PHOENIX (CN) — Joe Arpaio’s attorneys told a federal judge in closing arguments Thursday that the former sheriff did not act with intent to violate a court order in a racial profiling class action and should be cleared of criminal contempt of court.
Arpaio’s fate is now in the hands of U.S. District Judge Susan Bolton, who could sentence him to up to six months in jail if she convicted him on misdemeanor criminal contempt for ordering or allowing his deputies to detain undocumented immigrants for 18 months after a federal judge ordered him to stop it in 2011.
U.S. District Judge G. Murray Snow issued the order came in a 2007 class action accusing Arpaio and his office of racially profiling Latinos during traffic stops.
Arpaio’s attorney Dennis Wilenchik on Thursday told Bolton that as sheriff Arpaio delegated the command staff of his agency to work with his attorneys to make sure the order was understood.
“Do you think he likes to be here?” Wilenchik asked. “Please, give me a break, that’s ridiculous.
“He’s now left standing here to be responsible when the order didn’t go out to the troops.”
The closing arguments followed a four-day trial, during which federal prosecutors argued that Arpaio knowingly defied the court order to gain re-election in 2012.
Arpaio, a Republican, won his sixth term that year, but was denied a seventh in 2016 when voters elected Paul Penzone, a Democrat.
Prosecutors claimed Thursday that Arpaio’s defiance was visible in interviews he gave after Judge Snow issued the order.
“He wanted to raise money, and he wanted to win re-election, And it worked,” said prosecutor John Keller. “He raised millions of dollars across the country.”
In one interview, Arpaio told then-Fox News host Megyn Kelly that the idea of a federally appointed monitor overseeing the Sheriff’s Office was “garbage.”
“I publicly in the past said I would never give in to a control by the federal government,” Arpaio told Kelly.
Prosecutors used news releases from the Sheriff’s Office to show that Arpaio allowed deputies to detain undocumented immigrants for transfer into the custody of the Border Patrol or Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
“And as a result, at least 170 people were detained, based solely on their immigration status, in violation of the preliminary injunction order, in violation of the law,” Keller said.
Wilenchik said the news releases indicate that Arpaio did not think he was violating the order.
“The sheriff wasn’t hiding anything,” Wilenchik said. “He wasn’t hiding what the office was doing.”
Throughout the trial, Arpaio’s attorneys blamed Tim Casey, Arpaio’s former attorney, for any failure to abide by the court order. Arpaio’s attorneys say Casey failed to see that Arpaio and his command staff fully understood the order and sent out training scenarios for deputies.
Wilenchik did not stray from that theory during closing arguments, citing Casey’s withdrawal in 2014 as indication of his failures.
“He must have realized that the best thing for him to do is get out,” Wilenchik said. “Not one document, not one note to his file has been produced by the entire power of the U.S. government. … That said, I’ve got concerns here.”
But Keller said Casey had no reason to believe Arpaio was violating the law.
“The sheriff lied to Casey about what his office was doing,” Keller told the court. “He told Casey they weren’t turning people over to federal authorities anymore.”
Attorneys are expected to file final briefs on July 21.
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