PHOENIX — Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio said a Tuesday Department of Justice decision to charge him with criminal contempt of court is nothing more than President Barack Obama’s final attempt to oust him before leaving office.
“With Obama on his way out of office, he and DOJ officials know this is their last shot at taking me down,” Arpaio said in a press release.
Arpaio’s contempt of court trial is expected to begin in December, though that will likely be delayed. However, the sheriff claimed he has been in Obama’s crosshairs for years.
“Because enforcing illegal immigration laws is not politically correct, within the first 100 days of taking office, Obama put then-Attorney General Eric Holder in charge of pursuing a ‘racial profiling’ case against me – among other trumped up, failed legal pursuits – and eight years later they’re still pursuing the case,” Arpaio said.
Arpaio argued that Maricopa County voters should be outraged by the criminal charges because, in his words, they are “a blatant abuse of power” and designed to interfere with his re-election campaign.
“It is no coincidence that this announcement comes 28 days before the election and the day before early voting starts,” he said.
“This highly unusual charge of criminal contempt against an elected local official should be seen for what is really is: a political maneuver by a corrupt administration to damage me politically,” the release continued.
Arpaio also said the charges pose a “delicious irony” in that other political figures — most notably Holder and Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, both of whom who oppose Arpaio — were investigated for crimes and not punished.
“Someone like me who dares enforce the rule of law is held to a much different standard,” he said.
Arpaio said he wanted to make it clear the charges would not affect his campaign and that he is confident he will be exonerated.
A felony contempt conviction would force Arpaio from office; he could remain sheriff with a misdemeanor conviction.
Arpaio would face up to six months in jail if convicted of misdemeanor criminal contempt and an unspecified sentencing range if such a conviction is deemed a felony.
The case is not expected to be designated as a misdemeanor or felony until later.
Arpaio, 84, was recommended for criminal contempt charges by U.S. District Court Judge Murray Snow. He has acknowledged violating an order from Snow but insisted it wasn’t intentional.
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