Arizona sheriff drops tough-talking persona on the
Arizona sheriff drops tough-talking persona on the stand JACQUES BILLEAUD, Associated Press RYAN VAN VELZER, Associated Press
PHOENIX (AP) — The self-proclaimed "America's Toughest Sheriff" came under sharp questioning Thursday over his TV interviews, press releases and campaign fundraising as lawyers sought to use the Arizona lawman's own words against him in proving that he willfully defied a judge's orders to stop carrying out his signature immigration patrols.
The normally brash Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio gave soft-spoken and terse answers in his second day on the witness stand in a contempt-of-court hearing that could lead to fines, increased oversight of his agency and a possible criminal contempt hearing. He said, "I don't recall" on several occasions.
A lawyer for the American Civil Liberties Union played recordings of TV interviews, including a 2012 segment on Fox News with host Neil Cavuto in which the sheriff called out the Obama administration over its immigration policies and said he would keep arresting immigrants in the country illegally.
Arpaio apologized again for disregarding a 2011 order to stop the immigration patrols, issued after a judge found the agency racial profiled Latinos. He has acknowledged the violation, which lasted for 18 months.
"I have a deep respect for the courts," Arpaio said. "It really hurts me after 55 years to be in this position. I want to apologize to the judge. I should have known more about these court orders that slipped through the cracks."
Asked whether defying the order meant he violated his oath of office, Arpaio said, "I did not intend to violate my oath."
His testimony comes five years to the date after the signing of Arizona's landmark immigration law known as SB 1070. Protesters are planning to march from the Arizona capitol to Arpaio's jail Thursday to mark the anniversary and draw attention to immigration policies.
Arizona lawmakers passed the legislation amid growing frustration over illegal immigration. Arpaio became a leading figure in the national debate as his agency took an aggressive stance in arresting and detaining immigrants in the country illegally. SB 1070 was largely gutted through a series of legal challenges, and Arpaio's practices were reined in by the courts.
His defiance of the judge's orders, however, landed him in court this week. The contempt hearing marks the boldest attempt to hold the sheriff personally responsible for his actions.
In court Wednesday, Arpaio's voice wasn't booming as it often is before TV cameras. Arpaio's attorney has not yet had a chance to question him.
Stan Young, one of the attorneys who pushed the profiling case, pointed to a news release a week after the order in which Arpaio said he would continue to enforce immigration laws. He also cited an Arpaio interview with Univision in March 2012 in which the sheriff was asked if he was still detaining immigrants who were in the country illegally.
"Yes, we are," Arpaio said then. "We just arrested 31 or more recently coming into the country illegally."
In court, Arpaio said he still had the authority at the time to enforce Arizona's immigrant smuggling law and other state immigration laws.