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Joe Arpaio Contempt Case: Former Attorney Takes The Stand

Former Sheriff Joe Arpaio
Paul Atkinson/KJZZ
editorial | staff
Joe Arpaio

Joe Arpaio is in court this week. The former sheriff is charged with criminal contempt of court.

At one time, the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office was authorized by the Department of Homeland Security to enforce federal immigration laws. That authority was revoked in 2009, but Sheriff Arpaio continued the practice.

In December 2011, a federal judge ordered Arpaio to stop his immigration patrols. In opening statements at the federal courthouse Monday, the government said it would prove Arpaio ignored that order for a year and a half.

They contend Maricopa County sheriff’s deputies detained and transferred more than 170 people to Immigration and Customs Enforcement in the 18 months after the order was handed down.

At issue for the criminal contempt charge is whether Arpaio knowingly and wittingly violated the order. The government said Arpaio wore his defiance like a badge of honor. Defense attorneys said they’ll show the former sheriff was simply enforcing the law and never willfully intended to disobey any court order.

Federal prosecutors called Arpaio’s former attorney Timothy Casey to the stand to discuss a preliminary injunction that was handed down in December of 2011.

Casey said he communicated with top staff members at the Sheriff’s Office about the importance of the order immediately after it was issued.

He testified that he broke the order down into simple language: the Sheriff’s Office could no longer arrest people for immigration violations and turn them over to the feds for deportation.

Casey said he also spoke with Sheriff Arpaio about the injunction on multiple occasions. Casey said the sheriff understood the order and told him it wasn’t a problem because they were no longer conducting the arrests. But Casey said he later found out that they in fact were.

However, Arpaio's defense attorney Dennis Wilenchik said he thought his cross examination of Casey proved their main point of contention on the order.

“Which is that even his own lawyer thought it was unclear and ambiguous and that the sheriff didn’t fully understand it," Wilenchik said.

Casey will take the stand again Tuesday.

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Jimmy Jenkins is a senior field correspondent at KJZZ and a contributor to NPR’s Election 2020 and Criminal Justice station collaborations. His work has been featured on Morning Edition, All Things Considered, Marketplace, Here and Now, The Takeaway and NPR Newscasts.Originally from Terre Haute, Indiana, Jenkins has a B.S. in criminology from Indiana State University and a master’s degree in journalism from Indiana University.Much of his reporting has focused on the criminal justice system. Jenkins has reported on Tasers, body cameras, use of force, jail privatization, prison health care and the criminal contempt trial of former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio.