PHOENIX (AP) — Former Sheriff Joe Arpaio has made a long-shot request with the U.S. Supreme Court to put on hold his criminal trial that began a week ago and is scheduled for closing arguments on Thursday.
His lawyers argued in court papers made available Monday that the trial should be stopped because Arpaio is being denied the right to have a jury decide whether he's guilty of a contempt-of-court charge. As it now stands, U.S. District Judge Susan Bolton will decide if he's guilty of the misdemeanor charge for disobeying a 2011 court order to stop his traffic patrols that targeted immigrants.
Criminal defense attorney Mike Black, who isn't involved in Arpaio's case but witnessed testimony at his trial as a spectator, said the former sheriff has zero chance of persuading the nation's highest court to stop the trial. Black said he has never heard of such a late-in-the-game request being granted by the Supreme Court.
"It may be important to the people of Arizona, but it's only a misdemeanor charge," Black said, adding that he believes the Supreme Court will defer to Bolton.
The request, which was filed early last week but wasn't made public until Monday, was filed after the trial began.
Testimony concluded late last week, and closing arguments are scheduled for Thursday morning.
The former six-term sheriff of metro Phoenix has acknowledged violating the 2011 order that was issued in a racial profiling case. Arpaio insists his disobedience was unintentional. Prosecutors must prove Arpaio purposefully violated the order to win a conviction.
Arpaio is accused of continuing his to promote his immigration enforcement efforts during his 2012 re-election campaign. He blames Tim Casey, a lawyer who represented him for nearly six years in the profiling case, for not properly explaining the importance of the court order.
Casey, who was forced to testify, said he had several conversations with Arpaio about the order and that he quit as his attorney after he witnessed the sheriff's growing resistance to court orders.
The 85-year-old retired lawman would face up to six months in jail if convicted of the charge, though attorneys who have followed the case have doubted that a person of his age would be incarcerated.
This isn't Arpaio first attempt to get the Supreme Court to intervene in his criminal case.
On the trial's opening day, the Supreme Court denied Arpaio's bid to speed up its consideration of another jury-trial request.
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