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Closing Arguments Completed In Last Day Of Arpaio Trial

Thursday was the final day of the criminal contempt trial of former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio.

Prosecutors painted a portrait of a lawman who flouted federal authority. The sheriff’s own words rang out from video screens in the federal court he’s accused of disobeying: “Nobody is higher than me, I don’t serve any governor or president.”

Through video clips, news releases, emails and records, the government presented its summary of the case to the judge: Arpaio and his command staff were aware of the order to stop immigration patrols and continued to defy it for political gain.

To get a conviction, the judge must find the order was clear and definite, known by defendant and willfully violated: “None of those elements were shown. The sheriff delegated responsibility to people, the ball was dropped, not on his time but on theirs and he never directed to not follow the order," defense attorney Dennis Wilenchik said.

He spent the majority of his closing argument pointing the finger at another attorney. Wilenchik said former Arpaio attorney Tim Casey is to blame for the sheriff’s failure to understand the law. Casey testified earlier in the trial he thought the sheriff understood the order but the defense claimed the sheriff didn’t get the memo — literally — the former sheriff never had email.

Outside the courthouse in the beating sun, Tupac Enrique Acosta stood with other protesters.

He’s been watching the case for progess for years and says it reminds him of the long arc of justice championed by the civil-rights movement, “which way that arc is gonna bent, is going to be determined by the decision by the judge in this case, we expected to be bent towards justice.” Which for Acosta, means a conviction.

Judge Susan Bolton gave both sides two weeks to submit final briefs. She is expected to issue her ruling shortly after.

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.