Joe Arpaio's longtime lawyer backs out of case 3 weeks before trial

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Could former Sheriff Joe Arpaio find himself without one of his main lawyers three weeks before his criminal contempt trial?

Arpaio's trial is set to begin April 25.

But now, one of Arpaio's lead attorneys, A. Melvin McDonald, has applied to withdraw as counsel.

Just a few days ago, U.S. District Court Judge Susan Bolton denied Arpaio's efforts to delay the trial.

[READ MORE: Ex-Sheriff Joe Arpaio loses bid to delay his criminal trial]

Now, late Monday, McDonald's law firm "Jones, Skelton & Hochuli" filed an "Application To Withdraw as Counsel for defendant Joseph M. Arpaio."

According to the paperwork, "professional considerations require termination of the representation."

The paperwork also states "This application is being made ...for good cause. Good cause exists because withdrawal is mandatory" due to an "ethical rule."

It is unclear what specific type of violation could occur or what has suddenly changed in the law firm's relationship with the former Sheriff.

McDonald joined the law firm Jones, Skelton & Hochuli as a partner in 1985, and practices in the areas of criminal defense and major civil litigation. He is a former United States Attorney for the District of Arizona, a former Superior Court Judge for Maricopa County, and has taught Criminal Justice at Arizona State University.

He has been with Arpaio throughout his entire criminal case.

Joe Arpaio is charged with contempt for ignoring a court order in a racial profiling case to stop his immigration patrols.

He has acknowledged prolonging his patrols, but he says his defiance wasn't intentional. If convicted, the 84-year-old faces up to six months in jail.

[READ MORE: Arpaio's attorney seeks postponement of contempt trial]

[READ MORE: Judge denies Joe Arpaio's request for a jury trial?]

See court documents HERE.© 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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