Infamous for dehumanizing prisoners, rampant racial profiling, and launching an investigation into President Obama’s birth certificate, America’s self-proclaimed toughest sheriff faces criminal contempt charges after repeatedly refusing to cease targeting Latinos throughout Maricopa County, Arizona. Running for a seventh term in office, the 84-year-old sheriff is an ardent Trump supporter who regularly violates the Constitution while arresting innocent Latinos with legal documents who made the mistake of visiting Maricopa.
In one case during 2007, Manuel de Jesus Ortega Melendres was visiting Maricopa as a tourist when Arpaio’s deputies arrested Melendres due to his Mexican citizenship. Melendres was handcuffed and detained for roughly nine hours despite the fact that he possessed a valid visa and had not committed a crime.
After the Department of Justice launched an investigation into allegations of discrimination and unconstitutional searches and seizures in June 2008, Sheriff Arpaio refused to cooperate with investigators. On September 2, 2010, the DOJ filed suit against Arpaio to compel his cooperation. Less than a year later, Arpaio conceded defeat and allowed federal investigators access to his staff and files. On March 24, 2013, U.S. District Judge G. Murray Snow issued a decision in Melendres v. Arpaio that found Arpaio and his office in violation of the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments and Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Known for instituting female chain gangs and forcing male inmates to wear pink underwear, Arpaio is also responsible for severe overcrowding between convicts and pretrial detainees, denying inmates access to medical and mental health care, and providing only two meals a day that cost less than dog food. Denied access to toilet paper and soap, inmates have been forced to eat moldy bread, rotten fruit, and other contaminated food. In the case of United States v. Maricopa County, et al, the Justice Department accused Arpaio and his staff of forcing women to sleep in their own menstrual blood, assaulting pregnant women, ignoring rape cases, using racial slurs, and conducting widespread racial profiling.
On Tuesday, federal prosecutor John Keller announced in court that Arpaio will be charged with criminal contempt for violating Judge Snow’s order to cease racially profiling Latinos. Due to the fact that Arpaio does not have the federal authority to arrest anyone suspected of entering the country illegally, the 84-year-old sheriff has been ordered to cease arresting Latinos who have not committed any crimes within his jurisdiction.
In August, Judge Snow referred criminal contempt charges against Arpaio, Chief Deputy Jerry Sheridan, Capt. Steve Bailey, and defense attorney Michele Iafrate after they allegedly withheld evidence, including 50 hard drives containing a secret investigation into Snow. According to Keller, federal prosecutors will continue the investigation into Arpaio’s aides while looking into possible perjury charges against Arpaio and Sheridan after making misstatements on the stand.
Found guilty of civil contempt of court earlier this year, Arpaio could face up to six months in jail if convicted of criminal contempt.