Just days after not-so-cryptically intimating that former Maricopa County, AZ, Sheriff Joe Arpaio would be “just fine” following his conviction for criminal contempt, President Donald Trump on Friday made good on his assertion by announcing that he had pardoned Arpaio. The announcement came as much of the country was focused on the Category Four Hurricane Harvey, which is expected to make landfall in southern Texas on Friday night.
Describing Arpaio’s “life’s work” as “protecting the public from the scourge of crime and illegal immigration,” a White House statement concludes: “Sheriff Joe Arpaio is now eighty-five years old, and after more than fifty years of admirable service to our Nation, he is worthy candidate for a Presidential pardon.”
Arpaio, who boasted of being “America’s Toughest Sheriff,” was convicted earlier this summer of ignoring a court order to stop his practice of racially profiling suspects. He was due to be sentenced in October and faced up to six months in jail. In addition to a penchant for racial profiling, Arpaio had also been responsible for establishing a tent city prison complex in the Arizona desert, which at one point was home to approximately 1,700 inmates, some of whom were forced at times to sleep outdoors during brutal, 120-degree heatwaves. The prison camp was later described as “not a crime deterrent,” and “not cost efficient,” by Arpaio’s replacement, Paul Penzone.
In her ruling against Arpaio this summer, U.S. District Judge Susan Bolton wrote: “Not only did (Arpaio) 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.”
As news of Arpaio’s pardon broke, Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton criticized the move, calling it “not a proud day for Phoenix,” and a “slap in the face to the people of Maricopa County, especially the Latino community and those he victimized as he systematically and illegally violated the civil rights.”
“Donald Trump can ignore the rule of law,” Mayor Stanton said. “But it was our voters who removed Joe Arpaio from power.”
Polling earlier this week indicated that half of Arizona residents opposed a pardon for Arpaio, with only 15% of those 54 and younger saying it was a good idea.