Arpaio defends MCSO on the standPosted: Updated:
PHOENIX -- Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio testified for six hours Tuesday in a civil rights lawsuit which alleges that he and his deputies racially profile Hispanics.
Under questioning from lawyers representing a group of Latinos who are suing him and his department, Arpaio was quiet and almost hoarse at times. He told the judge he was suffering from the flu.
The sheriff said he was taken out of context when he was quoted as saying that illegal immigrants are "dirty."
He added that if a person were to cross the U.S.-Mexico border on foot over four days in the desert that person "could be dirty."
The case represents the first time the sheriff's office has been accused of systematic racial profiling and will serve as a precursor to a similar yet broader civil rights lawsuit filed against Arpaio by the U.S. Justice Department.
Plaintiffs' attorneys also asked Arpaio about a comment he made on a cable news talk show that seemed to express admiration for the Ku Klux Klan.
CNN host Lou Dobbs spoke with Arpaio in 2007 about comparisons between his department and the KKK, about which the sheriff said, "I think it's an honor. It means we are doing something."
Arpaio on Tuesday said he said he doesn't consider the comparison an honor, adding that he has no use for the KKK.
Outside of court afterward, Arpaio's attorney, Tim Casey, told reporters the clip was "taken out of context."
Attorneys also asked Arpaio about racially charged emails from constituents and the influence they had on his crime sweeps.
A woman identified as "Gayle" from Sun City wrote to Arpaio, complaining that everyone in her McDonald's only spoke Spanish.
Arpaio asked his staff to send her a note thanking her for the information and telling her he'll look into the situation.
"Did it ever occur to you in your letter to tell Gayle that speaking Spanish is not a crime?" asked attorney Stanley Young.
Arpaio responded, "No."
"People wrote letters which were sensitive or offensive," Casey said after court, "and the sheriff made sure it was clear that at no time did those play a role in any MCSO law enforcement decision."
The trial is scheduled to last five more days.