For nine years, Joe Arpaio enjoyed solid popularity as the sheriff of metro Phoenix by locking up immigrants in the U.S. illegally and regularly telling news reporters that no one would stop his crackdowns.
The former lawman who made his fight against illegal immigration a fixture of his speeches and media interviews during his last three campaigns asked a judge on March 24 to prohibit prosecutors from mentioning those statements at his April 25 trial on a criminal contempt-of-court charge.
Arpaio, who was defeated last November after 24 years as sheriff for sprawling Maricopa County, faces the misdemeanor charge for disobeying a court order to halt his immigration patrols, which continued for 17 months after a judge issued the order.
To win a conviction, prosecutors must prove that Arpaio intended to violate the judge’s order. The 84-year-old Arpaio, who would face up to six months in jail if convicted, has acknowledged prolonging the patrols, but insists he did so unintentionally.
Mark Goldman, one of Arpaio’s attorneys, said it would be prejudicial to use his client’s comments during campaigns at his trial and that the remarks “were campaign posturing and not made under oath.”
Statements made by politicians during campaigns aren’t indicative of what politicians will actually do while in office, Goldman wrote in a court filing.
He characterized campaign speeches as political posturing aimed at winning votes, saying Arpaio made the statements during his political races to bolster his reputation for being tough on illegal immigration.
“It would be naive for anyone to truly believe that any politician will actually do everything he says he will,” Goldman wrote.
Goldman did not specify which statements he wants excluded as evidence in Arpaio’s trial.
U.S. District Judge Murray Snow, who presides over the profiling case that Arpaio lost nearly four years ago, said in an earlier ruling that Arpaio ignored the order because he believed continuing his immigration enforcement efforts would help his 2012 campaign.
Snow also has said Arpaio’s office issued news releases indicating that he was aware of the court order but that he would continue to enforce federal immigration laws.
Goldman said letting statements made by Arpaio during his campaigns to be used at trial will have a chilling effect on protected political speech about issues of public importance.
“It will only encourage candidates to hide their views, which will increase opacity in government and voter dissatisfaction with government officials,” Goldman wrote.
The decision on whether to allow Arpaio’s campaign statements at his trial will be up to U.S. District Judge Susan Bolton, who also will decide the lawman’s guilt or innocence.
Lawyers for Arpaio also have asked Bolton to bar Latinos who were illegally detained when the court order was violated from testifying at trial, arguing that their testimony would hurt Arpaio’s case and is irrelevant in determining whether he committed a crime.