PHOENIX – President Donald Trump pardoned Sheriff Joe Arpaio this year for his criminal contempt of court conviction, but the former sheriff's legal battles are far from over.
The son of Sen. Jeff Flake is accusing Arpaio of pursuing felony charges against him just to do damage to the senator.
Those accusations turned into a lawsuit, and the trial started Tuesday.
The claims come from the Green Acre Kennel animal cruelty case from back in 2014.
The charges were eventually dropped, but that didn't stop Austin Flake, and his former wife, from responding legally.
From a pool of 61 potential jurors in the suit, the court narrowed down the jury to eight people who will decide the outcome of this lawsuit against Arpaio.
It’s tied to a 2014 arrest of Austin Flake and Logan Brown.
Maricopa County Sheriff’s deputies responded to the call when Austin Flake found 21 dogs either dead or dying after he claimed the air conditioning broke down overnight.
The couple was watching animals for their in-laws’ business, Green Acre Kennel, which they ran out of their home in Gilbert.
Their lawyer said some of the damages caused by the since-dropped charges that were filed against them led to new or renewed diagnoses of depression, anxiety, and panic attacks for the pair.
In June 2016, Arpaio doubled down on his agency’s recommendation to file 21 felony charges.
“Overall, we did an excellent job. Probably one of the most thorough investigations we've ever done,” he said. “I'm gonna leave it at that."
After court Tuesday, he refused to comment about the trial, only responding to whether he was tired of making court appearances from the defense table.
“Well, that’s my job, right?” he said. “So, it’s OK. We’ll see what happens.”
The charges against the Flakes were dismissed because key evidence about a failed air conditioning unit in the dog's kennel was wrong.
Lawyers for Arpaio have denied that the sheriff's office tried to connect Sen. Flake to the dog deaths.
In court Tuesday, his defense said the charges came from investigators’ belief that about two dozen dogs were in a room that was too small, with no access to water, and an inadequate AC system.
Arpaio’s defense team also said an accusation of “malicious prosecution” is inaccurate, because MCSO only recommends charges. The decision to prosecute was made by the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office.
The judge in this trial said it will likely continue until Tuesday or Wednesday next week.
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