Judge delivers major blow to Sheriff Joe Arpaio in racial profiling case
Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Maricopa County, Arizona speaking at the Tea Party Patriots American Policy Summit in Phoenix, Arizona (Gage Skidmore/Flickr)

A federal judge found Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio in contempt for violating a court order meant to stop racial profiling, the Arizona Republic reports. The civil ruling sets the stage for criminal contempt of court proceedings.

U.S. District Judge Murray Snow ruled that Arpaio and three of his top aides violated a court order that was intended to curtail racial profiling in the Arizona county, the paper reports. The ruling brings to a close a year-long series of hearings in which Snow sought to find out if Arpaio and his command staff purposely flouted Snow's orders.

According to the Arizona Republic, there were three alleged violations involving failure to collect and turn over evidence and continuing to enforce immigration law that Snow had barred. Typically, immigration enforcement is left to the federal government,  not local agencies.

Arpaio and his deputy chief, Jerry Sheridan, are accused of failing to turn over video evidence and failing to quietly collect evidence before trial.

While both Arpaio and Sheridan admitted to the failings, both denied doing them purposely. But the Republic reports discussion in the court room focused on whether Arpaio was more interested in "settling political scores" rather than stopping adjudicated racial profiling at his agency.

However, Arpaio admitted his attorneys had hired private detectives to "investigate" Snow's wife.

Arpaio became a national figure for housing jail inmates in an outdoor "tent city" facility, where they are exposed to desert elements including sweltering heat, cold and rain.