PHOENIX (AP) - Prosecutors at former Sheriff Joe Arpaio's criminal trial will get their first crack at playing TV interview footage in court during which the tough-talking lawman bragged that he was still doing immigration enforcement, even as he was defying a court order to stop his targeted patrols.
A judge who will hear closing arguments Thursday and ultimately decide Arpaio's legal fate had previously declined to play the TV excerpts during the testimony segment of the trial. But U.S. District Judge Susan Bolton said prosecutors could later play those videos during closing arguments if she decided they are admissible.
The former six-term sheriff of metro Phoenix faces a misdemeanor contempt-of-court charge for violating a judge's 2011 order to stop his traffic patrols that targeted immigrants. He is accused of breaking the order to promote his immigration enforcement efforts during his 2012 re-election campaign.
The lawman has acknowledged prolonging the patrols, but insists his disobedience was unintentional.
While Arpaio's lawyers discount the importance of the videos, the footage is believed to be important in helping prosecutors prove a key element of the case: that Arpaio knew about the order but defied it on purpose.
In opening statements, prosecutors referred to two such news clips. In a TV interview several months after the order was issued, Arpaio said he was still going to arrest immigrants. Several months later, Arpaio said in another TV interview that people liked him because he enforced immigration laws.
Prosecutors also are expected to play excerpts of Arpaio's earlier video-recorded testimony in a racial profiling case in which he was ordered to stop his patrols.
They have cited news statements from the sheriff's office in which the media-savvy sheriff acknowledged he was still enforcing immigration law. He also publicized his plan to detain immigrants who had not been arrested on state charges and were turned over to federal authorities.
The sheriff has blamed one of his former attorneys in the profiling case for not properly explaining the importance of the court order.