Former Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio was found guilty of criminal contempt on Monday, July 31.
U.S. District Judge Susan Bolton found Arpaio, the former Maricopa County, Arizona, sheriff guilty of willfully violating a federal judge’s order by continuing traffic patrols targeting immigrants.
The sentencing phase will begin Oct. 5. Arpaio, 85, could face up to six months in prison.
In December of 2011, amid a long-running racial profiling case, U.S. District Court Judge G. Murray Snow ordered that Arpaio’s deputies could only hold people if they were accused of committing a state crime and not because they thought they were in the country illegally.
Arpaio was also ordered to stop traffic patrols targeting people he suspected to be illegal immigrants, but he continued to enforce them at least 17 months after the order was implemented, New York Daily News reports.
During the bench trial, witnesses testified that 171 individuals were illegally apprehended and then turned over to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) or to the Border Patrol, AZCentral reports.
The six-term sheriff said he didn’t knowingly violate the judge’s order, and blamed his lawyer for not properly explaining to him the terms.
After 24 years as sheriff of Maricopa County, which includes the Phoenix metro area, “America’s Toughest Sheriff,” as he has come to be called, was voted out of office in November 2016, defeated by little-known retired Phoenix police sergeant, Paul Penzone.
Arpaio’s attorney said in a statement that the former sheriff would appeal the verdict to get a jury trial. The statement said Bolton violated the Constitution by issuing the verdict without reading it to Arpaio in court, CNN reports.