'America's Toughest Sheriff' Found Guilty Of Criminal Contempt


U.S. District Judge Susan Bolton issued a 14-page order Monday that found Arpaio guilty of misdemeanor contempt of court for prolonging the patrols.

Sentencing is scheduled for October 5.

However, the six-term sheriff said he didn't intentionally violate the order, blaming his lawyer for not properly explaining the terms to him. The statement said Bolton violated the Constitution by issuing the verdict without reading it to Arpaio in court. He regularly held undocumented immigrants past their court-ordered release dates to ensure that they would be picked up by immigration agents, and vowed to investigate President Barack Obama's birth certificate.

Arpaio's trial began in June, but he appealed his case after a judge rejected his request for a jury.

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Prosecutors say Arpaio violated the order so he could promote his immigration enforcement efforts in an effort to boost his 2012 re-election campaign.

"Her verdict is contrary to what every single witness testified in the case", according to his legal team's statement.

The department was able to conduct these operations for years under a federal program that authorized some local police and sheriff's departments to enforce immigration law, but authorization was revoked in 2009. Prosecutors alleged that he continued to do so, and a year ago, the Justice Department made a decision to pursue a criminal contempt-of-court case against him. The legal costs and distractions involved in Arpaio's ultra-high-profile right-wing tenure were clearly getting old for his constituents.

Jack Wilenchik, one of Mr. Arpaio's lawyers, said Judge Snow's 2011 order "was not clear and definite, and Judge Bolton did not adequately address that".

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But more important, it probably puts paid to the demagogic former sheriff's long, toxic political career.

His defense focused on what his attorneys said were weaknesses in the court order that failed to acknowledge times when deputies would detain immigrants and later hand them over to federal authorities.

Last year, the judge asked federal prosecutors to file criminal contempt charges against Arpaio and several subordinates, alleging they had disregarded the court's directions, made false statements and attempted to obstruct further inquiry. A federal investigation and federal lawsuit followed.

Arpaio was both famous and infamous for his approach to criminal punishment; he forced male prisoners to wear pink underwear and even reinstated chain gangs in his jurisdiction.

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Arpaio's criminal charges are believed to have contributed heavily to his crushing defeat in November to little-known retired Phoenix police Sgt. Paul Penzone.