Federal Judge: Sheriff Joe Arpaio Faces Prison Time

America’s most racist sheriff, Joe Arpaio of Maricopa County, faces criminal prosecution for violating court order.


America’s most racist sheriff, Joe Arpaio of Maricopa County in Arizona, faces criminal prosecution for violation of Federal law. Arpaio, who relishes describing Latinos as “illegals,” is now an “illegal” himself after a Federal judge found that he had violated a number of court orders.

United States District Court Judge G. Murray Snow found on Friday that Arpaio had repeatedly and intentionally violated a number of court orders designed to correct illegal racial profiling by the Sheriff’s office. He referred the case to the United States Attorney for criminal prosecution for criminal contempt of court.

While judges sometimes charge public officials with civil contempt for refusing to follow a court order, it is unusual for them to call for criminal contempt prosecutions. If convicted, Arpaio and three of his staff, could face Federal prison time. In his decision, Judge Snow wrote that “Criminal contempt serves to vindicate the Court’s authority by punishing the intentional disregard for that authority.”

Three years ago, Judge Snow found that Arpaio’s deputies routinely targeted Latinos for investigation and detention based on race. This violation of the Constitutional rights of the county’s Latinos was ordered to end by the judge. Arpaio ignored the order. The sheriff also illegally withheld evidence from the court that Judge Snow had ordered disclosed.  Arpaio was already held in civil contempt for violating the judge’s orders, but now he faces possible criminal prosecution for the egregious and intentional flouting of the Federal court’s authority.

Victim Compensation Fund Established

The judge also set up a $500,000 compensation fund for victims of Arpaio’s racist profiling. Judge Snow noted that the money would come from taxpayers and not from Arpaio himself, one of the reasons he referred the case for criminal prosecution.

In addition to recommending that Arpaio be prosecuted for contempt, Judge Snow’s decision criticized “multiple intentional false statements made by Sheriff Arpaio” over the course of the trial.

The case against Arpaio assumed a particularly bizarre proportion last year when Arpaio disclosed on the stand that he was involved in an effort to frame Judge Snow for fabricated ethical violations.


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Patrick Young blogs daily for Long Island Wins. He is the Downstate Advocacy Director of the New York Immigration Coalition and Special Professor of Immigration Law at Hofstra School of Law. He served as the Director of Legal Services and Program at Central American Refugee Center (CARECEN) for three decades before retiring in 2019. Pat is also a student of immigration history and the author of The Immigrants' Civil War.

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