PHOENIX (CN) — A federal judge had to step in Tuesday to stop a heated exchange between Joe Arpaio’s attorney and his former attorney, who accused the new one of blaming him for Arpaio’s charge of criminal contempt of court.
U.S. District Judge Susan Bolton had to cool down Tim Casey, a former attorney for Arpaio, and Arpaio’s current attorney, Dennis Wilenchik.
Arpaio, the self-described “America’s toughest sheriff” for 24 years in Maricopa County, is charged with misdemeanor criminal contempt of court: violating a federal judge’s order to stop his deputies from using race to perform traffic stops. Arpaio says his contempt was not intentional.
Wilenchik asked Casey whether he took notes during his meetings with Arpaio — a process described by Casey as “CYA,” or “cover your ass” — after he grew concerned that Arpaio was resisting the order issued by U.S. District Judge G. Murray Snow.
The 2011 preliminary injunction order came in a racial-profiling class action against Arpaio and his deputies in 2007 for racially profiling Latinos during traffic stops. Arpaio is accused for ignoring the court order for nearly 18 months.
“I didn’t think I needed a CYA,” Casey said. “That wasn’t the relationship I had with him until I withdrew … despite the defense you have by throwing a lawyer under the bus.”
Casey continued: “It’s obvious from your questioning … it’s no one’s fault but everyone else.”
The two attorneys then shouted over each other until Bolton shot them down.
“Excuse me, we are going to return to a question-answer format, not a conversation,” the judge said.
Casey was called to the stand Monday afternoon and faced a day of questioning from Wilenchik and attorneys with the Department of Justice.
Wilenchik asked whether Arpaio consulted with other attorneys about enforcing federal immigration law in defiance of the court order.
Casey confirmed that Arpaio did, but said he had no reason to believe that the Sheriff’s Office was violating the order by detaining undocumented immigrants to be picked up by Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
“It was never an issue from the moment we spoke,” Casey testified. “There was no one saying we want to take these people to ICE. … He said Obama’s not taking them.”
Casey, who withdrew as Arpaio’s counsel in 2014, said he would have withdrawn earlier if he thought Arpaio was violating the law.
In another volatile round of grilling, Wilenchik and Casey debated whether Casey “dropped the ball” in training deputies to perform traffic stops.
“I’ve heard how you used that; I don’t agree,” Casey said.
When Casey tried to explain his reasoning, Wilenchik interjected. Bolton stopped him.
“You asked a question about dropping balls and whether he said other things, and he said he didn’t agree,” Bolton said.
Casey said he did not email a supervisor in the agency’s Human Smuggling Unit to tell whether he approved or disapproved of its proposed training scenarios. He did tell the sergeant in charge, Brett Palmer, over the phone that one of the scenarios was incorrect.
“The changes I recommended were not put in writing,” Casey said.
When he had problems with one of the scenarios, Casey called Palmer and talked with him repeatedly about why the scenario was incorrect based on the court order. Palmer then indicated to Casey that he understood the attorney’s corrections, Casey testified.
“I know stories have changed since the contempt proceedings began,” Casey said. “At the time this is what I was told.”
In the afternoon, the Justice Department called Arpaio’s longtime spokeswoman to the stand.
Lisa Allen was director of public information and media relations for the Sheriff’s Office for nearly 23 years.
She told prosecutors that she wrote almost all of the office’s news releases, but that Arpaio had the final say before they were released.
A number of releases have been called into question by the Justice Department, as allegedly showing Arpaio’s failure to comply with Snow’s order. On Monday, prosecutors read statements Arpaio made in the releases.
Allen told the court that she drafted any quotes attributed to Arpaio.
“I wrote them, but he had to approve them,” Allen testified. “He never said, ‘This is what I want you to say.’”
Allen testified that she asked Arpaio to scale back on mentioning federal immigration policy in news releases, but that he did not agree with her.
During cross-examination, she told Wilenchik she was not immediately informed of Snow’s order.
“I don’t think I really became aware of it until the office was in trouble,” Allen said. “It’s relatively shocking because, you know, we had meetings regularly, and it just never came up.”
Wilenchik asked if she ever had interactions with Casey about media relations.
“Tim Casey did not seem to want to interface with me,” Allen replied. “There may have been some passing conversations in the hall, but I don’t recall anything in depth with Mr. Casey.”
The trial is expected to last two weeks.