Sing it with me, now: “There-was-a-sheriff-who-broke-the-law-and-Ar-pai-o-was-his-name-o…”
Arizona’s Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio is back in the spotlight. This time, a federal judge is trying to determine whether the cantankerous sheriff (along with his aides) should be held in contempt of court for direct violation of a 2013 court order stipulating that the sheriff stop the racial profiling of Latinos. Apparently, he did not.
Arpaio’s hearing is scheduled to begin Tuesday and is expected to be one of the most formidable legal challenges the sheriff has ever had to contend with.
Presiding over the matter will be Judge Murray Snow, who was the very judge to assign federal oversight to Arpaio’s sheriff’s office back in 2013. Now, Judge Snow will work to determine whether Arpaio and his aides deliberately ignored the appointed monitor, and Snow’s very own orders dating from 2013. If affirmative, Snow will also have to determine whether or not Arpaio’s actions should result in criminal charges.
The entire question at the core of the matter is whether Arpaio intentionally ignored Judge Snow’s orders, and hence should be found in contempt of court. Representing the plaintiffs, Executive Director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona Alessandra Soler, stated:
I think for much of this process Arpaio has tried to wipe his hands of any wrongdoing. So we want to get to the bottom of this and what we expect to show is he knew he was deliberately disobeying this order.
Unpleasant allegations bubbled up last January showing Deputy Chief Jerry Sheridan undercutting the judge’s orders during a training session where other deputies were present. In the belittling of Snow’s orders, WFSB reported Sheridan as “using words such as ‘ludicrous’ and ‘absurd.’”
Arpaio and his legal camp aren’t talking much, naturally, but the notorious sheriff did, in fact, admit to violation of the order. He just hasn’t admitted the violation(s) were intentional (hence underlining more criminal in nature).
Get this comedy gem, though. Just last month, Arpaio tried to weasel out with a settlement over the matter, but rather than offering up his own money out of pocket, he offered $350,000 in taxpayer funds. He and his criminal compatriots also offered to pool their resources and come up with an additional $100,000 between them. Is it any wonder Snow said, “No way, José!”?
Valley civil rights lawyer J. Scott Halverson has previously argued before Snow and has been following Arpaio’s case from the start. Though he does not have any formal ties to the matter, Halverson offered his two cents:
I think that Sheriff Arpaio would be very concerned at this point.
Halverson also said that while it is not entirely impossible that Snow could find Arpaio and his crew in contempt of court, it’s much more likely that they will simply face civil violations. He quickly added that a civil violation does not necessarily mean that the judge has gone easy on Arpaio and his lot. Halverson believes the fines they all may face could be just as “strict” as a criminal sentence. Somehow, though, that seems a little hard to believe. And wouldn’t it be something to see such an arrogant, crooked, bigoted tyrant of a sheriff take a humble pie to the face and find himself behind bars? Wouldn’t that send a well-deserved message to the law enforcement agencies in this country? Arpaio could be the scapegoat who helps ease the national tension between cops and communities. Wouldn’t that be something?
It’s certainly possible the court could put someone in jail but that would be an extreme measure, especially when it’s a local elected official.
All eyes and ears will be waiting on what will be much anticipated testimony from Arpaio, who could be dazzling us all with his lunacy in headlines across the nation as soon as Wednesday.