PHOENIX (AP) — Defense lawyers for former Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio rested their case Thursday after members of his immigration enforcement squad testified that they didn’t believe they did anything to prompt a judge to order an end to the patrols.
Arpaio, a six-term sheriff of metro Phoenix, didn’t take the stand in his trial before a judge on a misdemeanor contempt of court charge filed after his patrols were prolonged for 17 months after a judge in a racial profiling case ordered them stopped in 2011.
If convicted, the 85-year-old Arpaio could face up to six months in jail.
On Thursday evening, Arpaio’s lawyers filed a motion in U.S. District Court in Phoenix seeking a judgment of acquittal for their client, saying the case is well beyond the one-year statute of limitations and the ex-sheriff has been wrongfully deprived of a trial by jury.
Arpaio has acknowledged continuing the patrols but insists his disobedience was unintentional. Prosecutors must prove he intentionally violated the order to win a conviction.
Closing arguments are set for July 6.
Witnesses at the trial included an attorney who once represented Arpaio in the profiling case, the former sheriff’s longtime publicist and three officers who served on Arpaio’s elite immigration enforcement squad.
Prosecutors cited Arpaio’s news releases after the court order was issued in which the sheriff said he would continue to enforce immigration law and would turn immigrants over to federal authorities even if there were no state charges against them.
Arpaio’s attorneys have placed the blame on Tim Casey, an attorney who represented the sheriff for nearly six years in the profiling case.
The last two witnesses called Thursday were one-time leaders of Arpaio’s immigration squad.
Joseph Sousa, who is now retired, testified that he didn’t believe his officers did anything to require the order.
He said he relayed his views to Arpaio and Casey shortly after the 2011 order was issued.
“I don’t remember the sheriff’s response, but he didn’t say you were wrong,” Sousa said, adding that he got a similar reaction from Casey.
The judge presiding over the profiling case had found Arpaio and Sousa in civil contempt in May 2016 for the violation of the court order. Unlike Arpaio, Sousa wasn’t charged with criminal contempt over the prolonged patrols.
Sousa said he emailed Casey asking him to review proposed training materials aimed at confronting the order, but the lawyer never got back to him with his approval.
Casey testified earlier at the trial that he had several conversations with Arpaio about the order.
The lawyer also said he quit serving as the sheriff’s attorney after Arpaio resisted court orders in the racial profiling case in which the 2011 injunction was issued. He also said he spotted legal problems with the training materials in question.
Sousa’s successor, Lt. Brian Jakowinicz, testified that he didn’t read a letter that was sent to him that complained about officers defying the 2011 court order.
Jakowinicz, who also was called by prosecutors to testify on Wednesday, was shown an October 2012 email from Casey that had an attached letter from an American Civil Liberties Union attorney. The ACLU attorney said Arpaio’s officers were violating the order.
Jakowinicz said he didn’t read the attached letter. He said he had a phone call from Casey relaying concerns from opposing attorneys that Arpaio’s officers were pulling people based on race.
“I assured him that wasn’t what we were doing,” Jakowinicz said, noting he explained that his officers were pulling over people for traffic violations.
Jakowinicz said he didn’t take any actions based on the ACLU’s letter. “All indications from him (Casey) at the time is that we have no issues,” Jakowinicz said.
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