NEWS BRIEF A federal judge in Arizona referred Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio and three associates to federal prosecutors on Friday for allegedly ignoring a federal court’s orders to stop racially profiling Hispanics, compounding the controversial lawman’s legal woes.
In his formal order, U.S. District Judge Murray Snow assigned the U.S. Attorney’s office in Arizona to prosecute Arpaio, Chief Deputy Jerry Sheridan, Captain Steve Bailey, and Arpaio’s former defense attorney Michele Iafrate for criminal contempt of court. The New York Times has more:
Snow’s order also accused Arpaio and his subordinates of lying under oath and withholding evidence from both the court and a federal monitor overseeing the sheriff’s office. The sheriff and Sheridan, Snow wrote, “have a history of obfuscation and subversion of this Court’s orders that is as old as this case and did not stop after they themselves became the subjects of civil contempt.”
Snow already found Arpaio in civil contempt of court in May for violating a series of orders from a 2011 racial-profiling lawsuit against the sheriff and the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Department.
Arpaio rose to national prominence for his aggressive opposition to illegal immigration in his jurisdiction, which includes metropolitan Phoenix. His zealous focus on rounding up undocumented immigrants drew heavy criticism from the ACLU and other civil-rights groups while simultaneously making Arpaio a hero among immigration hardliners on the American right.
"We are more concerned with the rights of illegal aliens and criminals than we are with protecting our own country,” he told the Republican National Convention in Cleveland in July. The next day, he returned to Arizona for a hearing on the criminal contempt-of-court allegations against him.
If convicted of criminal contempt, Arpaio could face fines and a prison sentence. He is seeking a seventh term as sheriff of Maricopa County in November.