Two ex-members of former Sheriff Joe Arpaio's immigration enforcement squad testified against their old boss Wednesday, with one man describing how the agency defied a judicial order to stop rounding up immigrants.
Arpaio, 85, is charged with misdemeanor contempt of court for disobeying a federal judge's order to end his patrols that rounded up immigrants suspected of being in the U.S. illegally.
If convicted, the former six-term sheriff of metro Phoenix could face up to six months in jail.
Arpaio created a squad called the Human Smuggling Unit that was the main immigration enforcer while he was Maricopa County Sheriff. Prosecutors called a former member of that squad, Lt. Brian Jakowinicz, to the witness stand to describe its immigration efforts from 2012 to 2013.
Jakowinicz testified that he spoke to the leaders of the unit during that time, and they said the agency's legal troubles over immigration had been resolved - despite being under an injunction to stop immigration enforcement.
"They didn't want ... to change anything," he said. "Everything was running smoothly."
Arpaio has acknowledged prolonging the patrols, but insists his disobedience was unintentional and puts the blame on his former lawyer.
The case marks a harsh rebuke against a lawman who became a national political celebrity with his Arizona immigration patrols but lost his bid for a seventh term in office last year amid voter frustration stemming from the huge bill he ran up over his many legal tangles.
Jakowinicz testified he personally talked to Arpaio about the agency's practice of handing over immigrants in the country illegally to the U.S. Border Patrol.
"You take them to (the Border Patrol). I am the sheriff," Jakowinicz quoted Arpaio as saying.
But when later questioned by Arpaio attorney Dennis Wilenchik, Jakowinicz said he believes the sheriff said it was OK for his officers to merely call federal authorities in such situations.
Jakowinicz said his predecessor didn't mention the December 2011 order issued when he joined the squad in April 2012. He said he did not learn of the order until May 2013.
Still, Jakowinicz received emails in 2012 on proposed training materials aimed at complying with the court order. The materials were not distributed to rank-and-file officers. Arpaio blames his former lawyer Tim Casey for not approving the materials.
Sgt. Michael Trowbridge, who served in Arpaio's immigrant enforcement squad from March 2011 until March 2013, testified that he was aware of the December 2011 order when it came out. But he said no one explained it in any great detail to him or other officers.
Although he realizes the policy of turning immigrants over to the feds violated the injunction, Trowbridge said it wasn't his responsibility to bring up the order because that was the command staff's issue.
Trowbridge also testified Wednesday that he once witnessed a tense exchange in which a colleague complained to Arpaio that a command the sheriff had issued would have violated a judge's order.
Prosecutors finished presenting their evidence Wednesday, and Arpaio's attorneys called the first witness in their client's defense.
Chris Clem, who ran the Border Patrol's office in Casa Grande at the time the order was violated, said he wasn't aware of the 2011 court order issued against Arpaio's office.
Some immigrants detained by Arpaio's officers in violation of the order didn't face any state criminal charges but were still brought to the Border Patrol.
Clem said his agents didn't typically turn down requests from local law enforcement agencies to accept custody of immigrants who had been detained. "I can't think of a situation where we have refused another agency," Clem said.
Wednesday was the third day of Arpaio's bench trial that is scheduled to conclude next week.
Judge Susan Bolton declined Arpaio's bid to call U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions to testify at the trial. And she refused to allow prosecutors to play two video segments from a 2014 documentary about Arpaio.