“America’s Sheriff” Joe Arpaio was found guilty Monday of misdemeanor criminal contempt without the benefit of a jury of his peers.
The guilty ruling, by Bill Clinton-appointed U.S. District Judge Susan Bolton, is the latest chapter of a nearly decade-long saga of legal proceedings against Sheriff Joe initiated by leftist groups opposed to his aggressive policing of illegal aliens. The 85-year-old Arpaio now faces up to six months in jail.
The charges against Arpaio stem from a civil rights suit demanding he cease “racial profiling” in his Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office’s immigration enforcement operations. After a federal judge issued an order demanding certain practices, Arpaio was charged with contempt for continuing to try to enforce the law as he saw fit.
Because Arpaio was charged only with a misdemeanor punishable by a maximum of six-months in jail, the U.S. Constitution does not guarantee him a right to trial by a jury of his peers. Arpaio and his attorneys repeatedly petitioned for a jury, only to be denied by Judge Bolton in March and again in May. Sources familiar with the proceedings have told Breitbart News the decision to charge only the misdemeanor was likely a ploy by federal prosecutors to avoid a jury trial in the community where Arpaio served as sheriff for more than 20 years
National Center for Police Defense (NCPD) President James Fotis, who was present in the courtroom, was highly skeptical a Phoenix jury could have ever found Arpaio guilty. He told Breitbart News:
I sat through three days of testimony and it was clear from the beginning that the DOJ had no evidence to make their case. In fact, all of the DOJ’s witnesses made it clear that Judge Snow’s order was unclear and ambiguous. There is no way a jury would have determined that the Sheriff willfully and intentionally violated the judge’s order.
“Judge Bolton’s ruling has caused me to lose my faith in the court system and the federal judicial system,” Fotis added in a NCPD press release.
Fotis was hardly the first or only commentator to question the impartiality of Arpaio’s prosecution. In June, his group managed to assemble over 40,000 signatures from current and former law enforcement officers in support of Arpaio, delivering them to the Department of Justice in Washington, DC. “After devoting 56-years of his life to upholding and defending the Constitution, Sheriff Arpaio deserves our nation’s eternal gratitude — not jail time,” those petitions read.
The initial racial profiling suit that eventually led to this conviction also took on political dimensions and its conduct was criticized. The judge in that case, G. Murray Snow, ignored calls to recuse himself based on the fact his brother-in-law is a partner at Covington & Burling, the firm representing those suing Arpaio and the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office.
The decision to criminally prosecute Arpaio was taken while the DOJ was run by Attorney General Loretta Lynch. It would be highly unusual for new leadership to intervene and drop an ongoing prosecution, and no such step was taken, despite the aforementioned petitions. Arpaio now has the option to appeal his conviction to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. “I understand the Sheriff and his legal team will be filing an appeal on this decision quickly,” Fotis told Breitbart News, pointing to the ongoing appeals related to the civil trial that gave birth to this prosecution.