Arizona’s Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio is asking his supporters to help him pay the legal fees for his civil contempt of court case at a time when the tab seems poised to top $45 million. The county board that oversees the budget is also complaining, wondering why they should have to foot the bill for a public officer who disobeyed a court order.
The sheriff leads the county that includes Arizona’s most populous city, Phoenix. Over the years, Arpaio has developed a reputation for his brutal policies against immigrants. In addition to the $45 million owed, Arpaio has racked up fees of approximately $74 million during his 22-year tenure, which includes the costs of judgments, settlements and legal fees in cases surrounding deaths in his jails and allegations that he investigated political enemies.
Arpaio admitted that he violated the federal court ruling in March and was supposed to face court at a hearing in April. The contempt hearings were pushed back and then postponed again days ago as Arpaio and his attorneys wait for a response to their request that the judge be removed from the case for conflict of interest.
The charges before Arpaio hinge on whether he intentionally violated those injunctions. It is alleged that for 18 months, with full knowledge of the injunctions, Arpaio failed to communicate to his deputies that they were ordered to stop enforcing federal immigration laws, that Arpaio and his lawyers failed to hand over relevant pretrial information, such as the audio recording devices carried by deputies, and that Arpaio’s aides failed to follow court orders to begin recording those deputies.
Arpaio appealed to his supporters for cash, saying that he “doesn't have enough personal wealth” to fight the charges, according to the Associated Press. He has a reported eight commercial retail properties in the Phoenix area worth $2 million, a house valued at $385,000 and makes a yearly salary of $100,000. It is unknown if he makes money from the commercial holdings.
As the contempt of court hearing approached earlier this year, Arpaio offered to push the county to create a $350,000 fund for those affected by his noncompliance. He and other defendants offered to donate $100,000 to civil rights groups from their own pockets as well.
The fees surrounding the contempt-of-court and racial profiling cases are likely to surpass the current $45 million prediction. The U.S. Attorney's Office has indicated that it is not interested in a settlement in the case and that civil contempt of court charges could be brought against Arpaio if the remedies are insufficient.