The Department of Justice announced Tuesday it will file criminal charges against Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio for violating a years-old federal court order requiring that he end his “immigration patrols” in the greater Phoenix area, because they illegally, racially profiled Hispanics. The 84-year-old Maricopa County sheriff will be charged with misdemeanor contempt-of-court, which could land him in jail for six months if convicted.
“The criminal referral is the latest development in a case that began in 2007, when Manuel de Jesus Ortega Melendres, a Mexican tourist legally in the United States, was stopped outside a church in Cave Creek where day laborers were known to gather,” according to the Arizona Republic. “Melendres, the passenger in a car driven by a white driver, claimed that deputies detained him for nine hours and that the detention was unlawful.”
Here’s more from the Arizona Republic:
Eventually, the case grew to include complaints from two Hispanic siblings from Chicago who believed they were profiled by sheriff’s deputies, and an assistant to former Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon whose Hispanic husband claimed he was detained and cited while white motorists nearby were treated differently. In May 2013, Snow found that Arpaio’s law-enforcement practices illegally targeted Latinos. The federal judge ordered sweeping reforms for the office, but for the three years since, the case has continued to attract controversy.
Prosecutors are still considering a felony obstruction-of-justice charge against the elected sheriff and two of his aides. Arpaio admits he violated the orders, but he says he did so unintentionally. In the meantime, “Sherriff Joe” has become a darling of the anti-immigration right, frequently gets brought up by Donald Trump on the campaign trail, and spoke at the Republican convention in Cleveland this summer.