‘America’s toughest sheriff,’ Joe Arpaio, was found guilty of criminal contempt for instructing his subordinates to detain individuals without cause.
According to Politico, U.S. District Court Judge Susan Bolton said the evidence in Arpaio’s case showed ‘flagrant disregard’ for the law.
In 2011, the notorious Arizona sheriff was ordered to stop detaining people without probable cause. Just three years prior, Arpaio had lost a much-televised legal battle over his extensive use of ‘immigration patrols.’
The lawman – perhaps not surprisingly – was eventually accused of racial profiling. Critics of Arpaio say his department focused on members of the community who appeared to be Hispanic, initiating traffic stops simply to ask whether anyone in the vehicle was in the country illegally.
During a federal investigation into Arpaio’s tactics to combat undocumented immigrants, misdeeds in his border-state jurisdiction kept occurring.
The Sheriff’s Office forgot to turn over video evidence required before the trial in time to be shown in court. Even as a judge ordered Arpaio to clamp down on racial profiling in his department, he quietly shrugged off the ruling and suggested his subordinates continue playing Border Patrol. Even one of the lawman’s colleagues opted not to collect information he’d been ordered to after the trial ended.
Each of the three acts of cover-up and civil rights corruption constituted violations serious enough to warrant a charge of contempt.
Monday’s misdemeanor conviction for criminal contempt shows that justice finally caught up with the octogenarian sheriff, whose controversial policies and attention-getting antics often put him under a national spotlight.
Aside from rampant racial profiling, Arpaio also made a name for himself by establishing a massive ‘tent city’ in Maricopa County, Arizona.
A symbol of the sheriff’s ‘tough on crime’ policy, the Tent City Jail raised legal questions about the sorts of conditions inmates were forced to live in. First-time offenders were tossed into the sweltering heat of the Southwestern elements, dressed-up in vintage black-and-white uniforms and issued pink underwear intended to embarrass.
After Arpaio lost a re-election bid following the racial profiling case and contempt charge, his political opponents quickly moved to shut down the jail.
“This facility is not a crime deterrent, it is not cost efficient, and it is not tough on criminals,” said Arpaio’s newly-elected replacement, Sheriff Paul Penzone.
“This facility became more of a circus atmosphere for the general public,” remarked Penzone to reports in April. “Starting today, the circus ends and these tents come down.”
Penzone’s comments didn’t miss the mark by a wide margin – Arpaio’s ‘tent city’ was established when he was first elected in 1993. The officer frequently gave tours of the facility to reporters, building and eventually solidifying his reputation as ‘America’s toughest sheriff.’
The 85-year old Arpaio now faces a maximum sentence of six months in jail for finally having found himself on the wrong side of the law he so publicly made a mockery of.