The Arizona sheriff notorious for his disdain of immigrants was found in contempt by a federal court on Friday for repeatedly violating court orders to stop racially profiling Latinos.
A hero to the anti-immigration movement, six-term Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, together with three deputies, were found in civil contempt by United States District Court Judge G. Murray Snow for disobeying his orders requiring Arpaio and his deputies to stop detaining Latinos based solely on the suspicion that they were in the country illegally.
"In short, the Court finds that the Defendants have engaged in multiple acts of misconduct, dishonesty, and bad faith with respect to the Plaintiff class and the protection of its rights," Snow wrote in his ruling.
The case stems from the 2011 civil case brought by Latino drivers and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) against Arpaio and his deputies. In May 2013, Snow determined Arpaio had encouraged his deputies to scrutinize Latino drivers more than white drivers during traffic stops. Snow said Arpaio's office profiled and illegally detained Latinos, violating their constitutional rights, and ordered a significant overhaul of the sheriff's office practices. However, Arpaio and his top deputies repeatedly — and publicly — ignored the court's orders.
At a Houston rally in 2015, Arpaio told supporters that he had violated the order "out of spite" and had arrested 500 people. He also admitted to letting his officers conduct immigration patrols for 18 months following the court's order to cease the practice.
Arpaio, 83, who calls himself "America's Toughest Sheriff," was also accused of launching a secret investigation into Snow and his wife in an effort to get him removed from the case.
In his ruling Friday, Snow also found Maricopa County Sheriff's Office Chief Deputy Jerry Sheridan, retired Chief Brian Sands and Lt. Joe Souza in civil contempt.
Snow scheduled a hearing for May 31 to determine options to compel Arpaio and his deputies to obey his orders, including one option of appointing an outside agency to take over the sheriff's office. The case can also be referred for federal criminal prosecution that could expose Arpaio and his deputies to fines and jail time.
"Any public official who has been found guilty of racial profiling and ignores the orders of the court cannot be entrusted with the safety and well-being of the community and should step down in shame," the immigrant rights group Puente Arizona said in a statement Friday.
"The court has found that Sheriff Arpaio intentionally and repeatedly violated federal court orders," said Cecillia Wang, director of the ACLU's Immigrants' Rights Project, in a statement. "His recalcitrance ends here. Strong remedies are needed to protect the community's rights, starting with internal investigations that root out and punish misconduct. Willing or not, the sheriff will be made to comply with the law."