WASHINGTON, August 26, 2017 — On July 31, 2017 former Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio was found guilty of misdemeanor criminal contempt for defying a judge’s 2011 court order to stop traffic patrols that targeted immigrants. The former Arizona sheriff became a national symbol of the divisive politics of immigration and earned him a criminal contempt conviction.
The court found that the Sheriff “willfully” prolonged his patrols, allegedly targeting illegal immigrants for a period of 17 months following that order.
Arpaio, now 85, was expected to be sentenced on October 5. The octagenarian could have faced up to six months in a federal jail. During his hearing, Arpaio’s lawyers argued that the former sheriff did not intend to break the law, stating that he did not fully understand the court order.
Prosecutors argued Arpaio targeted illegal immigrants in an attempt to win his 2012 campaign. At the time prosecutor, John Keller said “He wanted to raise money and win re-election, and it worked.”
Arpaio’s lawyers have been working on an appeal of the verdict saying that the decision should have been decided by a jury of citizens, not a judge. They also said U.S. District Judge Susan Bolton violated Arpaio’s rights by not reading the decision in court.
“Her verdict is contrary to what every single witness testified in the case,” his lawyers said in a statement. “Arpaio believes that a jury would have found in his favor, and that it will.”
However, that is all moot now that President Trump has pardoned the former Sheriff.
Friday, President Trump pardoned Joe Arpaio. In a two-paragraph statement, the White House said that Mr. Arpaio gave “years of admirable service to our nation” and called him a “worthy candidate for a presidential pardon.”
Trump called Mr. Arpaio “an American patriot” in a tweet later Friday. “He kept Arizona safe!” the president said.
I am pleased to inform you that I have just granted a full Pardon to 85 year old American patriot Sheriff Joe Arpaio. He kept Arizona safe!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 26, 2017
Last week, Arpaio said he felt “optimistic” about his case.
During his 24 year carreer, Arpaio had many fierce opponents as well as enthusiastic supporters nationwide who championed what they considered a tough-on-crime approach. He was voted out of office in November 2016, defeated by little-known retired Phoenix police Sgt. Paul Penzone.