PHOENIX (CN) — Joe Arpaio’s defense team rested Thursday afternoon after a retired sheriff’s lieutenant testified that Arpaio’s former counsel did not advise the office to stop detaining undocumented immigrants, after a federal judge ordered it.
Arpaio, who was Maricopa County sheriff for 24 years, faces one count of misdemeanor criminal contempt for continuing to conduct immigration patrols for nearly 18 months after he was ordered to stop in 2011 by U.S. District Judge G. Murray Snow.
Snow’s order came in a 2007 racial profiling class action that accused Arpaio’s deputies of racially profiling during traffic stops.
Arpaio was held in civil contempt of court on three counts last year. He has acknowledged his contempt, but denies it was on purpose.
Retired Lt. Joe Sousa testified that he found out about the order through an email from Arpaio’s former attorney, Tim Casey, shortly after it was issued. Soon after, he called Casey to discuss the order.
“He was either my first phone call or my second phone call,” Sousa testified. “I said, ‘Hey, this is how I’m interpreting this,’ and he didn’t say, ‘You’re wrong.’”
Mark Goldman, an attorney for Arpaio, asked Sousa if he ever described to Casey the office’s practice of detaining suspected undocumented immigrants for pickup by Immigration and Customs Enforcement or the Border Patrol.
“He was aware of our practices because he was copied on our shift summaries,” Sousa said. Sousa also was found in civil contempt by Snow last year.
Shift summaries contain information detailing a stop, and break down how many people were booked and how many were turned over to Border Patrol or ICE.
“He didn’t tell me I was wrong. He didn’t tell me to change anything,” Sousa said.
Sousa, who supervised the now-defunct Human Smuggling Unit of the Sheriff’s Office until April 2012, testified that he talked to Casey two to three times a week while he was with the Human Smuggling Unit.
“If Mr. Casey had advised you as to any violations or improper manners in which HSU was conducting itself, would you have listened to him?” Goldman asked.
“Yes,” Sousa replied. “I wouldn’t want to be sitting here.”
The defense has argued during the four days of trial that Arpaio did not know the full scope of Snow’s order, and has blamed Casey for failing to explicitly explain and direct Arpaio.
During cross-examination, Sousa said he did not remember ever meeting with Arpaio about the order, and was unaware of any meetings between command staff and Arpaio.
Federal prosecutors say that Arpaio acted willfully and knowingly violated the order, which can be proved by statements he made to the press.
Earlier Thursday, Border Patrol Agent Salvador Hernandez testified about his agency’s practice of accepting people detained by the Sheriff’s Office.
“We will go out there after they call us,” Hernandez said, citing a spirit of “cooperation” between the two agencies.
The trial was scheduled to last eight days, but ended early after both sides called a truncated number of witnesses. Arpaio did not testify.
Closing arguments are set for July 6. Each side is allowed up to two hours to wrap up their case. If convicted, Arpaio could be sentenced to six months in jail.
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