A federal judge has referred Maricopa County, Az., Sheriff Joe Arpaio and three of his aides to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, requesting that they be prosecuted for criminal contempt of court, reports the Arizona Republic. U.S. District Court Judge G. Murray Snow found that Arpaio intentionally violated various orders rooted in an 8-year-old racial-profiling case.
The sheriff and Chief Deputy Jerry Sheridan already have been held in civil contempt of court. Potential penalties are steeper in a criminal case, and only criminal contempt could result in incarceration. “Criminal contempt serves to vindicate the Court’s authority by punishing the intentional disregard for that authority,” Snow said. It was not immediately clear if the U.S. Attorney would press charges, and whether Arpaio could be forced to resign. The sheriff promised “aggressive appeals.”