An attorney defending former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio against a contempt of court charge involving immigration patrols blamed sheriff’s employees and a lawyer who once defended the lawman in a racial-profiling case for not following a court order to stop the strategy.
Attorney Dennis Wilenchik also said during closing arguments July 6 that the judge’s order to stop the patrols was vague.
Arpaio is facing a misdemeanor charge for prolonging the patrols.
Wilenchik contended that attorney Tim Casey didn’t approve training materials aimed at helping deputies comply with the order. Casey previously testified the materials contained problematic legal instructions.
Wilenchik said Casey and other sheriff’s employees failed Arpaio by not making sure the training reached deputies.
Prosecutor John Keller said in his closing argument that Arpaio continued the patrols for political gain. Keller said Arpaio cast himself as an anti-government figure and used the patrols to help raise money during his 2012 campaign for re-election.
Arpaio is charged with misdemeanor contempt of court for violating a 2011 order to stop the patrols that a judge later determined racially profiled Latinos. The 85-year-old retired lawman would face up to six months in jail if convicted, though attorneys who have followed the case doubt that someone his age would be incarcerated.
Arpaio’s tactics over 24 years in office drew fierce opponents as well as enthusiastic supporters nationwide who championed what they considered a tough-on-crime approach, including forcing inmates to wear pink underwear and housing them in tents outside in the desert heat.
Prosecutors cited Arpaio’s use of TV interviews and news releases to boost his popularity as they try to get a conviction from U.S. District Judge Susan Bolton. Keller played videos of TV news interviews in which the sheriff promoted his immigration enforcement efforts.
A clip from a Fox News interview six months after the order showed Arpaio saying federal authorities were taking custody of immigrants detained by his deputies, even though they had not been suspected of state crimes.
“ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) has been taking them off our hands when we have no state charges,” Arpaio said in the March 2012 interview.
Keller said Arpaio’s motive was to collect campaign contributions and used the sheriff’s words to back up his argument.
“They don’t give you money if they don’t believe in you,” Arpaio said in a video clip recorded six months after the order.
The prosecutor also pointed out news releases in which Arpaio’s office acknowledged that deputies were turning over immigrants not accused of state crimes to federal authorities, which wasn’t allowed under the court order. Keller said Arpaio bragged to news reporters that he was still detaining immigrants.
Arpaio carried out the sort of local immigration enforcement that President Donald Trump has advocated. To build his highly touted deportation force, Trump is reviving a long-standing program that deputizes local officers to enforce federal immigration law.
Arpaio’s immigration powers were eventually stripped away by the courts and federal government.
Arpaio’s legal woes are believed to have contributed heavily to his crushing defeat in November to retired Phoenix Police Sgt. Paul Penzone, a Democrat.