In a departure from questions about Arpaio's detaining and transporting undocumented immigrants with no state charges, U.S. District Judge G. Murray Snow asked "America's Toughest Sheriff" if he ever investigated Snow or his family members.
Arpaio told Snow that his former attorney, Tim Casey, hired the investigator after he received information that Snow's wife commented in a restaurant that her husband "wanted to do everything to make sure [Arpaio was] not elected."
"The results were that he confirmed that your wife was in that restaurant," Arpaio told Snow. "He talked to the witnesses and confirmed that the remark was made."
Snow's line of questioning referred to a Phoenix New Times article claiming that Arpaio had hired an investigator to look into whether Snow and the U.S. Department of Justice were conspiring against him.
Arpaio told the judge there was no evidence of such a conspiracy.
Arpaio's repeated comments to the media that he would keep running the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office the way he had done it for years, despite a court order to stop detaining and transferring undocumented immigrants without state charges, again came under fire.
"Did you take your oath of office so lightly?" asked plaintiffs' attorney Stanley Young, after showing Arpaio a news clip in which the sheriff claimed the crackdown on his office was "just politics."
"I didn't know all the facts of the court order," Arpaio, now in his sixth term as sheriff, told the packed courtroom. "It really hurts me after 55 years to be in this position. So I want to apologize to the judge, I should have known more of this court order. It slipped through the cracks."
Arpaio, 82, and four of his former and current officers face civil contempt charges accusing them of failing to deliver data to the court and failing to train deputies not to make unconstitutional stops.
Arpaio told the court that the statements he makes in media interviews and news releases do not always reflect the opinion of his office.
"Sometimes I was the voice of my own opinion, not necessarily the opinion of my office," Arpaio told judge.
Attorney Young didn't buy it.
"You're now hoping that the benefits of violating the court's order will end up, and at the end of the day, outweighing the costs of violating that order for you," Young told Arpaio. "Do you think that you're going to get away with your violations of this court's order?"
"That's not for me to say," Arpaio responded.
Young rehashed Wednesday testimony from Lt. Brian Jakowinicz, who told the court that Arpaio ordered him to transfer undocumented immigrants to U.S Immigration and Customs Enforcement or U.S. Customs and Border Patrol.
"I don't give orders. I might have a suggestion," Arpaio responded.
"You always merely suggest things to your subordinates in your office?" Young asked. "Since they serve under the sheriff, they should do what you tell them to do."
"I'm very flexible," Arpaio said.
The contempt hearing continues Friday in Phoenix Federal Court.