There is breaking news this afternoon in the criminal contempt case of former Maricopa County Arizona Sheriff Jose Arpaio. He was found guilty by federal District Judge Susan Bolton. Bolton issued the ruling today.
The criminal contempt charges were the result of Arpaio willfully disobeying a 2011 order from Judge Murray Snow in the Melendres v Arpaio civil case. The order forbade the MCSO from stopping people without cause based on mere appearance in an attempt to round up undocumented aliens. Snow found that Arpaio had ignored his order and referred him for criminal contempt prosecution by the US Justice Department. The case was randomly assigned to Judge Bolton. Since the charges were for misdemeanor contempt Arpaio was not entitled to a jury trial.
This is from Judge Snow’s order in 2011:
MCSO and all of its officers are hereby enjoined from detaining any person based only on knowledge or reasonable belief, without more, that the person is unlawfully present within the United States, because as a matter of law such knowledge does not amount to reasonable belief that the person either violated or conspired to violate the Arizona smuggling statute, or any other state or federal law.
Arpaio’s attorneys had argued that Snow’s order was confusing and that Arpaio had not meant to violate it. Judge Bolton disagreed:
The Court concludes that Judge Snow’s order was clear and definite. This conclusion does not require looking beyond the plain words of the order, but even considering the relief sought by the plaintiffs in Melendres, the conduct Defendant and the MCSO had been accused of, and what Judge Snow was seeking to prevent, there is no doubt that the order prohibited the MCSO from conducting detentions in violation of plaintiffs’ constitutional rights. The Melendres plaintiffs complained that MCSO violated their constitutional rights by detaining them without state charges solely for violating civil immigration law and Judge Snow’s order expressly prohibited the MCSO from continuing that conduct.…
It is clear that Defendant had knowledge of the Order. Mr. Casey testified that on December 23, 2011 he made a phone call to Defendant informing him that Judge Snow had issued an order regarding the Melendres plaintiffs’ motion for summary judgment and that a preliminary injunction had been issued. . . . . The evidence also shows that Mr. MacIntyre, an MCSO employee, lawyer and frequent legal advisor to Defendant, read a portion of the preliminary injunction aloud twice to Defendant and others at an MCSO Executive Cabinet meeting in January 2012.
A few weeks ago former Cold Case Posse lead Mike Zullo and his friend Carl Gallups tried to make the same argument that the order was not clear. Zullo appeared on Gallups “Freedom Friday” radio show on July 7 to discuss the contempt trial. Sharon Rondeau an ardent supporter of both Arpaio and Zullo wrote:
Both Gallups and Zullo said that Arpaio’s previous actions to enforce immigration laws were a manifestation of a conflict between state and federal statutes. Moreover, Zullo said that some of the prosecution’s witnesses, in his view, aided Arpaio’s cause to prove himself innocent of the charge.
“My understanding is the witnesses called by the DOJ to testify against Arpaio actually helped Arpaio,” Zullo said. “Not one of those witnesses ever said that Arpaio told them to disregard that order…”
At issue is whether or not Arpaio willfully violated Snow’s order. “When this thing finally gets adjudicated…then we’re going to make arrangements to have his attorney on your show…” Zullo told Gallups.
That Zullo and Gallups got everything about the case completely wrong should come as no surprise. It’s what they do. (Apologies to GEICO)
We look forward to hearing Arpaio’s attorneys discuss the conviction.
Bolton said the order was “crystal clear” and directly addressed the contention that Arpaio had delegated compliance of the order to his subordinates:
Defendant argues that he has not willfully violated the preliminary injunction order because he delegated enforcement of the order to his subordinates. (Ex. 3A, 478:23-479:2, 482:22-25; Ex. 3F 2527:5-10.) However, willful ignorance of a court order which a person has knowledge of and a duty to fulfill does not excuse non-compliance therewith. United States v. Hoffman , 13 F.2d 269, 277 (N.D. Ill. 1925), aff’d , 13 F.2d 278 (7th Cir. 1926), and aff’d sub nom. Westbrook v. United States, 13 F.2d 280 (7th Cir. 1926)…The evidence shows a flagrant disregard for Judge Snow’s order. Credible Judge Snow’s order. Credible testimony shows that Defendant knew of the order and what the order meant in regards to the MCSO’s policy of detaining persons who did not have state charges for turnover to ICE for civil immigration violations. Despite this knowledge, Defendant broadcast to the world and to his subordinates that he would and they should continue “what he had always been doing.” The Court concludes that there is no doubt that Defendant knew or should have known that his conduct violated the preliminary injunction order. Greyhound, 508 F.2d at 541. The Court finds Defendant’s violation of the order willful.
Arpaio said he would appeal the conviction and again ask for a jury trial.