Criminal Justice

Former Sheriff Joe Arpaio's pardon doesn't require vacating his conviction, judge rules

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Joe Arpaio

Joe Arpaio/

A federal judge in Arizona has ruled that former Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s pardon has spared him from any punishment, but it doesn’t justify vacating his conviction for criminal contempt.

U.S. District Judge Susan Bolton ruled (PDF) Thursday that a pardon doesn’t revise the historical facts of a case, report the Arizona Republic,, Politico and the Washington Post. Arpaio was the sheriff of Maricopa County, Arizona, for 24 years before losing a re-election bid in 2016.

“The power to pardon is an executive prerogative of mercy, not of judicial recordkeeping,” Bolton wrote. “To vacate all rulings in this case would run afoul of this important distinction.”

Arpaio had been convicted of criminal contempt in July for violating a federal judge’s order to stop detaining citizens based only on a suspicion they were in the country illegally. His sentencing hearing was pending when President Donald Trump pardoned him on Aug. 25.

Bolton ruled on Oct. 4 that the pardon was valid.

Arpaio has appealed Bolton’s latest decision. One of his lawyers, Jack Wilenchik, told the Arizona Republic that refusing to vacate the conviction means it could be used against him if there were ever any future legal proceedings.

“It’s really just a procedural right he’s entitled to,” Wilenchik said.

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