Arpaio Sees Judge's Criminal-Contempt Referral as Fundraising Opportunity

Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio sees a federal judge's criminal-contempt referral as the perfect fundraising opportunity, imploring potential donors to save him from the "far left."

Last week, Arizona U.S. District Court Judge G. Murray Snow referred Arpaio to the Arizona U.S. Attorney's Office for possible prosecution over the sheriff's ongoing non-compliance with a 2013 order in the Melendres racial-profiling case. Snow also referred Arpaio's chief deputy, Jerry Sheridan, ex-internal affairs boss Steve Bailey, and ex-Arpaio attorney Michele Iafrate to the prosecutor's office.

The referral came just 10 days before a primary election that has Arpaio facing off against one of his Republican enemies, Dan Saban. (Arpaio is expected to trounce Saban, a former Mesa police officer and Buckeye police chief who previously ran for sheriff as a Democrat.) 

As Arpaio's campaign manager, Chad Willems, was complaining to the media on Thursday about the "timing" of Snow's move, the campaign was sending out fundraising letters, using Arpaio's potential trip to the slammer as incentive and lobbing a barely veiled insult at the judge.

"The judge made this decision just 10 days before my primary election!" the letter blares in boldface to potential donors. "This decision by this judge stems from a 'racial profiling' case brought against me by the ultra-liberal American Civil Liberties Union. You know them. They're the far-left group that makes a living off suing police departments for financial gain. They're also the ones who defend child molesters, cop killers and known terrorists such as Khalid Sheik Mohamed — the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks!"

While you're marveling at the sheriff's ability to misspell Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, note the scare quotes around racial profiling: Arpaio seems to be signaling that even after all this, he doesn't think Snow's ruling in Melendres is legit. (Not to mention the close proximity of "this judge" to "Khalid Sheik [sic] Mohamed [sic]."

"Support Sheriff Joe! Donate $50 right now," the letter urges.

Explaining that the criminal-contempt referral began with "Obama's Justice Department" hassling him over his "unwavering position against illegal immigration," Arpaio informs his fanbase that the stakes are now "way higher."

"In addition to campaign for re-election I'm now going to have to fight tooth and nail against this court action. That's why I need your help, right away. Barack Obama, his Justice Department and their far-left allies like the ACLU would love nothing better than to see me convicted of a crime."

Given that Judge Snow has made it clear that he wants to see Arpaio convicted of a crime, we'll put him in the "far-left allies" column.

We'll also assume the sheriff has no truck with such nonsense: "I will not be intimidated by anyone who seeks to silence me from speaking out against our federal government's failure to secure our border or enforce our immigration laws."

Naturally, there's the small matter of a re-election campaign. 

"I'm going to do everything in my power to fight this case because I know I've done nothing wrong," Arpaio writes. "The media is having a field day with this. They're intentionally misleading the public about this case and making it sound as if I'm going to jail! This could not be further from the truth."

The fact of the matter is that Arpaio could face up to six months behind bars — and perhaps more — if he's convicted of criminal contempt.

Chad Willems didn't return a call from New Times requesting comment.
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Ray Stern has worked as a newspaper reporter in Arizona for more than two decades. He's won numerous awards for his reporting, including the Arizona Press Club's Don Bolles Award for Investigative Journalism.