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Attorney: Arpaio Criminal Contempt Referral Would Be 'Drastic And Destructive'

Sheriff Joe Arpaio
Paul Atkinson/KJZZ
editorial | staff
Joe Arpaio

Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s criminal defense attorney has argued that a federal judge should not take the “drastic and destructive step of referring" Arpaio for criminal contempt.

The filing by Melvin McDonald came on the same day the Judge Murray Snow ordered more sweeping reforms at the sheriff’s office. McDonald wrote criminal prosecution would be unfair, and devastating to efforts by the sheriff’s office to comply with court orders.

The 18-page memo argued that Arpaio did not willfully disobey Snow’s orders, Arpaio’s public comments on them are protected under the First Amendment, and Arpaio relied on his former attorney’s advice in using a “back-up plan” for turning suspected illegal immigrants over to federal authorities.

The memo also said while Arpaio has taken responsibility for the agency as a whole, civil contempt proceedings were caused by the uncontrollable actions of other sheriff’s office employees.

Arpaio tweeted he will speak Thursday night at the Republican National Convention.

He’s due back in court on Friday. 

Matthew Casey has won Edward R. Murrow awards for hard news and sports reporting since he joined KJZZ as a senior field correspondent in 2015.