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Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio found in contempt of court

A federal judge on Friday ruled that the Maricopa County sheriff violated a federal court order that barred his agency from racial profiling of Latinos.
Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio. (Photo by Paul J. Richards/Getty)
Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio speaks with a reporter outside a city jail.

Sheriff Joe Arpaio, “America’s Toughest Sheriff,” has been found in civil contempt of federal court.

A federal judge on Friday ruled that Arizona's Maricopa County sheriff, a notorious hardliner against undocumented immigrants, violated a federal court order that barred his agency from racial profiling of Latinos.

Arpaio and three of his deputies have acknowledged that they deliberately rejected a 2011 court order designed to halt the practice of targeting Latinos during routine traffic stops by the sheriff's office. The court on Friday also found that they failed to turn over video evidence that was pertinent to the racial profiling case.

They “have demonstrated a persistent disregard for the orders of this court, as well as an intention to violate and manipulate the laws and policies regarding their conduct,” U.S. District Judge Murray Snow wrote in his ruling.

On top of it all, Arpaio also hired a private investigator to secretly shadow Snow’s wife in a ploy to discredit the judge, apparently to remove him from the case.

The legal trouble isn’t over for Arpaio. Later this month, the six-term sheriff will be back in court to find whether the ruling will spiral into a criminal contempt case. A conviction in that case could mean hefty fines or even jail time for Arpaio.

The legal fees associated with Arpaio’s racial profiling case have topped $60 million, according to The Arizona Republic.

"His recalcitrance ends here,” Cecillia Wang, director of the ACLU’s Immigrants’ Rights Project, said of Arpaio in a statement. “Strong remedies are needed to protect the community’s rights, starting with internal investigations that root out and punish misconduct. Willing or not, the sheriff will be made to comply with the law."