Feds to bring criminal contempt charges against Arpaio

Joe Arpaio, the Arizona sheriff famous for his aggressive pursuit of undocumented immigrants, will face a criminal contempt-of-court charge for defying a judge's order to stop conducting immigration patrols in the state.

The decision on whether to move forward with a criminal case was handed over to U.S. Department of Justice after federal prosecutors in Arizona asked to be removed from the case due to possible conflicts of interest.

Lawyers from the Justice Department's Public Integrity Section in Washington, D.C. are now deciding whether to prosecute.

And then a couple of months ago, Snow recommended criminal contempt of court charges be filed against the embattled sheriff.

If he is convicted of misdemeanor contempt, the 84-year-old Arpaio could face up to six months in jail. It revealed deep flaws in Arpaio's internal investigations, which Snow said had been manipulated to shield sheriff's officials from accountability.

Arpaio issued a statement saying he was confident he would be exonerated.

The announcement Tuesday of pending charges comes one day before early voting begins in his reelection bid.

Keller said the Justice Department can not prosecute those allegations within the criminal contempt case because the one-year statute of limitations had run its course.

Arpaio is accused of violating an order put down by U.S. District Judge G. Murray Snow in December 2011 that was meant to force him to stop Arpaio and his law enforcement officers from enforcing federal immigration law in a discriminatory manner.

Arpaio has acknowledged violating the order but insists it wasn't intentional.

However, prosecutors left open the possibility of other charges being filed against Arpaio, as well as his second-in-command Gerard Sheridan, Maricopa County Sheriff's Captain Steve Bailey and an Arpaio attorney, Michele Iafrate.

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. For the protection of AP and its licensors, content may not be copied, altered or redistributed in any form.

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