The criminal contempt trial of Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio opened yesterday. Arpaio, the self-styled “Toughest Sheriff in America,” became a hero of the Alt-Right by using aggressive, and illegal, tactics in policing the Latino community in Phoenix and surrounding areas. In December 2011, a Federal judge ordered Arpaio to cease engaging in racial profiling of Latinos. The judge ordered him to stop detaining Latinos simply on suspicion of their being in the country illegally. Prosecutors are trying to prove that Arpaio knew of the judge’s order and that he continued to engage in practices prohibited by the judge.
In their opening statement, prosecutors laid out a series of statements from Arpaio himself in which he demonstrated that he knew the particulars of the judge’s order. The Sheriff’s Department’s former lawyer was called to the stand on the first day. He testified that he had repeatedly spoken to Arpaio after the issuance of the judge’s order. He said that he was told by Arpaio that the practice had stopped and that no further violations were taking place.
According to the prosecution, Arpaio’s department illegally arrested 170 people in seventeen months following the issuance of the order. The trial resumed today.