It's official: Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Arizona has been criminally charged with federal contempt of court and could face up to six months in jail if convicted. The case stems from December 2011 when a federal judge barred the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office from conducting Arpaio's signature immigration patrols targeting Latinos, solely on suspicion they were in the country illegally, as a racial-profiling case against the Sheriff's Office was playing out. Evidence, however, suggests officers continued with the program for at least another 18 months, reports the Arizona Republic.
Lawyers for Arpaio, 84, say he unintentionally violated the judge's order. Arpaio—who may still face a charge of obstruction of justice for allegedly failing to hand in evidence—has previously said a criminal-contempt charge would be nothing more than an effort to prevent his re-election to a seventh term. His Dec. 6 trial date ensures he won't lose any time on the campaign trail, which he apparently needs: Arpaio sits 15 points behind his Democratic challenger, according to a poll released last week, per Reuters. Arpaio's campaign manager, however, says internal polling has Arpaio leading by 7.5 points.