Sheriff Joe Arpaio was ordered by the court to stop detaining immigrants who are suspected of being in the United States without documentation. He failed to follow that order, and the court determined that he is guilty of committing a crime. This is the latest rebuke of the once-popular sheriff who lost his bid for re-election last year.
Mr. Arpaio was found guilty of criminal contempt of court and may be sentenced to up to six months in jail. The 85-year-old Arpaio will appeal the conviction.
This conviction comes at an interesting time in the Trump administration. President Trump has promised to deny federal funds of any local government that refuses to detain inmates who are subject to deportation, and every U.S. sheriff is being pressured to follow this edict. Protectors of immigrants have also jumped into the discussion. They are filing lawsuits that argue that President Trump’s law infringes upon the immigrants’ constitutional rights.
Mr. Arpaio spent 24 years as the Maricopa County, Arizona, sheriff, and he made a name for himself as someone who is particularly hard on undocumented immigrants. About 10 years ago, a lawsuit was filed on behalf of Latinos who claimed that they were being racially profiled and detained for only one reason. They were suspected of being illegal immigrants, and they were subsequently turned in to Immigration and Customs Enforcement or ICE.
In 2011, federal district judge G. Murray Snow ordered Sheriff Arpaio to cease detaining an individual based on his or her immigration status if that person is not the target of a criminal investigation. The ruling was upheld in the appeals court, and the judge even strengthened it.
After the ruling, Sheriff Arpaio stated that his manner of doing business was not illegal and that he did not plan to alter his actions. Therefore, detentions of Latinos in the community continued.
The deputy legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union Cecilia Wang stated that the verdict vindicates every person who has had his or her rights violated by these illegal stops and detentions.
Sheriff Arpaio also had some support for his position. One is Dan Stein who is the president of the Federation for American Immigration Reform. He stated that President Trump’s election had reinforced the actions that Mr. Arpaio took as sheriff.
There are several problems related to this case that trouble Mr. Arpaio’s lawyers. First, the 2011 order by Judge Snow was ambiguous, and Judge Bolton failed to focus on that fact. Second, Mr. Arpaio was denied his rights because he was not offered a jury trial.
In 2011, the Justice Department found that Sheriff Arpaio and his office violated the rights of Latinos in the community, and Judge Snow agreed with those findings.
As he pledged to continue exercising his duties in the same manner as he had before the ruling, Sheriff Arpaio was found to be in contempt of court, and he was charged with criminal contempt. Sheriff Arpaio claimed that his underlings were the ones responsible for violating the court order and that he had not done so.
Judge Bolton disregarded that defense because there was evidence to suggest that Sheriff Arpaio understood the order and had stated on several occasions that he had no intention of doing things differently. Mr. Arpaio will be sentenced on October 5 of this year.
Mike Lacey and Jim Larkin wrote a story that made the front page of the Phoenix New Times. They claim that this is the reason that Sheriff Arpaio had them arrested in 2007. Sheriff Arpaio had been the subject of several stories in the Phoenix New Times, and they all had a common theme because these stories brought the sheriff’s many transgressions of the law to light. For example, one of the stories detailed the fact that Sheriff Arpaio’s office was being mismanaged and that there were financial irregularities.
The sheriff was also accused of retaliating against those who have criticized him, keeping his jails in inhumane condition and regularly mistreating inmates. In fact, several deaths have occurred at the jails. Lastly, a common complaint is the fact that the sheriff used racial profiling against Latinos and detained these individuals without cause.
The story that Lacey and Larkin claim led to their arrest was about how Sheriff Arpaio’s colleagues sought to uncover information on the newspaper’s readers, editors and writers by issuing subpoenas to the Phoenix New Times offices. Lacey and Larkin decided that they would write a story about this rather than comply with the subpoenas.
All of the charges against Lacey and Larkin were quickly dropped after there was a loud public outcry against their arrests. Their next action was to file a lawsuit based on abuse of power and the violation of their first amendment rights. They received a $3.7 million settlement in that case that they planned to donate to the Frontera Fund. The fund was set up to address the grievances of the Latino community.
Michael Lacey and Jim Larkin
Michael Lacey grew up in New Jersey, but he relocated to Arizona in the 1960s to attend Arizona State University. In 1970, he left school to begin a newspaper called “Phoenix New Times” because he was dissatisfied with the way the media was covering anti-war protests on the state’s college campuses. Michael started out as the paper’s executive editor, and he teamed up with a business partner by the name of “Jim Larkin.”
Jim Larkin also dropped out of Arizona State University in 1972, so he was free to begin working with Michael on his new newspaper. Jim took control of the paper’s advertising, and the two of them made a name for themselves by addressing political and social causes.
In 2013, Larkin and Lacey founded the Lacey & Larkin Frontera Fund for the purpose of distributing the money they received from their lawsuit to non-profit organizations that address civil rights issues and causes of the Latino community. They believe that the fear that Mr. Arpaio has fostered is not what Arizona is all about, and they proudly stand with immigrants in the face of that fear and fight to protect everybody’s rights.