Arizona's controversial lawman, Joe Arpaio, took the witness stand on Friday during his civil contempt hearing and denied that his office used a confidential informant to investigate the judge presiding over his racial profiling case.
During questioning, Arpaio said the probe had stemmed from the informant’s allegations that the federal government had cracked into about 150,000 local bank accounts.
He repeatedly denied his office's investigation was focused on U.S. District Court Judge Murray Snow, who is overseeing his long-running racial profiling case. The judge was alleged to have had one of those accounts.
"I wanted to get to the bottom of this massive infiltration," Arpaio said during the hearing in U.S. District Court in Phoenix.
The all-day testimony was part of the contempt proceedings against Arpaio and four aides launched by Snow, for violating his orders in a 2007 racial profiling case.
Arpaio, the six-term sheriff of Maricopa County, and his chief deputy acknowledge the non-compliance but have said it was unintentional.
On Friday, the lawman told plaintiff’s attorney Stanley Young he had been concerned about the informants' allegations that the telephones of Arpaio and his lawyers were tapped, and their emails hacked.
Arpaio and his office face a range of potential sanctions from the judge, including fines, restitution for those harmed by the actions and tighter oversight of daily operations.
Arpaio, who has announced he is seeking a seventh term, could also face criminal charges stemming from the violations.
His testimony came on the sixth day of the hearings, as part of a lawsuit by Latinos alleging they were racially profiled by deputies during traffic stops.
In 2013, Snow found Arpaio’s deputies were guilty of such profiling and unlawfully detaining Latinos, violating their constitutional rights, in a ruling that was a major blow to the self-proclaimed "America’s Toughest Sheriff."
Snow installed a court monitor at the sheriff’s office and ordered other changes to ensure the offenses were not repeated.
Snow called for the contempt hearings, which began in April, in response to repeated non-compliance by the sheriff’s office.
The proceedings were broadened to cover the confidential informant investigation, questions about nearly 1,500 identifications seized by deputies and alleged inadequate internal investigations by sheriff’s officials.
(Reporting by David Schwartz; Editing by Victoria Cavaliere and Clarence Fernandez)