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Former Joe Arpaio underling testifies against him in Phoenix court

(AP File Photo)

PHOENIX — A former member of Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s immigration enforcement squad testified Wednesday that the Maricopa County agency defied a judicial order to stop targeting Latinos.

Arpaio, 85, has been charged with misdemeanor contempt of court for disobeying a federal judge’s order to end his patrols that rounded up immigrants suspected of being in the U.S. illegally.

He has acknowledged prolonging the patrols, but insists his disobedience was unintentional and puts the blame on his former
lawyer.

The case marked a harsh rebuke against an Arizona lawman who became a national political celebrity with his immigration patrols but lost his bid for a seventh term in office last year amid voter frustration stemming from the huge bill he ran up over his many legal tangles.

Arpaio created a squad called the Human Smuggling Unit that was the main immigration enforcer while he was Maricopa County Sheriff.

Prosecutors called a former member of that squad, Lt. Brian Jakowinicz, to the witness stand to describe its immigration efforts from 2012 to 2013.

Jakowinicz testified that he spoke to the leaders of the unit during that time, and they said the agency’s legal troubles over immigration had been resolved — despite being under an injunction to stop immigration enforcement.

“They didn’t want … to change anything,” he said. “Everything was running smoothly.”

Jakowinicz said he talked to Arpaio about the agency’s practice of handing over immigrants in the country illegally to Immigrations and Customs Enforcement and the Border Patrol.

“ ‘You take them to (the Border Patrol). I am the sheriff,’ ” he quoted Arpaio as saying.

The judge earlier issued decisions on two other elements of the case.

Judge Susan Bolton declined Arpaio’s bid to call U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions to testify at the trial.

She also refused to allow prosecutors to play two video segments from a 2014 documentary about Arpaio.

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