Federal prosecutors will pursue a criminal-contempt charge against Maricopa County, Az., Sheriff Joe Arpaio for defying orders to halt the immigration-enforcement operations that made him a national lightning rod, the Arizona Republic reports. If convicted, Arpaio could spend up to six months in jail. The move has few precedents in U.S. history, as prosecutors endorsed a federal judge’s findings that the sheriff intentionally violated the judge’s orders.
The sheriff assailed the the move as politically motivated, coming on the eve of the start of early voting for the Nov. 8 election, in which he is running for his seventh term. He said he has done nothing wrong. “My point is this was strictly a political attack on this sheriff in this campaign,” Arpaio said. “I am not going to surrender. I am going to fight this all the way. And I expect to be re-elected.” Mel McDonald, Arpaio’s defense attorney, said as prosecutors announced the move in court yesterday, “We had no clue that they were going to come here today and make the announcements that they made.”