The Justice Department is finally moving ahead with criminal contempt charges against Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio for violating a federal court’s orders in a racial-profiling case.
Apparently, the sheriff defied a judge’s orders to end his immigration patrols in Arizona (which has made him nationally famous). This could have the lawman going to jail, while also putting a dent in his political future as he seeks a seventh term.
Arpaio even admitted that he violated the order to stop the patrols but maintains that it wasn’t ‘intentional.’
Currently, U.S. District Judge Susan Bolton is waiting on the government to file an order showing cause, which the judge will then sign. That will officially serve as the charging document in order for the case to go forward against Arpaio.
The announcement came Tuesday in front of the case’s first criminal hearing in downtown Phoenix and has very few precedents in U.S history. The judge in the case found that the Sheriff intentionally violated the judge’s orders – and prosecutors are following up on it.
Watch Sheriff Arpaio’s attorney address the media outside the federal courthouse:
DOJ attorney John Keller said that the government will investigate additional allegations against Arpaio for concealing evidence on top of the misdemeanor contempt charge – which is another way of saying obstruction of justice until a criminal case is officially brought. The court filing could happen possibly within the next day.
If Arpaio is convicted he could face up to six months in jail.
Arpaio’s Lawyer Mel McDonald told the press that Arpaio wasn’t arrested and no mugshot will be taken and that he will plead not guilty via a court filing.
“We believe the sheriff, being an elected official, should be judged by his peers,” McDonald said.
If authorities do bring the additional obstruction of justice charge, there will be more severe punishments for the veteran lawman.
Obstruction of justice is a felony that carries a punishment of up to 37 months in prison and would result in immediate retirement from his elected office if he is found guilty.
So far, county taxpayers have paid more than $48 million in the profiling case and the costs are expected to rise to more than $72 million by next year.
Here’s Sheriff Arpaio at a Trump rally:
If the video doesn’t load, you can watch it here.
Featured Image via Getty Images.