Former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio and his attorneys emerge from the federal courthouse following the first day of his criminal contempt trial. David Kadlubowski/azcentral.com
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The former Maricopa County sheriff emerges as head of a conservative non-profit.
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Arizona Republic columnist Ed Montini weighs in on Sherff Joe Arpaio’s re-election loss. Video by azcentral
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With a federal judge’s signature on a proposed order initially submitted by prosecutors Oct. 17, the deal is sealed: Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio is criminally charged with federal contempt of court.
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Viridiana Hernandez talks about the “Arrest Arpaio Not the People” anti-Sheriff Joe Arpaio protest, which was held outside Sandra Day O’Connor United States Courthouse in Phoenix. Nick Oza/azcentral.com
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Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s attorney Mel Mcdonald addresses the media outside the federal courthouse in Phoenix. Nick Oza/azcentral.com
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Protesters demonstrate against Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio outside federal court on Oct. 11, 2016. azcentral.com
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Maricopa County Supervisors on Sept. 21 approved an extra $4.5 million in legal fees to cover costs with a long-running racial-profiling case involving the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office.
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The Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office is eliminating pay raises for some of its jail detention staff to help foot the growing bill for a racial-profiling case, but they considered several other options, including closing the famous Tent City jail.
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A federal judge issued sweeping reforms over the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office’s internal affairs division, stripping its leaders of autonomy over disciplinary actions related to the long-running racial-profiling case against the agency.
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A federal judge has found Sheriff Joe Arpaio in civil contempt of federal court.
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Arpaio’s criminal contempt trial begins
Arpaio back in action
Ed Montini weighs in on Arpaio’s loss
Arpaio officially charged with criminal contempt
Inside the Sheriff Joe Arpaio protest
Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s attorney speaks
Protesters demonstrate against Arpaio outside federal court
MCSO’s legal bills keep growing in racial-profiling case
MCSO considered closing Tent City
Arpaio stripped of internal affairs oversight
Arpaio in contempt of federal court
The case is now in the hands of a federal judge to determine if former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio is guilty or not guilty of criminal contempt of court.
Prosecutors and defense attorneys in the final hours of Joe Arpaio’s trial made impassioned cases about whether the former sheriff willfully defied a judge’s orders barring him from conducting immigration-enforcement operations.
In their closing arguments Thursday, both sides drove home positions they had argued for four days last week.
Federal prosecutors used the sheriff’s words of defiance against him, claiming that he continued the practice for political gain. Defense attorneys maintained that the judge’s order was unclear, and therefore Arpaio couldn’t have violated it intentionally.
Judge: Was order ‘clear and definite’?
U.S. District Court Judge Susan Bolton perhaps delivered the day’s key takeaway, providing a rare glimpse into her deliberations.
During prosecutors’ rebuttal, Bolton grilled prosecutors about one of the requirements to prove criminal contempt. By law, the violated order must be “clear and definite,” and the defendant must have known about the order and willfully flouted it.
Bolton asked federal prosecutor John Keller to whom the “clear and definite” portion applied.
“So it had to be clear and definite to a person in the position of the defendant, or is it clear and definite as explained by other people in his office?” she said. “Or does it have to, on its face, be clear and definite, without anyone else explaining it?”
Keller said it was the defendant’s responsibility to understand the order.
“When you’re under a court injunction, you don’t get to say, ‘Well, um, no one explained it to me sufficiently,’ ” he said, before citing case law. “The defendant may not avoid criminal contempt by ‘twisted interpretations’ or ‘tortured construction’ of the provisions of the order.”
Bolton additionally pointed to an email within the sheriff’s command staff about the order, noting that “clearly” Arpaio’s subordinates didn’t understand it. She asked where prosecutors could show evidence that a directive to violate the order came from the top down.
Keller recited testimony of “heated” conversations between Arpaio, his attorney and one of his aides, in which he made clear that he was the elected sheriff who made the decisions.
“He didn’t want to stop turning people over to Border Patrol,” Keller said.
Because it is a bench trial, it is Bolton’s decision alone whether to find Arpaio guilty or not guilty. If convicted, he could be sentenced to up to six months in jail, although legal experts say incarceration is unlikely.
After court, both sides read Bolton’s line of questioning as favorable to the defense.
Civil-rights leader and longtime Arpaio foe Salvador Reza said he thought the trial was going well until Bolton began asking about the definition of “clear and definite.”
“She was like, buying the argument of the defense — that Arpaio was never told clearly what the order said,” Reza said. “That worries me because Arpaio … in reality, he’s known that since the beginning. He did it willfully.”
Conversely, the defense team was encouraged by Bolton’s responses.
“I thought it was great for us,” Arpaio attorney Dennis Wilenchik said. “She obviously picked up on the fact … asking the government whether it was a clear and definite order, and to who? …The answer is, the case study cited showed, it has to be in the context of the audience to which it’s directed.”
In December 2011, amid a long-running racial profiling case, U.S. District Court Judge G. Murray Snow ordered Arpaio’s deputies to stop holding individuals solely on the belief they were in the country illegally. They only were to detain those who were accused of a state crime.
But Arpaio’s deputies continued to do so for at least 17 months thereafter. Witnesses last week testified that 171 individuals were illegally apprehended and then turned over to U.S, Immigration and Customs Enforcement or to the Border Patrol.
Prosecutors: Arpaio understood order, violated it anyway
Federal prosecutors on Thursday morning spelled out the three elements required to prove criminal contempt of court against Arpaio, and then used Arpaio’s own words to argue that he should be found guilty of all of them.
Prosecutor Keller on Thursday told Bolton that the judge’s order was clear, that Arpaio knew about the order and that he willfully violated it.
Keller showcased various news releases and media clips to bolster his theory. In a June 2012 news clip, Arpaio is seen boasting about doing the exact thing Snow had forbidden.
In a televised interview, Arpaio explained that when a person who is in the county illegally was accused of a state crime, his deputies would arrest and book them into jail.
Then he added, “ICE has been taking them off our hands when we have no, no state charges against them.”
Keller said Arpaio did so to solicit financial support for his upcoming election.
Arpaio was re-elected sheriff, largely on an anti-immigration platform, in November 2012.
Keller, predicting a defense argument that would blame Arpaio’s former defense attorney Tim Casey, reminded the court of Casey’s testimony.
Last week, Casey said Arpaio had assured him just after the injunction that his office wasn’t doing anything that would violate it anyway.
“You can’t lie to your lawyer about what you’re doing and then blame him for failure to follow up,” Keller said.
In closing, Keller echoed the same words used in the government’s opening statements.
“The defendant thought this day would never come,” Keller said in closing. “But nobody gets to openly defy a federal judge’s order. … (His) contempt of and for the court are clear. He should be found guilty.”
Defense: Order was not clear
Wilenchik followed up with an impassioned defense for his client after the morning break.
Wilenchik reiterated the key elements of his arguments last week: that Casey was at fault for not ensuring the order was followed, and that the judge’s order itself was unclear and left room for interpretation.
Wilenchik said Casey never followed up on training scenarios that would have explained the judge’s order to the troops.
And Wilenchik highlighted a portion of Snow’s order that he said was subject to interpretation.
Snow’s 2011 order, in part, stated, “MCSO and all of its officers are hereby enjoined from detaining any person based only on knowledge or reasonable belief, without more, that the person is unlawfully present within the United States.”
The “without more” passage was meant to apply to a state crime. But Wilenchik said the order didn’t specifically say deputies couldn’t cooperate with ICE or Border Patrol agents. The “more” could mean direction from federal authorities to hold an individual, he argued.
Wilenchik rhetorically asked Bolton whether Arpaio should be expected to understand a court’s order on his own. Shouldn’t he be expected to delegate its implementation to his command staff? If Casey was telling the truth about his conversations with Arpaio and command staff, why didn’t Casey’s legal timesheets reflect this?
“Please. Give me a break. That’s ridiculous. He delegated to these people,” Wilenchik said. “And now he’s the only one holding the ball? To be responsible because the order didn’t go out to the troops?”
Wilenchik said the question was not whether Arpaio heard the words of the order.
“The question is, what did it mean to him? What did it say about ICE or Border Patrol or following direction?”
In closing, Wilenchik reminded the court that Arpaio already had been found in civil contempt of court for the same issue. He admitted that violations had been made, though never intentionally. The difference between civil and criminal contempt is intent.
Wilenchik then followed up on the prosecution’s assertion that Arpaio never thought this day would come.
“The only reason he may have thought this day would never come is because he accepted responsibility in the civil matter,” Wilenchik said. “And so, yes. He did probably think this day would never come. Frankly, it shouldn’t have.”
A swift verdict seems unlikely. Bolton asked both sides to submit to her legal citations for material used in their closing arguments and gave attorneys two weeks to do so.
Snow’s civil-contempt finding came six months after proceedings concluded.
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