PHOENIX, AZ — Tough talking former Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio was found guilty on Monday of of criminal contempt for defying a judge’s court order to stop traffic patrols that opponents say targeted immigrants.
Arpaio, 85, was charged with misdemeanor contempt of court for what prosecutors claimed was an intentional defiance of a judge’s 2011 order to stop detaining drivers on the grounds of suspected illegal immigration status.
During the trial, prosecutors told the judge that Arpaio blew off the 2011 to stop picking up suspected illegal immigrants, and handing them over to ICE and Border Patrol in an effort to win reelection during his 2012 campaign.
“He wanted to raise money and win re-election, and it worked,” prosecutor John Keller told the court.
Arpaio, who earned the nickname as “America’s toughest sheriff,” has long been known for his no nonsense stance toward illegal immigration and his tough treatment toward the prisoners in his jail. While prisoners in other jurisdictions enjoyed benefits such as air condition and cable TV, Arpaio prided himself on the fact that prisoners in his facility slept in tents and enjoyed no electronic forms of entertainment. “This is a prison, not a country club,” Arpaio said.
The Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office released the following statement on the guilty verdict shortly after the decision was announced:
“Although the election in November was a statement by this community to put an end to the prior administration’s practices, the verdict today by U.S. District Court Judge Susan Bolton is a conclusion to the disservice and distractions caused by former Sheriff Joe Arpaio. We have a great respect for the justice system and the process and responsibility to carry out justice.
As for this office, we remain steadfast in our efforts to serve the needs of public safety, to improve quality of relations with the community and to ensure that the men and women of this organization have the utmost respect for the law and the authority for which we are empowered.”
Sheriff Paul Penzone, Arpaio’s predecessor who defeated him in is run for re-election in 2016, announced in April that he would close down Arpaio’s tent jails and move prisoners to more modern facilities.
Arpaio is expected to be sentenced on Oct. 5 and faces up to six months in jail, although most legal analysts say that, due to his age, it’s doubtful he will serve jail time.