By Daniel Wallis
PHOENIX (Reuters) - The Arizona lawman who bills himself as "America's toughest sheriff" predicts the New England Patriots will win the Super Bowl and says some inmates will be allowed popcorn as they watch Sunday's face-off with the Seattle Seahawks.
Joe Arpaio, the 82-year-old sheriff of Maricopa County where the National Football League's championship game will be played, held an event on Saturday at which he popped the popcorn and forecast the Patriots will triumph 27-17.
He also took a cheeky jab at his favored team over the "deflategate" scandal, in which the Patriots are accused of using under-inflated footballs during their AFC championship triumph against Indianapolis.
Holding up two mock footballs, one for each team, Arpaio noted that the one for New England was softer. "I don't know if I can blow this up, but it is kinda deflated!" he said with a chuckle.
Arpaio, who was born in Massachusetts, told supporters this week that he will run for a seventh term in office and sought donations for a race he said will pit him against "celebrity lefties" determined to defeat him.
The Republican, who was first elected in 1992, is known for his tough stance on illegal immigration, as well as conditions that opponents have said are too harsh in the county's detention facilities, including one known as the Tent City Jail.
The sheriff's office said in a separate statement that the roughly 700 inmates incarcerated at Tent City, as well as all military veterans held in the county's jail system, will be provided with popcorn to enjoy during the Super Bowl.
Arpaio often cites support from voters for what he calls his "no frills" jail policies, and he says Tent City inmates are fed vegetarian meals that cost just $1 per detainee per day.
"I've taken away meat, salt and butter, to save the taxpayers money," Arpaio said in the statement issued by his office. "So while they will get popcorn for this special event, they'll be eating it without salt or butter."
(Editing by Matthew Lewis)