The Slatest

“America’s Toughest Sheriff” Joe Arpaio Could Find Himself Behind Bars

Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio takes part in the convention openings on the second day of the Republican National Convention on July 19, 2016 at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio.  

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

All the tough talk in the world may not end up helping Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio get out of his latest legal mess. A federal judge on Friday referred Maricopa County Sheriff Arpaio to the U.S. Attorney’s Office requesting that he be prosecuted for criminal contempt of court. Three of his aides are also included in the referral. Arpaio has made a national name for himself by harassing anyone who appears to be Latino and abusing prisoners by forcing them to sleep in tents outside despite intense heat and feeding them bread and water for a week after they allegedly desecrated American flags.


The move came after a judge said Arpaio and his deputies failed to heed court orders from a years-old racial-profiling case and, among other things, continued his immigration patrols months after they were ordered to be stopped. Arpaio and one of his deputies have already been held in civil contempt for essentially lying under oath but criminal contempt could actually lead to incarceration. Of course, there is no guarantee that the U.S. Attorney’s Office will decide to prosecute the two men, but the judge could still order a special prosecutor to pursue the charges.

Arpaio, who has long raised questions about President Obama’s birth certificate, is an avowed supporter of Donald Trump and spoke at this year’s Republican National Convention. He is now running for his seventh term, but the recommendation for his prosecution may very well mark the end of his political career. “Generally speaking, it’s difficult to make the case for why you should continue as the county’s top law enforcement official when you soon may be known as Inmate No. 2944814,” notes the Arizona Republic’s Laurie Roberts.