PHOENIX – Former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio is guilty of criminal contempt for deliberately defying a court order arising from a racial profiling case, a federal court judge ruled on Monday.
Another federal court judge had ordered Arpaio to stop the practice of arresting motorists solely on suspicion they might be in the country illegally, but Arpaio “announced to the world and to his subordinates that he was going to continue business as usual no matter who said otherwise,” U.S. District Court Judge Susan Bolton wrote in her verdict Monday.
“Because the court finds that defendant willfully violated an order of the court, it finds Defendant guilty of criminal contempt,” the ruling said.
Arpaio, 85, who called himself “America’s toughest sheriff” during more than two decades in office and drew national attention for his unapologetic stance to stop illegal immigration, is scheduled to be sentenced Oct. 5. He faces up to six months in prison.
His attorneys said they would appeal.
Arpaio’s office had good reason to pull over motorists, defense attorney Dennis Wilenchik said.
“What the sheriff’s office interpreted that (court order) to mean, what everyone at the trial interpreted that to mean, is that you don’t stop someone just for being an illegal alien,” Wilenchik said.
“The confusion here is that’s not what the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office was doing. Police generally stop someone for criminal violations. That’s exactly what the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office was doing,” Wilenchik said.
The American Civil Liberties Union and a community group hailed the decision.
“This verdict is a vindication for…
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