Say It Ain’t So, Joe


Joe Arpaio leaves a federal courthouse in Phoenix earlier this month. The former Maricopa County sheriff was found guilty Monday of criminal contempt, a charge that carries a maximum sentence of six months in jail. Angie Wang/AP

Joe Arpaio leaves a federal courthouse in Phoenix earlier this month. The former Maricopa County sheriff was found guilty Monday of criminal contempt, a charge that carries a maximum sentence of six months in jail.
Angie Wang/AP

Say it ain’t so, Joe.1

But, of course, it is.

Joe Arpaio, the former Maricopa County Sheriff, was found guilty of criminal contempt on Monday. U.S. District Judge Susan Bolton found Arpaio guilty of criminal contempt.

For 24 years, he was the Sheriff of Maricopa County. He called himself “America’s Toughest Sheriff.” As many of us had suspected, he was jut a scofflaw, just a crook with a badge, determined to pursue his own personal agenda without regard to the law or court orders or the Constitution.

He violated court injunctions and instructed his staff to ignore those injunctions and orders. He failed to turn over evidence in violation of court orders. He destroyed evidence. He lied to the court, repeatedly. The whole sordid mess is laid out in detail in Judge G. Murray Snow’s Order re Criminal Contempt, sending the case to Judge Bolton for trial. Arapaio’s defense would have you believe that this was simple oversight, that Arapaio delegated tasks to employees who failed to follow through.

It is impossible to read Judge Bolton’s decision and believe that excuse. Judge Bolton concluded:

The evidence at trial proves beyond a reasonable doubt and the Court finds that Judge Snow issued a clear and definite order enjoining Defendant from detaining persons for further investigation without reasonable suspicion that a crime has been or is being committed; that Defendant knew of the order; and that Defendant willfully violated the order by failing to do anything to ensure his subordinates’ compliance and by directing them to continue to detain persons for whom no criminal charges could be filed. Because the Court finds that Defendant willfully violated an order of the court, it finds Defendant guilty of criminal contempt.

Sentencing is set for October 5, 2017.

It would be poetic justice if Arapaio were sentenced to serve time in the outdoor prison yard, the Tent City Jail, to which he sent people he thought were in the U.S. illegally. He could suffer in the baking heat and monsoon rains just like they did. It would be poetic justice if Arapaio were made to serve his sentence dressed in pink underwear, as he did his prisoners.

But, for all its flaws and slow progress, the U.S. criminal justice system isn’t about poetic justice; it’s about justice. At age 85, Arapaio is likely to avoid prison entirely or even be pardoned by President Trump.

You can say it ain’t so Joe, but not many folks are going to believe you.

 


  1. The statement is attributed to a nameless boy, confronting Shoeless Joe Jackson about his role in the Black Sox Scandal. See  Eight Men Out, a film directed by John Sayles, based on the Eliot Asinof book of the same name. 
Advertisements