Former Sheriff Joe Arpaio's attorneys will subpoena U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions as a defense witness in the criminal contempt case being prosecuted by Sessions' own Justice Department lawyers.
Sessions is one of a dozen witnesses, including several Border Patrol agents, being subpoenaed for Arpaio's bench trial in Federal Court, scheduled for June 26.
Arpaio is charged with intentionally violating a federal judge's order to stop racially profiling Latino drivers.
The sheriff, who turns 85 on Wednesday, could be sentenced to up to six months in jail if convicted.
Arpaio and Sessions were among the first elected officials to endorse Donald Trump when he ran for president.
Sessions' name first appeared on a list of potential witnesses last April. Arpaio's defense team filed the trial subpoenas on Wednesday.
Arpaio attorney Jack Wilenchik said Sessions will support Arpaio's defense that the sheriff was simply complying with federal law with his immigration patrols.
"The point of calling Jeff Sessions is to say what constitutes cooperation with the federal government," Wilenchik said."That constitutes the defense in this case."
"Under federal law, if you're doing something and the federal government wanted you to do it, that's not a crime."
Since taking over as attorney general in February, Sessions has urged local law police to cooperate with the feds in immigration enforcement.
But the landmark 2013 ruling that found Arpaio racially profiled Latino drivers effectively curtailed his immigration enforcement.
Legal experts have said it's unlikely that Sessions will ever take the witness stand for Arpaio.
Wilenchik admits to some doubts.
"It wouldn't surprise me if he resisted this," Wilenchik said. "That would have to be worked out in court."
Arpaio's lawyers have also filed a last-ditch appeal asking the U.S. Supreme Court to order a jury trial in the case. The high court is scheduled to consider the petition at its conference June 22.
Federal Judge Susan Bolton, who upheld some of the more controversial parts of Arizona's SB 1070, has been presiding over the criminal contempt case.
Arpaio was soundly defeated last November in a bid for his seventh term in office by Democrat Paul Penzone.
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