Feds: Arpaio's remarks on immigration are fair game at trial

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Former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio (Source: 3TV/CBS 5 file photo) Former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio (Source: 3TV/CBS 5 file photo)

Prosecutors are opposing former Sheriff Joe Arpaio's bid to prohibit comments he made about immigration on the campaign trail from being mentioned at his upcoming criminal trial for defying a court order to stop his immigration patrols.

Lawyers for the U.S. Justice Department said in a court filing Wednesday that Arpaio repeatedly boasted about his immigration enforcement efforts when he thought it was in his best interest. They said Arpaio can't escape the consequences of his actions by arguing that allowing such statements at trial would have a chilling effect on protected political speech.

[RELATED: Arpaio wants his campaign talk banned at trial]

Arpaio is scheduled to be tried on a criminal contempt-of-court charge for ignoring a 2011 court order in a racial profiling case to stop his patrols. Instead, the patrols were allowed to continue for 17 months.

The judge who issued the order has previously said Arpaio violated his order because Arpaio believed continuing his immigration efforts would help his 2012 campaign.

[RELATED: Judge denies Joe Arpaio's request for a jury trial]

The 84-year-old Arpaio, who would face up to six months in jail if convicted, has acknowledged prolonging the patrols but insists he did so unintentionally. To win a conviction, prosecutors must prove that Arpaio intended to violate the order.

"The defendant is not being prosecuted for expressing political opinions - he is being prosecuted for intentionally disobeying a court order," wrote Raymond Hulser, chief of the Justice Department's public integrity section.

The lawman enjoyed solid popularity for nine years by locking up immigrants in the U.S. illegally and regularly telling news reporters that no one would stop his crackdowns.

An Arpaio attorney said in a court filing late last week that it would be prejudicial to use Arpaio's comments during campaigns at his trial and that the remarks "were campaign posturing and not made under oath." The defense attorney didn't specify which statements he wants excluded as evidence in Arpaio's trial.

The Justice Department also asked a federal judge to reject Arpaio's request to bar two people illegally detained in his immigration patrols from testifying at trial.

Lawyers for Arpaio said allowing such victim testimony would prejudice their client and be irrelevant in determining whether he committed a crime. They said the purpose of their testimony is to "inflame the court's sense of passion."

The federal lawyers said the detentions of the two victims after Arpaio was told that such arrests violated a court order are evidence of the lawman's guilt.

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