un-investigated. Conditions in his jails violated the Constitution, violent crime rates rose in Arpaio’s jurisdiction even as they fell in the rest of the state, and millions in taxpayer funds were diverted and misspent.
In spite of it all, Arpaio still remains willfully oblivious to the damage he’s caused and laws he’s broken. As he said last November, he has no regrets and would do it all over again: “I did it my way.”