A district court judge recently determined that former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio had violated U.S. law. Judge Susan Bolton convicted the controversial Arizona police official of a misdemeanor that could result in a substantial amount of prison time. Arpaio’s reliance on racial profiling brought about the ruling.
Meanwhile, President Trump continues to urge police to target immigrants who lack the appropriate documents. His administration warned cities that they might lose federal funding if local officers refuse to cooperate. This campaign has prompted supporters of immigrants to take legal action against the authorities.
About 10 years ago, a civil lawsuit accused the sheriff of arresting people only because he suspected that they had entered the United States illegally. Arpaio refused to accept subsequent rulings and has committed contempt of court as a consequence. He could face as many as 180 days in prison.
In 2011, a district judge called upon Arpaio to stop detaining people who weren’t accused of violating specific Arizona laws. He appealed the ruling but another court maintained it. The sheriff’s office also failed to win the above-mentioned civil case. A judge determined that he’d regularly violated Hispanic residents’ rights.
Arpaio was charged with contempt of court because he insisted on upholding unlawful policies. He attempted to blame the violations on subordinates, but Bolton had evidence that the former sheriff intentionally ignored court orders. Arpaio will undergo sentencing on October 5.
It wasn’t difficult to prove that “America’s toughest sheriff” had violated a judge’s order to respect suspects’ constitutional rights. On multiple occasions, he told staff members and the public that his methods would remain the same. Maricopa County’s police officers continued to employ racial profiling.
Arpaio attorney Jack Wilenchik rejected the misdemeanor conviction, saying that the 2011 ruling lacked sufficient clarity. He also accused Bolton of refusing to let a jury determine if Arpaio had committed a crime. The former sheriff’s legal team plans to appeal this verdict.
Some anti-immigration activists and Trump supporters also came to Arpaio’s defense. On the other hand, the American Civil Liberties Union praised Bolton’s ruling. Its deputy legal director highlighted the decision’s importance to individuals who were arrested unlawfully. She noted that the Arizona sheriff’s decisions had violated the U.S. Constitution.
Arpaio has come under criticism for a wide range of controversial practices. Despite extreme desert heat, he forced many Maricopa County inmates to live in outdoor tents. A judge found that his staff frequently served moldy or overripe food to prisoners awaiting trial. Numerous inmates found it difficult or impossible to eat.
During over two decades in office, the sheriff often mixed law enforcement with politics. He repeatedly launched criminal investigations that targeted his opponents. Arpaio even promised to discover if former President Obama had a genuine U.S. birth certificate. Maricopa County incurred considerable legal expenses as he battled lawsuits and appealed court rulings.
In 2007, police officers arrested two executives who worked at Village Voice Media. They transported Jim Larkin and Michael Lacey to county prisons in unmarked vehicles. Arpaio ordered these arrests because he was angry about reports that had appeared in their newspaper, the Phoenix New Times.
After the sheriff urged it to take action, the county attorney’s office used subpoenas to demand extensive amounts of information from Village Voice Media. It requested numerous facts on the New Times’ staff and people who visit the paper’s website. Larkin and Lacey refused to comply.
Arpaio ordered their arrests soon after the New Times revealed the intrusive subpoenas on its front page. The paper had also drawn his ire in the past. Unlike much of the media, it regularly published reports about inmate abuse and fatalities. Lacey and Larkin highlighted the sheriff’s corruption and racist tactics as well.
The executives’ incarceration triggered outrage across the country. Fortunately, this prompted Maricopa County officials to drop the charges and free both men. Larkin and Lacey reacted by taking legal action against the county. An appellate court confirmed that the authorities had violated the First Amendment.
The findings revealed how a prosecutor had illegally issued subpoenas in an effort to demand confidential data from Village Voice Media. They also verified that law enforcement officers had no legitimate reason to detain the two executives. Consequently, the county had to settle this case by paying $3.75 million to Jim Larkin and Michael Lacey.
The two men decided to use this money to create an organization known as the Frontera Fund. It primarily gives assistance to Hispanic people in Arizona. When they established the fund, Larkin spoke about the importance of helping individuals who face difficult circumstances.
Michael Lacey commented on Arpaio’s demonization of minorities and immigrants. He criticized the sheriff for promoting irrational fear. Lacey and Larkin have sought to play a more positive role. In 2014, their organization started giving money to reputable Hispanic charities. Some of these nonprofits strive to defend civil rights.
The Frontera Fund has not forgotten about Maricopa County’s infamous sheriff. Its “Arpaio Watch” webpage features 87 articles on racial profiling, prisoner mistreatment, corruption and related issues. The organization opposed his re-election and urged judges to imprison him.
Mike Lacey grew up in New Jersey and went to college in Arizona. When students held anti-war demonstrations, Phoenix media outlets reacted with negative coverage. He collaborated with fellow students to establish a free newspaper known as the New Times. It offered an alternative to highly conservative papers in Maricopa County.
Jim Larkin was born in Phoenix. He attended Arizona State University until Michael Lacey helped him start the New Times. Lacey served as the publication’s editor while Larkin focused on managing ad space. Their paper refused to shy away from controversial issues.
The New Times eventually expanded and became Village Voice Media as it acquired newspapers in major cities across the nation. Readers appreciated the papers’ investigative reports and detailed information on nearby events. Lacey and Larkin no longer operate VVM, but they continue to run the Frontera Fund.