Feds to bring criminal contempt charges against Arpaio

Joe Arpaio
FILE - In this Dec. 18, 2013 file photo, Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio speaks at news conference at Maricopa County Sheriff's Office Headquarters in Phoenix. Arpaio faces the contempt-of-court hearing Wednesday, Sept. 30, 2015, over his decision to let his officers conduct immigration patrols 18 months after they were told to stop them. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

PHOENIX (AP) — Prosecutors said Tuesday they will charge Sheriff Joe Arpaio with criminal contempt-of-court for defying a judge’s orders to end his signature immigration patrols in Arizona, exposing the 84-year-old lawman to the possibility of jail time.

The announcement in federal court sets in motion criminal proceedings against the sheriff less than a month before Election Day as he seeks a seventh term as Maricopa County sheriff. The 2016 election cycle has also seen Arpaio take a prominent role on the national stage, appearing alongside Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump on several occasions.

FILE - In this Jan. 9, 2013, file photo, Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio speaks to reporters in Phoenix, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin, File)
FILE – In this Jan. 9, 2013, file photo, Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio speaks to reporters in Phoenix, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin, File)

A judge previously recommended criminal contempt charges against Arpaio but left it up to federal prosecutors to actually bring the case. Prosecutor John Keller said in court that the government will bring charges, with the next step being a court filing possibly in the next day that’s akin to a criminal complaint.

Arpaio could face up to six months in jail if convicted of misdemeanor contempt.

Arpaio lawyer Mel McDonald said the sheriff will not be arrested and no mugshot will be taken. He will plead not guilty by court filing and hopes to prevail before a jury.

“We believe the sheriff, being an elected official, should be judged by his peers,” McDonald said.

The move is yet another key defeat for the sheriff who became a national political figure over the past decade by aggressively carrying out immigration patrols and attention-getting endeavors such as making prisoners wear pink underwear.

Following complaints by Latino drivers about racial profiling, a judge demanded that Arpaio stop the enforcement efforts. He was later found to have violated the order, causing it to morph into a contempt of court case.

Arpaio has acknowledged violating the order to stop the immigration patrols but insists his disobedience wasn’t intentional.

County taxpayers have shelled out $48 million so far in the profiling case, and the costs are expected to reach $72 million by next summer.


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