Former Arizona sheriff found guilty of criminal contempt, could spend 6 months in jail

Holly Kellum
By Holly Kellum
July 31, 2017US News
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Former Arizona sheriff found guilty of criminal contempt, could spend 6 months in jail
Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio stands in front of his county jail on July 29, 2010 in Phoenix, Arizona. (John Moore/Getty Images)

Former Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio was found guilty of criminal contempt on Monday, July 31.

U.S. District Judge Susan Bolton found Arpaio, the former Maricopa County, Arizona, sheriff guilty of willfully violating a federal judge’s order by continuing traffic patrols targeting immigrants.

The sentencing phase will begin Oct. 5. Arpaio, 85, could face up to six months in prison.

In December of 2011, amid a long-running racial profiling case, U.S. District Court Judge G. Murray Snow ordered that Arpaio’s deputies could only hold people if they were accused of committing a state crime and not because they thought they were in the country illegally.

Arpaio was also ordered to stop traffic patrols targeting people he suspected to be illegal immigrants, but he continued to enforce them at least 17 months after the order was implemented, New York Daily News reports.

During the bench trial, witnesses testified that 171 individuals were illegally apprehended and then turned over to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) or to the Border Patrol, AZCentral reports.

An illegal immigrant is processed deputies working for Maricopa County sheriff Joe Arpaio, after an operational sweep in Phoenix on July 29, 2010. (MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images)
An illegal immigrant is processed deputies working for Maricopa County sheriff Joe Arpaio, after an operational sweep in Phoenix on July 29, 2010. (MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images)

The six-term sheriff said he didn’t knowingly violate the judge’s order, and blamed his lawyer for not properly explaining to him the terms.

After 24 years as sheriff of Maricopa County, which includes the Phoenix metro area, “America’s Toughest Sheriff,” as he has come to be called, was voted out of office in November 2016, defeated by retired Phoenix police sergeant, Paul Penzone.

Illegal immigrant Sam Ramos, 39, shows off his jail-issued pink underwear in the Maricopa County "Tent City Jail" on April 30, 2010 in Phoenix, Arizona. The controversial jail is run by Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who has been an outspoken critic of illegal immigration and a supporter of tough immigration law. Prisoners at the facility are issued striped prison uniforms and pink undergarments to wear. ( John Moore/Getty Images)
Illegal immigrant Sam Ramos, 39, shows off his jail-issued pink underwear in the Maricopa County “Tent City Jail” on April 30, 2010 in Phoenix, Arizona. The controversial jail is run by Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who has been an outspoken critic of illegal immigration and a supporter of tough immigration law. Prisoners at the facility are issued striped prison uniforms and pink undergarments to wear. ( John Moore/Getty Images)

Arpaio’s attorney said in a statement that the former sheriff would appeal the verdict to get a jury trial. The statement said Bolton violated the Constitution by issuing the verdict without reading it to Arpaio in court, CNN reports.

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