Ariz. Sheriff Faces Criminal Charges for Immigration Patrols

The criminal-contempt charges against Joe Arpaio come just as he is running for his seventh term as sheriff of Maricopa County. 

Maricopa County, Ariz., Sheriff Joe Arpaio in 2010
Maricopa County, Ariz., Sheriff Joe Arpaio in 2010 PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images

Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who has made a name for himself as a tough lawman in Phoenix, will be charged with criminal contempt of court for defying a judge’s orders to stop immigration patrols.

Federal prosecutors announced their intent to charge the Maricopa County sheriff on Tuesday. If convicted, he could face jail time, the New York Times reports.

A judge had previously recommended criminal-contempt charges but left it up to federal prosecutors to file the charges. Prosecutor John Keller said that the criminal complaint might be filed the next day.

Arpaio, 84, is currently running for a seventh term as sheriff. His lawyer, Mel McDonald, has said that he will plead not guilty via a court filing.

Arpaio, who calls himself “America’s Toughest Sheriff,” has built a name for himself over the last two decades. In addition to aggressively carrying out immigration patrols, he has made prisoners wear pink underwear and sleep in canvas tents during Phoenix’s hot summers, according to CBS News.

A judge ordered Arpaio to stop his immigration patrols after Latino drivers complained about racial profiling. Arpaio was later found to have violated that order.

If convicted of a misdemeanor, Arpaio could face up to six months in jail. A felony conviction carries an unspecified sentence but would require Arpaio to be removed as sheriff.

Arpaio admits to violating the order but says that his doing so was unintentional.

Read more at CBS News and the New York Times.