(CNN) He flouted the Constitution. He disobeyed court orders. And then he bragged about it.

To understand the building outrage, particularly among civil rights groups, over the possibility that President Donald Trump would pardon former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, one need only return to the July criminal contempt decision against him.

It followed a decade-long case against the sheriff for racial-profiling practices in Arizona, during which Arpaio was ordered to stop targeting Latinos for traffic stops and detention.

“Not only did (Arpaio) abdicate responsibility, he announced to the world and to his subordinates that he was going to continue business as usual no matter who said otherwise,” wrote US District Judge Susan Bolton in the July 31 order finding Arpaio guilty of criminal contempt.

It is plain that Arpaio was not convicted for doing his job. He was convicted for willfully disobeying the law after a court ordered him to stop singling out drivers based on ethnicity and detaining them without charges. Arpaio, who first took office in 1993, rose to national prominence for his crackdown on illegal immigration, earning the nickname “America’s toughest sheriff” along the way.

He cultivated that reputation, and as Bolton’s order makes clear, he was not going to let anyone tell him what to do.
Bolton’s decision arose from a finding of civil contempt by US District Court Judge G. Murray Snow in the racial-profiling case of Melendres v. Arpaio, first filed in 2007. Beginning in 2011, Snow ordered Arpaio to stop detaining people based simply on a belief that they were in the country illegally, rather than suspicion that a crime has been committed.
Arpaio refused to comply, even though Maricopa County lawyers warned him about the magnitude of Snow’s order and advised him not to pick up people unless grounds existed for state charges. ……