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Sheriff Joe Arpaio enters not guilty plea in criminal contempt-of-court case

(AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin, File)

PHOENIX — Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio entered a not guilty plea in his criminal contempt-of-court case on Friday, documents showed.

The plea was entered on Arpaio’s behalf by his lawyers.

The embattled sheriff was officially charged this week after a judge signed off on his criminal contempt-of-court charges.

He could face up to six months in jail if convicted on the misdemeanor charge, though KTAR legal analyst Monica Lindstrom said jail time is unlikely.

Arpaio’s trial is scheduled to begin Dec. 6, but will likely be pushed back to give the defense more time to prepare.

The charge comes as Arpaio is seeking a seventh term in office.

Arpaio ran a TV commercial last week saying the Obama administration’s Justice Department was going to prosecute him because of its opposition to the sheriff’s immigration enforcement efforts.

He also released a statement about two weeks ago calling the criminal contempt charges a last-ditch effort to remove him from his post before Obama leaves office.

“With Obama on his way out of office, he and DOJ officials know this is their last shot at taking me down,” the sheriff said in a press release.

The law enforcer has acknowledged that he did not comply with the injunction to stop the patrols. U.S. District Court Judge Murray Snow had recommended criminal charges be filed and handed off the final decision.

A motion was requested by Arpaio and the officers’ lawyers Wednesday for Snow to recuse himself from all future proceedings in the case, citing that Snow has “engaged in improper private, off-the-record meetings and communications about the merits of the case with the court-appointed Monitor, who has been investigating the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office.”

“We fully understand and acknowledge the gravity of moving for recusal of a sitting judge. Nevertheless, both the facts of this case and the governing law make clear that Judge Snow and his Monitor may not continue to preside over the Melendres litigation,” said Charles J. Cooper, attorney for Sheriff Arpaio, Chief Deputy Gerard Sheridan, and Lieutenant Joseph Sousa.

Arpaio’s officers were found to have violated the rights of Latinos.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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