In convicting the longtime Phoenix-area sheriff of contempt of court, a federal judge cited Arpaio’s tough-talk comments to the media in which he freely admitted that his agency targeted suspected illegal immigrants. “If they don’t like what I’m doing,” he said, “get the laws changed in Washington.”
His own words were the key evidence leading to Monday’s federal criminal contempt conviction of Joe Arpaio, the tough-talking former sheriff of Maricopa County, Ariz., reports the Arizona Republic. Arpaio’s quotes, many from press releases and broadcast media clips, were cited more than 20 times in U.S. District Judge Susan Bolton’s ruling that the ex-sheriff had shown “flagrant disregard” for another federal judge’s order that halted his signature immigration round-ups. She cited, for example, a TV interview in 2012 in which Arpaio admitted that he was still targeting suspected illegal immigrants. “If they don’t like what I’m doing,” he said, “get the laws changed in Washington.”
The sentencing phase will begin Oct. 5. Arpaio, 85, faces up to six months in confinement, a sentence equivalent to that of a misdemeanor. Monday’s decision caps the latest chapter in a decade-long racial-profiling case that began after allegations that Arpaio’s deputies were targeting Latinos during their immigration-enforcement operations. Arpaio began to draw international media attention shortly after he was first elected in 1992. He created a “Tent City Jail,” where inmates lived outdoors through the sweltering Arizona summer heat and were issued old-fashioned striped prison jumpsuits and pink underwear. Arpaio was re-elected repeatedly with overwhelming majorities until he was soundly defeated in 2016.