Sheriff Joe Arpaio, whose rugged exterior and abrasive, law-and-order persona has become a focal point of intense criticism, has been referred along with three associates to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for criminal contempt of court.
The Friday ruling by U.S. District Court Judge G. Murray Snow judged Arpaio willfully disobeyed an assortment of court orders connected to a racial-profiling case.
Chief Deputy Jerry Sheridan, Captain Steve Bailey and Michele Iafrate, Arpaio’s ex-defense attorney, were also referred to the U.S. Attorney’s office for contempt.
Cosme Lopez, spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney for Arizona, John Leonardo, described the criminal referral as “a very atypical situation.” Arpaio stated he looked forward to an “independent review” of the matter.
The contempt citation revolves around a May decision where Arpaio and former subordinate Brian Sands were found in civil contempt for defying provisions of a court order to cease Arpaio’s “saturation tactics,” the practice of descending on Phoenix-area neighborhoods and arresting suspected illegal immigrants without proper documents.
In a 162-page May ruling, Snow determined the policing strategy amounted to systemic racial profiling.
Having ruled the strategy illegal three years ago, Snow referred Arpaio for civil contempt charges in May and referred Arpaio, Sheridan, Bailey and Iafrate for criminal contempt Aug. 19.
The criminal contempt referral exposed the six-term Maricopa County sheriff to possible fines and jail time.
[Arizona Republic] [Photo courtesy CNN]