By Patty Pelfrey
Arizona Free Press | azfreepress.org
Sheriff Joe Arpaio testified today in the civil rights action brought by the ACLU being heard in Federal District Court. It was an unsurprising mix of “I delegated that to my staff,” “I don’t recall,” and lip service to the idea that racial profiling of Latinos is not legal while being presented with documents and video showing that is exactly what he did.
His demeanor was more subdued than usual, reflected in its contrast to his swagger apparent in video of deposition testimony and media that were played in the courtroom as evidence impeaching his testimony. The most amusing was an audio clip from a 2009 speech Arpaio gave in Houston. The plaintiffs’ attorneys brought up Arpaio’s famous practice of putting county jail inmates in pink underwear. “I always have an official reason so I can win the lawsuits,” Arpaio said, after stating the pink shorts are less likely to be smuggled out of jail and sold on the black market. “And then I have my reasons,” he went on. “And my reason is they hate pink. They do. They may like it in California, but they don’t like it in Arizona.”
He was asked whether he says one thing in court and does another when he leaves. “This is in humor,” Arpaio said. “I make sure we do things properly in case I get sued.”
Being sued is a regular event for Arpaio, which has cost taxpayers of Maricopa County millions in settlements and court verdicts.
The plaintiffs also presented evidence that Arpaio’s immigration sweeps were triggered by letters and e-mails from people complaining about “Mexicans hanging around” intersections where locals would hire them for day labor. A K-9 unit sheriff’s deputy involved in one of the sweeps was directed to stop drivers leaving a church parking lot that complainants said was being used as a “sanctuary” area to evade MCSO’s immigration enforcement actions. In that case no citation was issued, the local driver receiving only a warning for driving nine miles over the speed limit after MCSO had taken the undocumented workers into custody.
The lunch break was punctuated by a large protest organized by Puente that shut down the intersection at 4th Avenue and Washington. Four undocumented Arizonans “came out,” making impassioned speeches about their refusal to continue to live in fear. They were arrested by Phoenix police and ICE officers after they finished talking. A video of one of the four arrestees explaining her actions can be seen here. A fund has been set up to receive contributions toward the foursome’s bail here.
Although Joe’s attorneys tried to rehabilitate him on cross-examination, it wasn’t effective after the sheriff was repeatedly hung by his own words of bravado. And Mary Rose Wilcox was there to look him in the eye as he went down in flames.
The trial resumes Wednesday morning at 8:30 in Courtroom 604.