As President of the National Center for Police Defense, I write today to talk about former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio. As most of you know, Sheriff Joe lost his bid for re-election last year in a costly, contentious political campaign. His loss was due in large part to the Obama Justice Department filing criminal contempt of court charges against Arpaio just weeks before the election.
What some of you probably don’t know is that those charges were not dropped after Sheriff Joe lost his seat as Sheriff. The case continues and the trial is scheduled to begin on June 26th of this year.
The whole case stems from a “racial profiling” lawsuit brought by the ACLU in federal court. The ACLU alleged that the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office systematically discriminated against Hispanics throughout their course of enforcing illegal immigration laws. The judge in that case sided with the ACLU very early on, despite evidence to the contrary. In late 2011, the judge then issued an injunction against the Sheriff and his Office that prohibited them from arresting or detaining anyone that was found to be in the country illegally. The Sheriff and his Office complied with the judge’s order as they understood it, but the injunction put the Sheriff’s Office in a peculiar situation where they either had to abide by one judge’s direction or break the law by not enforcing existing laws.
Fast forward to late August of 2016 when the judge referred Sheriff Joe Arpaio, two others in his Office and Arpaio’s own lawyer for criminal contempt of court charges. Shortly thereafter, the Department of Justice, then under Loretta Lynch, took the case. The DOJ formally filed criminal contempt of court charges against the Sheriff and the others just two weeks before the election, breaking a long-standing tradition and protocol not to take action against sitting elected officials close to an election to avoid unduly influencing public opinion and interfering with an election.
It has since been revealed that the DOJ made a decision to charge the Sheriff with a different statute of contempt of court than he did for the three others named in the referral. The other three defendants had their charges dropped because the statute of limitations had run its course. It is my belief – and the belief of many attorneys that I have consulted – that Sheriff Joe was charged with a unique statute with a longer statute of limitations in order to make the charges stick and do the most political damage to him as close to the election as possible. And even though the charges that the DOJ filed against Arpaio demand a trial by jury, the DOJ has vehemently fought in court to deny the Sheriff his constitutional right to a jury trial.
Because of this, the Sheriff and his legal team have filed an emergency appeal with the United States Supreme Court. Without the Supreme Court stepping in, Sheriff Arpaio faces trial at the end of this month where it will be decided by one sitting federal judge.
It is important to note that the Section Chief of the DOJ’s Public Integrity Unit has asked for the full penalty of six months in prison (for a misdemeanor charge) to be imposed on Arpaio if the judge finds him guilty from the bench.
Sheriff Joe Arpaio has dedicated over 55 years of his life to law enforcement. From his beginning as a patrol officer to a top federal agent in the US Drug Enforcement Administration to serving as Sheriff of Maricopa County for 24 years, Sheriff Joe has fully and faithfully dedicated himself to enforcing the law. Now, based on politically-charged actions by the Obama Justice Department he faces prison time.
Now, as the judge in this case, Judge Susan Bolton, hears the testimony and look at the facts of this case, we would ask her to take into consideration something that is never talked about in the media or in the DOJ’s charges: If the Sheriff’s Office really was racially profiling Hispanics in a county of more than 3 million people, there would be hundreds, if not thousands, of victims. The truth of the matter is, there are none. They don’t exist.
If the DOJ is successful in prosecuting Sheriff Joe Arpaio, it will be a huge miscarriage of justice and a clear example of political assassination by our federal government against a sitting local elected official. That sets a dangerous precedent and one Judge Bolton should reject.