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Arpaio's Lead Attorney Steps Down Weeks Before Trial

A judge has allowed former Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s lead defense attorney to remove himself from the case.

Mel McDonald has been by Joe Arpaio’s side since the case was referred for criminal prosecution last year. On Thursday, McDonald walked out of the Federal Court leaving Arpaio behind.

Judge Susan Bolton granted McDonald’s request to terminate his representation of the former sheriff. In a motion filed on Monday, McDonald cited an ethics rule and “professional considerations” as the reasons for wanting to leave the case.

Attorney Mark Goldman will now represent Arpaio. The trial is set to begin April 25, but Goldman says he will likely ask for a delay.

“We still don’t have all of the documents in connection with the case, so it is impossible to prepare for it,” Goldman said.

Arpaio is accused of intentionally violating a federal judge’s order to halt his immigration enforcement operations. If convicted he faces up to six months in jail.

Jimmy Jenkins was a producer and senior field correspondent at KJZZ from 2014 to 2021.