On Tuesday, prosecutors for the federal government have revealed they will pursue charges of criminal content against Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Arizona for refusing to follow orders to halt the immigration-enforcement operations. By him refusing, he turned into a national hero, while the government saw him as a threat. The conviction could put Arpaio in jail for six months.
Dozens of illegal protesters lined the sidewalk outside the federal courthouse Tuesday morning shouting in Spanish: “Si se puede! Si se puede!” ( “Yes, we can!”). The illegals erupted in cheers, hugs and tears when they heard the news of Arpaio possibly being charged.
Arpaio, who plans to run for a seventh term, argues he did nothing wrong and that the charges are politically motivated. “My point is this was strictly a political attack on this sheriff in this campaign,” Arpaio said in comments to The Arizona Republic. “I am not going to surrender. I am going to fight this all the way. And I expect to be re-elected.”
The possibility of pursuing charges has come as a surprise to most. “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.”
More importanly, there’s no detailed precedent of past court cases to work as a guideline for Arpaio’s 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.”
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