PHOENIX, Aug. 20 (UPI) — A federal judge requested Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio and some of his subordinates, including his second in command, be prosecuted for criminal contempt of court.
According to AZ Central, U.S. District Court Judge G. Murray Snow’s decision came after he found Arpaio and three of his aides intentionally violated court orders stemming from an 8-year-old case meant to keep the sheriff’s office from racially profiling Latinos.
“Criminal contempt serves to vindicate the court’s authority by punishing the intentional disregard for that authority,” Snow wrote in the order on Friday.
Chief Deputy Jerry Sheridan, Arpaio’s former defense attorney Michele Iafrate and Capt. Steve Bailey were also referred for consideration of contempt charges.
According to the New York Times, Snow wrote Arpaio and Sheridan “have a history of obfuscation and subversion of this court’s orders that is as old as this case.”
Snow also said Arpaio and Sheridan repeatedly made false statements under oath and “there is also probable cause to believe that many if not all of the statements were made in an attempt to obstruct any inquiry into their further wrongdoing or negligence.”
Arpaio will only face criminal charges if federal prosecutors choose to pursue the case or if Snow appoints a special prosecutor.
“A criminal prosecution of Sheriff Arpaio is the right next step for justice to be done,” the American Civil Liberties Union’s Immigrants’ Rights Project said in a statement. “When a federal court finds that a law enforcement official has lied to the court in an effort to cover up misconduct, and willfully flouted court orders, that official must be held to account.”
Arpaio had previously been found in civil contempt of court, but the charge of criminal contempt could lead to more severe penalties such as fines and jail time.
Arpaio’s attorney Mel McDonald said he was more disappointed in the ruling than surprised.
“I think the evidence is clearly insufficient for him to make this referral,” he said. “We will be requesting a meeting with the U.S. Attorney’s Office and urging them to not go forward with it.”