PHOENIX - U.S. District Judge Susan Bolton has found former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio guilty of criminal contempt.
Arpaio was formally charged with criminal contempt-of-court after U.S. Department of Justice attorneys accused him of intentionally violating a federal judge's order. DOJ attorneys say Arpaio's deputies continued arresting undocumented immigrants without evidence they had broken state law.
The criminal contempt charges stem from Federal Judge Murray Snow's preliminary injunction in December 2011, barring Arpaio and the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office "from enforcing federal immigration law or from detaining persons they believed to be in the country without authorization but against whom they had no state charges," according to the DOJ's court filing.
ARPAIO: What's next for him?
Arpaio pleaded not guilty and his trial started last June.
Shortly after the verdict Monday, Arpaio’s lawyers released a statement saying they will appeal Bolton's misdemeanor contempt verdict in order to get a trial by jury.
The release continued to say Bolton violated the U.S. Constitution: “Today, Judge Susan Bolton violated the United States Constitution by issuing her verdict without even reading it to the Defendant in public court. Her verdict is contrary to what every single witness testified in the case.”
Arpaio served as Maricopa County Sheriff, Arizona's largest county, from 1993 to 2016. The self-named "America's toughest sheriff," was booted out of office last November, when he lost re-election to Democrat Paul Penzone, who succeeded him as sheriff on January 1, 2017.
His defiance of all norms vaulted him to the national stage. Arpaio is known for his firm stance on immigration. In 2005, he began conducting saturation patrols and immigration sweeps and round-ups. He supported the controversial Support Our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhoods Act, more commonly referred to as SB 1070, which was struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court.
Judge Bolton handed down a split decision on SB 1070.
Arpaio is also known for being a firm supporter of the “birther” conspiracy and calling for investigations looking into the legitimacy of former President Barack Obama’s birth certificate.
Not surprisingly, Arpaio endorsed President Donald Trump during the 2016 election.
The 85-year-old's sentencing will be October 5. At most, Arpaio faces six months of jail time but legal experts say it is not likely Arpaio will be sentenced as such.