During his 23 years as sheriff of Maricopa County, which includes metropolitan Phoenix, Joe Arpaio has been cited several times for violating the constitutional rights of the people he is supposed to serve. Now, federal prosecutors aim to make him pay for those transgressions.
As NBC News reports, yesterday (October 25), U.S. District Court Judge Susan Bolton signed an order charging Arpaio with criminal contempt of court. Prosecutors announced their intent to seek the charges earlier this month.
In 2013, a federal judge ruled that Arpaio targeted Latinxs for stops and arrests, detaining people whom he felt were undocumented immigrants with no proof that they had committed a crime. He was ordered to stop both racially profiling people and enforcing civil immigration laws.
But prosecutors allege that he has continually violated that order, and in May 2016, he was found guilty of three counts of civil contempt of court. The new criminal misdemeanor charge could put him in jail for up to six months if U.S. Department of Justice prosecutors can prove that he deliberately defied the previous orders. His trial is set to begin on December 6. The Republic reports that he may also face a charge of obstruction of justice for failing to turn over requested evidence.
In the meantime, the 84-year-old sheriff is seeking reelection. Arpaio’s campaign manager, Chad Willems, told The Republic that he feels the charges are politically motivated. “The Department's actions in the last 30 days before the election are further attempts to sabotage Sheriff Arpaio in his bid for a seventh unprecedented term as Maricopa County sheriff. It is clear from the timing that the Department of Justice is merely a political tool of a corrupt Administration.”