The wheels of justice turn slowly, but they turn. Crazy Uncle Joe Arpaio may finally face justice for years of abuse of power and abuse of civil rights. The Department of Justice is to charge Crazy Uncle Joe Arpaio with contempt of court today. Federal government to pursue criminal-contempt charge against Sheriff Joe Arpaio:
Federal prosecutors said Tuesday they will pursue a criminal-contempt charge against Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio for defying orders to halt the immigration-enforcement operations that made him a national lightning rod.
If convicted, Arpaio could spend up to six months in jail.
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Arpaio has not yet officially been charged. U.S. District Judge Susan Bolton asked the federal government to write an order to show cause for her to sign by Wednesday. That will serve as a charging document for the case to go forward against Arpaio.
Announcement of the charge, which came minutes into the start of the criminal-contempt proceedings, surprised even those closest to the lawsuit.
“Usually a set status conference is a meeting between the court and council to discuss legal issues,” said Mel McDonald, Arpaio’s defense attorney. “We had no clue that they were going to come here today and make the announcements that they made.”
McDonald said Arpaio will plead not guilty.
Legal experts say the judge and attorneys have little historical guidance moving forward with the case.
“As rare as it is to have a federal judge refer the head of a law-enforcement agency for prosecution, it is even rarer that the Department of Justice would pick up that gauntlet and move forward with the charge,” said Paul Charlton, a former U.S. attorney for the District of Arizona. “It’s unheard of.”
U.S. Department of Justice attorney John Keller said the government will continue to investigate additional allegations against Arpaio, two aides and a defense attorney over concealing evidence — and therefore obstruction of justice — but will not proceed with a criminal case at this time.
Although the federal judge presiding over the racial-profiling case referred Arpaio and three others for consideration of criminal contempt, Keller said the statute of limitations may have run out for the allegations against the others.
Bolton said she is not sure, and asked for a pause on the statute-of-limitations clock so that all sides could discuss that issue.
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A tentative trial date was set for Dec. 6. Arpaio’s attorney asked for a jury trial.
The six-month cap suggests the case will be tried as a misdemeanor, although it was not explicitly stated in court.
Only a felony conviction can force an elected official out of office in Arizona, according to state statute.
The others referred by Snow for possible charges of criminal contempt — Chief Deputy Jerry Sheridan, Capt. Steve Bailey and defense attorney Michele Iafrate — will not face immediate charges.
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DOJ officials did not respond to requests for an interview after court proceedings but issued the following statement.
“The matter was referred to the Justice Department’s Public Integrity Section, and at a status hearing today before U.S. District Judge Susan R. Bolton, the department informed the court that it intends to proceed to trial against Sheriff Arpaio on the criminal contempt charges but, because of procedural defects, will not be proceeding against the other individuals. The court ordered the department to file a revised order redacting the contempt matters against the other individuals and set a preliminary trial date of Dec. 6, 2016.”
In related news, a new poll out today has Arpaio’s Democratic challenger, Paul Penzone, leading in the Maricopa County Sheriff race. New poll shows Penzone leading Arpaio:
A new poll of likely voters shows Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio trailing Democrat Paul Penzone by 10 points.
The live poll of 348 Maricopa County voters – people who voted in three of the last four general elections — found Penzone favored by 50.86 percent and Arpaio by 40.52 percent.
That narrows to 5 points, given the 5.2 percent margin of error.
The poll, conducted Oct. 2-5 by Sherpa Public Affairs, shows some big red flags for Arpaio.
Results indicate he’s losing among men (38%-55%), independents (38%-53%) and voters age 50-64 (45%-51%). The only age group he carried was the over-65 crowd (50%-41%) Women, meanwhile, appear up for grabs, supporting Penzone over Arpaio, 47-42%, which is within the margin of error.
Arpaio and Penzone split the white vote while Hispanics broke three-to-one for Penzone.
As expected, The Arizona Republic which has called for Arpaio to resign and to be prosecuted over the years, today endorsed Paul Penzone for sheriff. Our View: Elect Paul Penzone, not Sheriff Showboat.
Will residents of the state of Maricopa finally pull their heads out of their asses and vote Crazy Uncle Joe Arpaio out of office? To paraphrase President Gerald Ford, “Our long national nightmare may finally be over.”