The U.S. Justice Department announced recently that it will prosecute Joe Arpaio, the sheriff of Maricopa County, Arizona, for criminal contempt. The charges stem from a racial profiling case, according to Reuters. Arpaio, who is known for his hard-line position on illegal immigration, violated a federal judge’s court order that called for him to stop arresting suspected illegal immigrants.

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In 2011, U.S. District Court Judge Murray Snow ordered Arpaio to stop arresting people for being in the county illegally since local police departments don’t have the power to enforce federal laws, according to PRI.

Arpaio ignored Snow’s ruling and continued arresting people he suspected of being in the United States illegally for at least 18 months afterward. PRI also reports that Snow believed Arpaio ignored the court order because he was up for reelection in 2012 and wanted to maintain his tough-on-immigration image.


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Arpaio, who is up for reelection again in November, said he believes the charges and allegations against him are bogus and that he believes the justice department is trying to sway voters to elect an alternative candidate.

“It is clear that the corrupt Obama Justice Department is trying to influence my re-election as sheriff of Maricopa County,” Arpaio said in a statement, according to PRI.

“It is a blatant abuse of power and the people of Maricopa County should be as outraged as I am. I will fight this case tooth and nail because I know these charges are rubbish. In the end, I am confident I will be exonerated,” he said, according to Reuters.

Justice Department attorneys are seeking no more than six months of imprisonment for Arpaio, who is 84 years old. They are also seeking a bench trial instead of a trial by jury, according to Reuters. The judge in the case, Susan Bolton, set an initial trial date of Dec. 6 for the trial. Arpaio’s lawyer Mel McDonald said the sheriff will enter a not-guilty plea, according to PRI.