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Federal judge refers Sheriff Joe Arpaio for criminal contempt

• http://www.azcentral.com, Megan Cassidy

A federal judge on Friday referred Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio and three of his aides to the U.S. Attorney's Office, requesting that they be prosecuted for criminal contempt of court.?

The landmark decision comes after U.S. District Court Judge G. Murray Snow found that Arpaio intentionally violated various orders rooted in an 8-year-old racial-profiling case.

The judge's order also refers Chief Deputy Jerry Sheridan, Arpaio's former defense attorney Michele Iafrate, and Capt. Steve Bailey for prosecutors to consider criminal contempt charges against them as well.

The sheriff and Sheridan already have been held in civil contempt of court. Potential penalties are steeper in a criminal case, and only criminal contempt could result in incarceration.

"Criminal contempt serves to vindicate the Court's authority by punishing the intentional disregard for that authority," Snow wrote in his Friday order.