Just because former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio was pardoned by President Trump doesn’t mean he wasn’t guilty.
That’s how U.S. federal judge Susan Ritchie Bolton ruled Thursday when she refused to vacate her ruling that found the infamous Arizona sheriff guilty of criminal contempt in July after he unlawfully detained individuals he suspected of being undocumented.
Responding to pleas from Arpaio’s attorneys to expunge the conviction and give the sheriff a clean criminal record, Bolton ruled that a presidential pardon exempts Arpaio from punishment — but not his conviction.
“The power to pardon is an executive prerogative of mercy, not of judicial recordkeeping,” Bolton wrote in her decision. “To vacate all rulings in this case would run afoul of this important distinction. The Court found Defendant guilty of criminal contempt.”
“It does not erase a judgement of conviction, or its underlying legal and factual findings,” Bolton said of Trump’s pardon.
Arpaio, who has been notoriously tough on immigration and called himself “America’s toughest sheriff”, was found guilty of contempt when he violated a 2011 court order that prohibits officers from searching or detaining individuals without reasonable suspicion.
At the time, Bolton ruled after the five-day trial she found evidence “beyond reasonable doubt” that Arpaio had violated the order.
Despite the Justice Department saying on its website that “a pardoned offense would not be removed from your criminal record,” the department said in a court filing in September that it sided with Arpaio and the conviction should be thrown out.
Arpaio’s attorneys filed a notice to the Ninth Circuit Court on Thursday night to appeal the judge’s decision.