Despite receiving a presidential pardon this summer after repeatedly committing civil rights violations, former Maricopa County sheriff Joe Arpaio recently lost a bid to wipe out his criminal conviction. Arpaio believed his conviction should have been erased because he had planned to appeal the court’s decision before President Donald Trump intervened on his behalf.
Notorious for physically abusing inmates, launching an investigation into Obama’s birth certificate, and running a self-proclaimed concentration camp named “Tent City,” Arpaio abused his authority by targeting Hispanics who had not committed a crime and arresting them on suspicion of illegally entering the country. On March 24, 2013, U.S. District Judge G. Murray Snow issued a decision in Melendres v. Arpaio that found Arpaio and his office in violation of the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments and Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Last year, the Justice Department charged Arpaio with criminal contempt after he refused to cease racially profiling Hispanics. On July 31, Arpaio was convicted of criminal contempt and scheduled for sentencing on October 5.
Facing up to six months in jail, the disgraced sheriff and fervent Trump supporter received a presidential pardon from Trump on August 25. Trump issued the unconditional pardon as a message to the targets of Robert Mueller’s investigation to remain loyal to the president. On Thursday, U.S. District Judge Susan Bolton refused Arpaio’s bid to erase his criminal conviction.
“The Court found Defendant guilty of criminal contempt. The President issued the pardon. Defendant accepted. The pardon undoubtedly spared Defendant from any punishment that might otherwise have been imposed. It did not, however, ‘revise the historical facts’ of this case,” Judge Susan Bolton wrote in a four-page opinion.
On Thursday night, Arpaio’s attorney filed a notice of appeal to the 9th Circuit. Due to the fact that his criminal conviction cannot be expunged, Arpaio fears the case can be used against him in future criminal and civil trials.
But according to Bolton, case law shows that Arpaio’s acceptance of the presidential pardon carries an imputation of guilt. The judge stated, “It does not erase a judgment of conviction, or its underlying legal and factual findings.”
On September 26, 2007, Manuel de Jesus Ortega Melendres was visiting Maricopa County as a tourist when Arpaio’s deputies arrested him due to his Mexican citizenship. Melendres was handcuffed and detained for roughly nine hours despite the fact that he possessed a valid visa and had not committed a crime.
As an unapologetic racist, Arpaio abused his authority for decades while arresting people based solely on the color of their skin. Befriending an authoritarian bigot in the White House does absolve Arpaio of sins and does not give him the right to erase his criminal history.