Joe Arpaio loses bid to bar victim comments at trial

Posted at 1:36 PM, Jun 01, 2017
and last updated 2017-06-01 16:36:56-04

Prosecutors at former Sheriff Joe Arpaio's upcoming criminal trial over his refusal to stop his immigration patrols can use campaign statements he made about his fight against border problems, a judge has ruled.

U.S. District Judge Susan Bolton on Wednesday rejected the retired metro Phoenix lawman's argument that such comments would be prejudicial and have a chilling effect on protected speech.

She ruled Arpaio didn't offer any legal authority to back up the notion that campaign comments can't be used against a defendant at a criminal trial.

RELATED: Sheriff Joe Arpaio leaves office with mixed legacy

"The Constitution does not prohibit defendant's campaign statements as evidence," Bolton wrote.

Arpaio is scheduled to go on trial June 26 in federal court on a criminal contempt of court charge for prolonging his immigration patrols for 17 months after another judge in a racial profiling case had ordered them stopped.

The judge in the profiling case had ruled that Arpaio ignored the order because he believed the enforcement efforts would help his 2012 campaign.

Arpaio, who was ousted last year after six terms in office, has acknowledged prolonging the patrols but insists his disobedience wasn't intentional. If convicted of the misdemeanor charge, the 84-year-old Arpaio could face up to six months in jail.

For nine years, he enjoyed solid popularity by locking up immigrants who were in the United States illegally and regularly told news reporters that no one would stop his crackdowns.

His fight against illegal immigration was a fixture of his stump speeches and media interviews during his last three campaigns.

An attorney for Arpaio had argued that such remarks about immigration were campaign posturing and not made under oath and that his client made the statements during his races to bolster his reputation for being tough on illegal immigration.

Bolton on Wednesday also rejected Arpaio's request to prohibit the testimony of two people who were illegally detained as part of the prolonged patrols.

Arpaio's attorneys had argued that allowing such victims to testify would be irrelevant in determining whether he had committed a crime.

Prosecutors said the victim testimony should be heard at trial because they are evidence of Arpaio's guilt.

Arpaio has tried unsuccessfully to have a jury, rather than Bolton, decide whether he is guilty.

Last week, he asked the U.S. Supreme Court to consider his request for a jury trial. The nation's highest court hasn't yet responded.