Former Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Maricopa County, Arizona, was convicted of a federal crime, but he won’t have to serve a single day in jail. On Friday evening, President Donald Trump pardoned the former lawman, whose illegal “anti-immigration sweeps” were described by one Justice Department investigator as the “most egregious” racial profiling case he’d ever encountered.
“Sheriff Joe Arpaio is now 85 years old, and after more than 50 years of admirable service to our nation, he is a worthy candidate for a presidential pardon,” proclaims the White House statement announcing the pardon.
Arpaio was originally found guilty in July of criminal contempt changes related to a 2007 class action lawsuit accusing the former lawman of targeting and illegally detaining Latino residents because he suspected them of being undocumented immigrants. He was to be sentenced in October.
In 2011, after a three-year investigation by the U.S. Justice Department, a federal judge ordered Arpaio to stop unlawfully detaining Latinos in his “anti-immigrant sweeps.” Arpaio declined, later claiming he’d violated the judge’s orders unintentionally, though the judge didn’t buy it, alleging that Arpaio had continued the sweeps in an effort to further his 2012 reelection campaign. Arpaio ultimately lost his sheriff seat in 2016.
Arpaio had faced up to six months in jail before he was pardoned.
Trump hinted earlier this week that a pardon would be coming, telling the crowd at his Phoenix rally on Tuesday, “Was Sheriff Joe convicted for doing his job? He should have had a jury. I’ll make a prediction: I think he’s going to be just fine.”
And in an interview with VICE News before the rally, even Arpaio hinted that his pardon could be in the works, saying, “You know, it’s his decision. I never asked him. I welcomed the pardon [talk]. We’ll see what happens.”