Joe Arpaio’s legal troubles are not over yet – not by a long shot.
U.S. District Judge G. Murray Snow has found Sheriff Joe Arpaio, and three of his aides, in contempt of federal court. Arpaio is accused of violating court orders that were meant to stop his use of racial profiling tactics.
NPR member station KJZZ reported that Arpaio’s tactics were deemed “illegal” three years ago, and was then ordered to conduct “a sweeping overhaul of [Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office], including making patrol officers wear body cameras and conducting more training to ensure officers aren’t making unconstitutional traffic stops.”
Last Friday, Arpaio came a step closer to facing criminal prosecution – as Judge Snow found Arpaio had “engaged in multiple acts of misconduct, dishonesty, and bad faith with respect to the Plaintiff class and the protection of its rights.” The AZ Central reports:
Arpaio and Sheridan admitted to violating the judge’s orders before the hearings’ start date but repeatedly insisted that it was due to miscommunication and confusion rather than willful defiance.
The distinction could mean the difference between civil contempt and criminal contempt — or “fix it” remedies compared with outright punishment.
Arpaio claims that he violated the court orders “unknowingly” in court filings, yet the Los Angeles Times reports on instances when Arpaio told supporters “he had violated the order “out of spite” and had arrested 500 people.”
This is not the last we’ll hear about Arpaio’s misconduct. The case resumes on May 31, 2016, where penalties will be handed to Sheriff Joe and a determination will be made on whether a referral for a criminal contempt trial is merited. The New York Times reported that one the “most extreme” outcomes of this new court date would be for the takeover of Sheriff Arpaio’s office by an external agency.
Immigration advocates with Puente Arizona are calling for Arpaio to step down, “any public official who has been found guilty of racial profiling and ignores the orders of the court cannot be entrusted with the safety and well-being of the community and should step down in shame.”
Despite the negative press and attention, Joe Arpaio intends to seek a seventh term as sheriff of Maricopa County. Only time and the courts will determine whether he will be able to run for reelection.