PHOENIX — Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio has always been known for cracking the whip on illegal immigration, but this time he might have gone too far.
Arpaio took the stand Wednesday during a contempt-of-court hearing, in which he is accused of deliberately ignoring federal court orders in a racial profiling case.
U.S. District Judge G. Murray Snow, who is presiding over the case, placed an injunction on Arpaio’s harsh anti-immigration practices back in 2011 before opening up a four-day contempt-of-court hearing this week, after a video surfaced of officials belittling the court order.
Arpaio has taken the stand in his own defense, but has had a hard time clarifying his actions. The sheriff began shifting blame to his staff during his time on the stand, KTAR News 92.3 FM Reporter Cooper Rummell said in an interview with Mac and Gaydos.
“Right off the bat, he talked about how he delegated a lot of that court order and understanding that court order to his subordinates, to his council, to his staff,” Rummell said. “Immediately it seemed as though he was trying to shift blame to them.”
Arpaio has accepted responsibility for his agency’s failure to turn over videos from traffic-stop videos from a profiling case and has even offered to make a $100,000 donation to settle the case, according to the L.A. Times.
Rank-and-file officers, who were never told about the ruling, violated the order for about 18 months.
Arpaio, who is usually not afraid to express himself and his beliefs in regard to illegal immigration, was very quiet on the stand, Rummell said.
“It was a very different Sheriff Joe Arpaio than we’re used to seeing,” he said. “(Arpaio) was up there, looking down quite a bit. He looked tired, a lot of one-word answers. Just wasn’t the Joe that we’re used to seeing.”
Snow will decide whether or not Arpaio and four of his top aides will be held in contempt for violating the judge’s order, which attempted to eliminate the sheriff’s policy to enforce tough restrictions on suspected illegal immigrants.
The order stated that “Hispanic appearance, an inability to speak English and a proximity to the border do not supply reasonable suspicion that a crime was being committed.”
Rummell said many media interviews and press releases were brought up in court, many of which showed Arpaio staying strong in his beliefs before shifting blame on the stand.
“They talked a lot about what happened right after the court order was issued and a lot of his dealings with the media and — again — putting blame on his staff,” Rummell said. “(In) his press releases, he comes out and says, ‘I’m still going to enforce immigration laws.’ He’s again shifting blame, saying he’s not the writer, those were not direct quotations.”
Arpaio is expected to remain on the stand into tomorrow, starting at 8:30 a.m. If he is found responsible for disobeying court orders, a fine could be issued and a criminal trial could begin down the road.
The Associated Press contributed to this story