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In this July 21, 2016, file photo, Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Arizona walks on the stage to speak during the final day of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya, File)

Joe Arpaio, 'America's toughest sheriff,' was charged with criminal contempt


Joe Arpaio, the longtime sheriff of Phoenix notorious for being tough on illegal immigration, was charged with criminal contempt of court Tuesday after ignoring a judge's order in a racial profiling case.

The U.S. Department of Justice warned it would prosecute Arpaio two weeks ago, but that did not become officiall until Tuesday, when District Judge Susan Bolton signed it. 

Arpaio faces up to six months in jail if convicted, but since it's a misdemeanor, he won't be barred from serving as sheriff.

Arpaio had been accused of ordering deputies to arrest undocumented immigrants when there were no state charges against them, despite another district judge, G. Murray Snow, banning the practice, The Arizona Republic reports.

Bolton accused Arpaio of doing so for "the notoriety he received" rather than actual law enforcement. His lawyer, Mel McDonald, said Arpaio will plead not guilty.

The trial has cost county taxpayers $48 million so far as they defend Arpaio. 

FILE - In this Jan. 9, 2013, file photo, Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio speaks to reporters in Phoenix, Ariz. A judge will hold a hearing in Phoenix, Ariz., Tuesday, Oct. 11, 2016, to discuss legal issues raised by a recommendation that prosecutors file a criminal contempt-of-court case against Arpaio. The hearing falls the day before early voting starts in Arpaio's bid for a seventh term as metro Phoenix's top law enforcer. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin, File)

Arpaio has walked away from investigations while still getting re-elected. He was accused of retaliating against local officials by accusing them of corruption and later investigated for misspending more than $100 million.

Conservative Twitter users weren't thrilled.

Others were overjoyed. Arpaio is up for re-election.

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The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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