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.
The announcement in federal court sets in motion criminal proceedings against the sheriff less than a month before Election Day as he seeks a seventh term as Maricopa County sheriff. The 2016 election cycle has also seen Arpaio take a prominent role on the national stage, appearing alongside Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump on several occasions.
A judge previously recommended criminal contempt charges against Arpaio but left it up to federal prosecutors to actually bring the case. Prosecutor John Keller said in court that the government will bring charges, 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.