Judge, Not Jury, Finds Former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio Guilty of Criminal Contempt

Arpaio likely to appeal based on denial of a jury trial and refusal of judge to recuse himself for bias.

By Rachel Alexander Published on August 1, 2017

On Monday, U.S. District Court Judge Susan Bolton found former Sheriff Joe Arpaio guilty of criminal contempt. This was related to the Maricopa County, Arizona, sheriff’s efforts to enforce laws against illegal immigration. He will be sentenced in October for the misdemeanor.

She had denied his request for a jury trial. This is odd since it was a criminal charge.

Left-wing activists have been targeting Arpaio through the legal system. They are unhappy with his efforts to reduce illegal immigration. He began them in the mid-2000s. He helped pass four ballot measures targeting illegal immigration in 2006. At the same time, he started arresting illegal immigrants under Arizona’s felony human smuggling law. They “conspired to smuggle themselves,” he said.

Melendres v. Arpaio and Judge Murray Snow’s Role

In 2008, activists filed a lawsuit against Arpaio, Melendres v. Arpaio. They charged him with racial profiling. U.S. District Court Judge Murray Snow told Arpaio to stop racially profiling illegal immigrants at the sheriff’s office. He was charged with criminal contempt when he supposedly did not do so.

Arpaio asked Snow repeatedly to recuse himself from the case due to bias. Snow refused. In 2013, a woman told Arpaio over Facebook that she overheard Judge Snow’s wife saying that Snow hated Arpaio and didn’t want him to be re-elected.

Snow said he wanted to make Arpaio pay personally out of his own pocket..

The American Bar Association has an ethical rule that discusses when a judge should recuse him or herself due to their spouse. It mentions a spouse’s bias or involvement four times.

Arpaio apologized for racial profiling. He donated money to an Hispanic civil rights group. He admitted that he committed civil contempt of court for not complying. This wasn’t enough for Snow. He said he wanted to make Arpaio pay personally out of his own pocket. Arpaio is 84 years old. Any appeal could go on for years.

What is Racial Profiling?

Illegal immigrants are more likely to commit traffic infractions than the general population.

As a result of Melendres, the DOJ began probing Arpaio for racial profiling in 2008 under Obama. Arizona has a large number of illegal immigrants. They commit crimes at a higher rate than the general public. For example, in 2007, illegal immigrants made up nine percent of the adult population in Maricopa County. Yet they received 20 percent of all felony DUIs.

They are more likely to commit traffic infractions. A large number of them have not learned U.S. traffic laws. They have less money, so are more likely to have something wrong with their cars. This prompts the police to pull them over.

Judge Snow refused to consider these facts. Instead, he chose to believe instead that the men and women of the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office — many who are Hispanic and other minorities — pull drivers over because they are targeting illegal immigrants. He wrote in his 2013 Melendres opinion, “Those saturation patrols all involved using traffic stops as a pretext to detect those occupants of automobiles who may be in this country without authorization.”

Even after an illegal immigrant has been pulled over for a traffic violation, Snow said the officers can’t take any action to determine if they are illegal. He reasoned, “It is not a violation of federal criminal law to be in this country without authorization in and of itself. ”

The Lost Election

Arpaio lost reelection last year in part due to the bad publicity. He also lost in part because left-wing billionaire George Soros poured $2.3 million into the election to defeat him.

Arpaio is expected to appeal the conviction. He will likely cite Snow’s refusal to recuse himself and Bolton’s refusal to provide him with a jury trial as grounds for reversal.


Rachel Alexander briefly represented Sheriff Arpaio as one of his attorneys in 2010. Follow Rachel on Twitter at Rach_IC.

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