Former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio has been found guilty of criminal contempt of court for violating a federal judge’s order.

The verdict issued Monday capped a case that regularly ventured into unchartered grounds.

Rarely is a judge forced to wield a criminal contempt charge, and even rarer is it against a government official. And who can name a single other instance where said government official is a personal friend of the sitting president, who oversees the prosecuting body?

Even seasoned legal experts struggled to predict the outcome.

What we know now is that Arpaio is scheduled to be sentenced Oct. 5, and could face up to 6 months in jail.

But Arpaio’s colorful history, ties with the administration and former standing as an elected official open a trove of other questions on what will become of the famed lawman. 

Here, we attempt to answer some of those questions.

MORE ON THE RULING: Our View: Joe Arpaio is guilty, but hold the cheers for now | Roberts:Don’t give Joe Arpaio prison (and a platform) | Díaz: Why we can’t let Joe Arpaio off the hook now

Will Sheriff Joe end up in Tent City?

No. Arpaio’s successor Paul Penzone this year announced plans to shutter Arpaio’s iconic outdoor jail and has already transferred most inmates to other lockup facilities. All that remains are the approximate 370 inmates on work release. Officials plan to close Tent City in October.

Further, Arpaio has been convicted of a federal crime. If a judge chooses to incarcerate him, the U.S. Marshals Service will determine where Arpaio serves his sentence. David Gonzales, U.S. Marshal of Arizona, told The Republic the Marshals contract with several local jails and prisons, but the Maricopa County jail system isn’t one of them.

Will Arpaio actually get jail time?

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It could happen. Though the maximum potential sentence is six months, former U.S. Attorney of Arizona Paul Charlton said the likelihood of that Arpaio getting the max is “slim to none.”

Former Maricopa County Attorney Rick Romley said U.S. District Judge Susan Bolton could hand down a lighter term, like 30 days of incarceration. She could also order him to serve it out at his home rather than in jail. Additionally, Romley said, Bolton could impose a fine that is paid without the aid of fundraisers or campaign funds.

Romley said the sentence will be a difficult decision. Bolton will have to weigh the severity of violating a federal judge’s order against mitigating factors like age (Arpaio is 85) and his career in public service.

“Having been in law-enforcement, that’s a two-edged sword,” Romley said. “You give credit for giving almost his entire adult life to the public — military service, DEA, Sheriff’s Office — but on the other hand, this individual should understand the importance of rule of law and what abuse of power means.”

Why didn’t Arpaio get a jury trial?

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Republic reporters Megan Cassidy and Richard Ruelas take us through the conviction and what it means for the former Maricopa County sheriff. Sean Logan/azcentral.com

Arpaio’s attorneys repeatedly sought and were repeatedly denied a jury trial. Justice Department prosecutors argued that the defense would attempt to politicize the case if granted a jury, and requested a bench trial. They stressed that there is no constitutional right to a jury trial if the potential sentence is six months or less.

While Arpaio’s attorneys acknowledged this last point, they argued that the unique nature of the case called for a jury of his peers. They cited a law, 18 U.S.C.A. § 3691, that requires a jury trial for those accused of criminal contempt.

Bolton addressed this argument when denying the motion for a jury trial, noting that the law only applied when the accused conduct “constitutes a separate criminal offense.”

Bolton additionally rejected the defense’s argument that a jury trial would prevent the appearance of impropriety. “This Court does not believe there is any such appearance,” she wrote in her order.

“The case law is clear,” she wrote. “If the court limits Defendant’s potential sentence to six months or less, there is no right to a jury trial.”

What’s going on with his appeals?

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Arpaio’s attorneys have vowed to appeal his conviction, but that likely won’t happen until after sentencing.

According to defense attorney Jack Wilenchik, the team has 14 days from the time of the order to file a “motion for judgment of acquittal,” which is essentially done to preserve certain issues for appeal.

When they do file a direct appeal, it will be sent to the 9th Circuit. Wilenchik said the appeal will again take up the issue of a jury trial, as well as the rationale behind Bolton’s verdict. Throughout the trial, defense attorneys argued the order that Arpaio violated was unclear and left room for interpretation. One of the requirements for criminal contempt is that the underlying order was “clear and definite.”

“No witness testified that the order is clear and definite to them,” Wilenchik said. “What she believes six years after the fact is not evidence. There has to be sufficient evidence to support a verdict, and there was no such evidence in the trial.”

Before the trial began, defense appealed the jury issue to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, which upheld Bolton’s ruling. They then issued a filing with the U.S. Supreme Court. Though the latter is technically still pending, legal experts say the chances of them hearing the case are minimal.

How much did this cost the county?

There were two sides to the contempt-of-court matter, civil and criminal. The civil-contempt proceedings, which spanned several months in 2015, along with the underlying racial-profiling case, have drained the county of more than $55 million. This includes attorneys’ fees, operational costs required by a judge’s order to reform the agency, and costs for a court-appointed monitor.

The county paid nothing for the criminal case. But that doesn’t mean Arpaio paid for attorneys’ fees all on his own. In January, the lawman established a legal defense fund to collect donations from supporters throughout the country. The fund’s administrators declined to disclose how much it generated, but it received at least $300,000 from the National Center for Police Defense.

  • Former Sheriff Joe Arpaio convicted of criminal contempt

    Former Sheriff Joe Arpaio convicted of criminal contempt

  • Megan Cassidy and Richard Ruelas discuss Joe Arpaio's criminal-contempt conviction

    Megan Cassidy and Richard Ruelas discuss Joe Arpaio’s criminal-contempt conviction

  • Puente Arizona cheers guilty verdict for Arpaio

    Puente Arizona cheers guilty verdict for Arpaio

  • Noemi Romero reacts to Arpaio arrest

    Noemi Romero reacts to Arpaio arrest

  • Arpaio's criminal contempt trial begins

    Arpaio’s criminal contempt trial begins

  • Arpaio back in action

    Arpaio back in action

  • Ed Montini weighs in on Arpaio's loss

    Ed Montini weighs in on Arpaio’s loss

  • Arpaio officially charged with criminal contempt

    Arpaio officially charged with criminal contempt

  • Inside the Sheriff Joe Arpaio protest

    Inside the Sheriff Joe Arpaio protest

  • Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio's attorney speaks

    Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s attorney speaks

  • Protesters demonstrate against Arpaio outside federal court

    Protesters demonstrate against Arpaio outside federal court

  • MCSO's legal bills keep growing in racial-profiling case

    MCSO’s legal bills keep growing in racial-profiling case

  • MCSO considered closing Tent City

    MCSO considered closing Tent City

  • Arpaio stripped of internal affairs oversight

    Arpaio stripped of internal affairs oversight

  • Arpaio in contempt of federal court

    Arpaio in contempt of federal court

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Former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio found guilty of criminal contempt of court

Key moments in Sheriff Joe Arpaio civil contempt hearing

Sheriff Joe Arpaio has always done it his way

Taxpayer costs of Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s profiling case: Another $13M on top of $41M

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