Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio announces newly launched program aimed at providing security around schools in Anthem, Arizona, U.S. January 9, 2013. REUTERS/Laura Segall/File Photo

The lawman who once boasted he was “America’s toughest sheriff,” could find himself behind bars after a federal judge found him guilty of criminal contempt on Monday.

Former Maricopa County, Arizona, Sheriff Joe Arpaio was accused of violating a court order in a racial profiling case by continuing patrols targeting immigrants. US District Court Judge Susan Bolton handed down her verdict in court papers signed on Monday.

Bolton wrote that Arpaio knew of the court order and what it meant for his department’s policy of detaining immigrants to turn them over to federal immigration authorities. But the evidence showed “a flagrant disregard” for the order, Bolton wrote.

“Not only did defendant abdicate responsibility, he announced to the world and to his subordinates that he was going to continue business as usual no matter who said otherwise,” Bolton wrote.

Arpaio has contended the order wasn’t clear and he didn’t intend to violate it. Arpaio’s defense attorney has argued that Arpaio’s former attorney “dropped the ball” and didn’t clearly explain the order or seek clarification from the federal judge who issued it.

Federal prosecutors alleged his defiance was deliberate, and something he believed he could get away with.

The 85-year-old could face up to six months in jail when he is sentenced on October 5.

Arpaio’s attorneys, Dennis and Jack Wilenchik, said in a statement that the former sheriff would appeal the verdict to get a jury trial. The statement said Bolton violated the Constitution by issuing the verdict without reading it to Arpaio in court.

“Her verdict is contrary to what every single witness testified in the case. Arpaio believes that a jury would have found in his favor, and that it will,” the statement said.

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SOURCE: CNN, Carma Hassan and Darran Simon

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