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October 20, 2017

Federal judge rules that Prez pardon for Joe Arpaio does not call for vacating his contempt conviction

As reported in this Politico piece, a "federal judge has ruled that President Donald Trump's pardon of former Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio ends his prosecution for criminal contempt of court, but does not wipe out the guilty verdict she returned or any other rulings in the case."   The full (and short) ruling is available at this link, and here is more about it:

In her order Thursday, Phoenix-based U.S. District Court Judge Susan Bolton rejected arguments from Arpaio's lawyers and Justice Department prosecutors that the longtime Maricopa County sheriff was entitled to have all rulings in the case vacated, including the guilty verdict the judge delivered in July after a five-day trial.

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

Arpaio, known for his tough stance against illegal immigration and for humiliating treatment of prisoners, was charged with contempt for defying another federal judge's order aimed at preventing ethnic profiling of Latinos. Trump pardoned the 85-year-old Arpaio in August while he was awaiting sentencing. The official White House statement stressed Arpaio's history of public service, but the president indicated in earlier remarks that he considered the ex-sheriff's conviction unfair because he was found guilty "for doing his job." Trump also said Arpaio should have received a jury trial, something courts have said is not required if no penalty of more than a year in jail is sought.

Arpaio's attorneys filed an appeal Thursday evening that will take the issue to the San Francisco-based 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. "We will challenge that order," Arpaio lawyer Jack Wilenchik told POLITICO shortly after the judge's ruling was handed down. He said Bolton had jumbled the facts regarding a key precedent: the case of a Tyson Foods lobbyist who was pardoned by President Bill Clinton after being convicted of giving illegal gifts to Agriculture Secretary Mike Espy.

The battle over the guilty verdict and other rulings is largely symbolic since the prosecution, the defense and the judge all appear to agree Arpaio's prosecution is over and he cannot be punished for the conduct that led to the case. Arpaio's attorneys argue it is unfair for the verdict to remain on the book since the pardon effectively wipes out Arpaio's ability to appeal that decision. However, some ethics-in-government groups and Democratic lawmakers urged the judge to reject the pardon altogether as an unconstitutional intrusion by the executive branch into the judiciary branch's ability to ensure that its orders are enforced.

A few prior related posts:

October 20, 2017 at 10:30 AM | Permalink


I agree. The alternative is that the President pardoned him for nothing, since there was no judicially imposed guilt. To think otherwise would turn every pardon into a prosepctive pardon.

As for the problem that he can't appeal the guilty verdict this is easily resolved under the case or controversy doctrine. Since he has been pardoned there is no case or controversy left for anyone to hear.

Posted by: Daniel | Oct 20, 2017 11:13:02 AM

Impeach this judge for her decision, and not for any collateral corruption. The biggest crimes committed by these out of control judges are their decisions. Bribery or other crimes are trivial compared to the damages these judges are inflicting.

Posted by: David Behar | Oct 20, 2017 2:08:53 PM

Arpaio should thank his lucky stars that he was acquitted of the charges that could have sent him to prison. He is even luckier that he does not have to serve time for brutality to inmates at his sorry excuse for a county jail. It's a wonder that inmates there did not attempt to take him or any of his staff has hostages or inflict any injury or death on him during his watch.

If I were Arpaio, I would stay out of any neighborhoods where your former inmates and their families and sympathizers live. You may need to watch your back. I know I would if I were in your situation.

You always lecture inmates: "Don't do the crime if you can't do the time!" You never had to do crime for your racist and xenophobic crimes.

Time to take your medicine!

Posted by: william r. delzell | Oct 21, 2017 3:42:03 PM

If Arpaio cannot appeal the conviction, then the conviction should be tossed.

Posted by: federalist | Oct 22, 2017 8:25:32 AM

"acquitted of the charges"

He was convicted & was liable (not that I think he would have received it) to obtain months in prison until he was pardoned.

Posted by: Joe | Oct 22, 2017 2:02:40 PM


If he wanted to appeal, he had the option of rejecting the pardon. He chose to avoid responsibility for his actions.

Posted by: defendergirl | Oct 23, 2017 12:36:37 PM

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