We reported in our blog earlier this summer that United States District Judge Murray Snow was considering referring contempt charges against Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio to the United States Attorney for possible criminal prosecution. Last week Judge Snow issued a 32-page decision in which he found that Arpaio ignored the judge’s orders and made numerous false statements under oath. The case is now in the hands of the federal prosecutors, who will decide whether to pursue criminal charges.
The case involves the profiling of Latinos. Judge Snow issued orders beginning in 2011 enjoining the MCSO from enforcing civil immigration laws, and from holding individuals in custody solely because of suspicion that they may be in the country illegally. Being in the country illegally is not, in and of itself, a crime.
During the course of that case, which was brought by the ACLU, Judge Snow found that Arpaio, his chief deputy for criminal matters Jerry Sheridan, Captain Steve Bailey (former head of the MCSO’s Professional Standards Bureau), and former Arpaio attorney Michele Iafrate, had committed criminal acts. Here are some of the specifics of the proposed charges:
- That Arpaio refused to abide by the court order prohibiting enforcement of the immigration law. In fact, Arpaio publicly stated that he had a “back-up plan” to evade the judge’s order.
- That Arpaio and Sheridan intentionally ignored a series of court order over a 17-month period, and are still not in compliance with the injunction.
- That Arpaio and Sheridan withheld evidence that was ordered to be turned over during the course of the case, including evidence of the “Seattle investigation,” in which Arpaio investigated a (nonexistent) conspiracy against him involving Judge Snow and others. The evidence allegedly withheld includes 50 computer hard drives, and over 1,400 i.d.’s, many of which were seized illegally from Latinos during traffic stops.
- That Bailey lied to the court about the existence of the i.d.’s.
- That Iafrate advised her client to violate the court’s orders.
- That Arpaio and Sheridan perjured themselves on multiple occasions during the course of the trial.
- That Arpaio and Sheridan mislead the court about the scope and the intent of the “Seattle investigation.”
The next step will be a decision by the U.S. Attorney on whether the four individuals will face criminal charges of obstruction of justice and/or perjury. The case has already cost the taxpayers over $50 million.
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