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 and clouding his political future as he seeks a seventh term. The announcement in federal court sets in motion criminal proceedings against the sheriff less than a month before Election Day and comes as he has taken on a prominent role on the national political stage in 2016, appearing alongside Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump on several occasions. Arpaio has acknowledged violating the order to stop the immigration patrols but insists his disobedience wasn't intentional.
Prosecutor John Keller said in court that the government will bring a misdemeanor contempt charge, 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. Following complaints by Latino drivers about racial profiling, a judge demanded that Arpaio stop the immigration patrols. He was later found to have violated the order for 17 months, causing it to turn into a contempt of court case. (Read more Joe Arpaio stories.)