PHOENIX (CN) — As Maricopa County Sheriff, Joe Arpaio ordered a sergeant to detain undocumented immigrants for the Border Patrol, the officer testified Wednesday during Arpaio’s trial for criminal contempt of court.
Federal prosecutors called their last witnesses Wednesday.
Arpaio, 85, is accused of continuing to target undocumented immigrants during traffic stops in defiance of a 2011 federal court order to stop.
Prosecutors have hinged their case on news clips and news releases that show, in their opinion, that Arpaio knowingly violated the order for nearly 18 months.
Arpaio’s attorneys have argued that he was not explicitly informed of what the Sheriff’s Office could not do under the order, and that his former attorney failed to present the information clearly.
The last witnesses for the prosecution were two former supervisors in the agency’s now-defunct Human Smuggling Unit.
Sheriff’s Lt. Brian Jakowinicz testified that deputies in the unit were still holding undocumented immigrants in 2012 and 2013, without state charges, to be picked up by Immigration and Customs Enforcement or Customs and Border Protection.
Jakowinicz joined the smuggling unit as a supervisor in April 2012, about four months after U.S. District Judge G. Murray Snow ordered the Sheriff’s Office to stop performing immigration patrols. Arpaio was found in civil contempt by Snow last year, but the six-term lawman says any contempt was unintentional.
Jakowinicz told prosecutors he had a conversation with Arpaio in late 2012 about transferring undocumented immigrants to federal authorities.
“If we had somebody being detained and we didn’t have state charges, what would we do?” he said Arpaio asked him.
“He immediately told me, ‘We take them to Border Patrol,’” Jakowinicz said. “It was pretty clear: ‘You take them to Border Patrol. I’m the Sheriff. That is what you do.’”
During cross examination, Jakowinicz told Arpaio’s attorney Dennis Wilenchik that he did not fully understand Judge Snow’s order.
“Would you expect … MCSO’s lawyer to … make it simple for the troops to understand?” Wilenchik asked.
Jakowinicz replied that he would.
During opening statements Monday, Wilenchik said Tim Casey, a former attorney for Arpaio, “dropped the ball,” to see that Snow’s order was properly interpreted by Arpaio and throughout the agency by getting training scenarios to deputies.
“You never had any conversation or received any call from Tim Casey discussing those scenarios with you?” Wilenchik asked.
“I don’t recall any conversations like that,” Wilenchik replied.
The court also heard from sheriff’s Sgt. Michael Trowbridge, who served in the Human Smuggling Unit from 2011 to 2013.
He testified that the agency’s policy of contacting ICE or Border Patrol to pick up undocumented immigrants originated when deputies had 287(g) authority. The program allowed deputies to partner with ICE to perform immigration enforcement duties.
But ICE removed the authority from the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office in 2011.
“Did that practice ever change?” asked John Keller, an attorney for the Department of Justice.
Trowbridge said it did not, and said that no one explained that that might have violated the court order.
Arpaio was voted out of office in November, after six terms.
If convicted, he faces up to six months in jail.