RALEIGH, N.C. -

The release of a federal investigative report that painted a North Carolina sheriff as a racist who routinely violates the civil rights of Latinos and sought to obstruct a federal investigation could mark the beginning of a protracted legal fight.

U.S. Department of Justice spokeswoman Nanda Chitre says the agency has no plan to prosecute Alamance County Sheriff Terry S. Johnson on criminal charges. But Johnson and the federal government appear headed for a lawsuit that could last for years.

University of North Carolina School of Law professor Catherine Y. Kim says there is no mechanism for the U.S. government to remove a duly-elected local official from office.

If Johnson fails to reach a negotiated settlement, federal officials suggested they would sue. Johnson has given no indication he is interested in a settlement or if he has given any thought to resigning.

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