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An Arizona sheriff may face criminal charges for contempt of court

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The Department of Justice determined Tuesday that it will charge Sheriff Joe Arpaio with criminal contempt of court for defying a judge's orders to stop racial profiling at the Arizona border. 

Arpaio has not officially been charged, but U.S. District Judge Susan Bolton asked the federal government to write an order to show cause by Wednesday, according to The Arizona Republic

Tuesday's announcement in federal court sets in motion criminal proceedings against the Arpaio less than a month before an election that will determine whether he will serve a seventh term as Maricopa County sheriff.

Previously, a judge recommended that criminal contempt charges be filed against Arpaio but left it up to federal prosecutors to actually bring the case. 

Prosecutor John Keller said that the government will be bringing charges against Arpaio. 

If convicted, Arpaio could face up to six months in jail. 

Arpaio's lawyer, Mel McDonald told ABC News the sheriff will not be arrested. McDonald added that he will plead not guilty and hopes a jury will decide in his favor. 

"We believe the sheriff, being an elected official, should be judged by his peers," McDonald told ABC News. 


Previously a federal judge ordered that Arpaio stop  immigration patrols at the border because of allegations that he was racially profiling people.

Arpaio acknowledged that he violated the judge's order but argued that it was unintentional. 

The Associated Press contributed to this report.  

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