By Floyd Alvin Galloway
Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, could find himself as an occupant of his own jails. The Sheriff’s legal woes are snowballing as Federal Judge G. Murray Snow has asked the US Attorney’s Office to file criminal contempt charges against Arpaio and three of his subordinates over failure to follow the court’s instructions in a racial profiling case.
Judge Snow said Arpaio’s continued failure to follow the directions of the court, along with false statements and attempts to obstruct further inquiry, justified the filing of criminal contempt charges now. Judge Snow sent the referral to U. S. Attorney’s Office.
Arpaio has “a history of obstruction and subversion of this court’s orders that is as old as this case,” Judge Snow wrote, adding that he and a deputy “intentionally made a number of false statements under oath,” noted Judge Snow.
In his latest ruling, Snow also wants another judge to determine whether Sheridan, sheriff’s Capt. Steve Bailey and former Arpaio attorney Michele Iafrate should be held in criminal contempt over their failure to disclose the discovery of nearly 1,500 IDs that were in the possession of one officer.
If the US Attorney’s Office decides to file criminal charges and obtains a conviction, Arpaio could face fines and even jail time. If the office declines to pursue criminal contempt charges, Snow could appoint a special prosecutor to pursue the case.
Several months ago, U.S. District Judge Snow found Arpaio and the other officials, Chief Deputy Jerry Sheridan, Chief Brian Sands and Lt. Joe Sousa guilty of civil contempt, saying the sheriff purposely ignored the court’s rulings.
“The court finds that the defendants have engaged in multiple acts of misconduct, dishonesty, and bad faith with respect to the plaintiff class (Latinos) and the protection of its rights,” Snow wrote. “They have demonstrated a persistent disregard for the orders of this court, as well as an intention to violate and manipulate the laws and policies regulating their conduct as they pertain to their obligations to be fair, ‘equitable(,) and impartial’ with respect to the interests of the plaintiff class,” said Judge Snow in the earlier ruling.
Following the civil contempt ruling in May, Cecillia Wang, director of the ACLU’s Immigrants’ Rights Project, stated, “Strong remedies are needed to protect the community’s rights, starting with internal investigations that root out and punish misconduct.”
She agrees with the ruling. “A criminal prosecution of Sheriff Arpaio is the right next step for justice to be done,” said Wang, one of the lawyers pressing the profiling case against the sheriff.
Finding Arpaio and his Sheriff’s department guilty of racial profiling in 2014, Judge Murray had threatened the Sheriff with actions for months for what Snow declared as the county sheriff and his department’s willfully disobeying his court orders. He had given Arpaio and his office a set of corrective actions, which was later determined they did not follow.
The Arpaio case had become a must see event, during which it was it was revealed the Sheriff’s office had investigated the Judge Snow’s family.
The class-action lawsuit filed by ACLU-Arizona and Covington and Burling Law Offices on behalf of five individuals alleged the self-proclaimed “Toughest Sheriff in the West” had unlawfully instituted a pattern and practice of targeting Latino drivers and passengers in Maricopa County during traffic stops.
The six-term Sheriff, who is seeking re-election, Arpaio finds himself and his subordinates in one of the toughest spots. Sheriff Arpaio has become a cause celeb in the immigration issue for his crackdowns, raids of businesses and his rhetoric against illegal immigration.
The sheriff had become a legend in conservative political corner. An early supporter of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, Arpaio was a featured speaker at the July Republican convention. The Sheriff’s controversial antics has cost Maricopa County taxpayers millions of dollars in lawsuits, has become a modern day J. Edgar Hoover, the former long-time FBI director, in his attempt to investigate and try to intimidate his foes