Closing arguments made in Arpaio's contempt trial

Closing arguments wrapped up Thursday in the criminal contempt case against Joe Arpaio.

PHOENIX - Former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio's criminal contempt case is in the hands of a judge.

Final arguments were made in federal court in Phoenix Thursday morning. Arpaio is accused of violating a court order to stop conducting immigration raids and stop turning people over to immigration officials who didn't have any state charges against them.

If convicted, Arpaio faces six months in jail.

Prosecutors used Arpaio's own words and love affair with media coverage against him, citing numerous press releases and interviews that they claim showed Arpaio willfully ignoring the court order.

"He wanted to raise money and he wanted to win reelection. And it worked. He raised millions of dollars across the country based on his anti immigration platform," prosecutor John Keller said.

Prosecutors said with Arpaio's long history in both local and federal law enforcement, there's no question he understood what a court order meant.

And they pointed to television interviews Arpaio gave that they said showed Arpaio ignoring the federal court's authority.

"No one is higher than me," Arpaio said during an interview at Tent City in 2012, played during closing arguments.

And prosecutors maintain that the contempt case boiled down to Arpaio's fame and keeping his job.

"Immigration enforcement kept his name in the media and in an election year no less," Keller said.

Prosecutors argued Arpaio could have stopped the immigration enforcement whenever he wanted. They pointed to a two-line note sent to deputies years later that told them to stop turning suspects over to immigration authorities. Prosecutors said deputies stopped doing it immediately after that note.

Arpaio's attorneys tried to convince the judge that Arpaio didn't understand the order, and in fact had never even read it.

They claimed Arpaio delegated his enforcement operations to his staff and Arpaio was not a party to any email conversations about the order because Arpaio never had an email account. They said it was not Arpaio's fault if his deputies were not instructed to stop immigration enforcement, but that it was his staff's fault.

Arpaio's attorneys also tried to convince the judge that the original court order was too vague to be followed.
They presented testimony from Arpaio's former lawyer saying he believed the order was vague. If Arpaio's lawyer believed it was vague, they said, Arpaio could not be expected to understand it.

The court order in question was a preliminary order. A permanent injunction followed and the defense argued the permanent order was much more clear.

Arpaio's attorney, Dennis Wilenchik, said that was why the immigration enforcement operations stopped immediately after the permanent injunction was filed.

They took issue with the prosecutor's claims that Arpaio said he was defying the court order.

"He said, 'I'm enforcing the law.' And immigration law allows him to do that," Wilenchik told the court.

"No one told him, 'Sheriff, what you're doing is a violation of the order,'" he said.

Judge Susan Bolton will now decide Arpaio's guilt or innocence, a process that could take days or weeks.

© 2017 KPNX-TV


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