PHOENIX - After several delays, former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio's contempt of court trial got underway on Monday. Arpaio is facing a criminal charge for disobeying an court order to stop his immigration patrols.
Arpaio is 85 years old. He faces up to six months behind bars and a fine. It is unlikely he would do time if convicted, but it would certainly be a blow to the former sheriff if the judge finds him guilty.
He had little to say about opening statements in federal court.
"No comment. I've got great lawyers," said Arpaio.
Judge Susan Bolton heard two very different versions of his conduct as sheriff. Prosecutors claim he blew off an order from a federal judge to stop racial profiling of Latinos in his high-profile crackdown on illegal immigrants, then bragged about it to the media.
Prosecutors said "he thought he could get away with it and never thought this day would come. He wore his defiance like a badge of honor."
Arpaio's defense team countered the former sheriff "had the right and duty to cooperate with the federal government to enforce immigration laws of this country" and detained people for legitimate reasons.
"Absolutely 100 percent anything after that was incident to proper and lawful stop by sheriff's department in connection with some violation of the law," said Arpaio's attorney, Mark Goldman.
The trial is scheduled to last eight days. Arpaio wanted a jury trial, but the U.S. Supreme Court denied his request. The judge will decide his fate.