UPDATED: AUG. 25, 2017 / 8:40 p.m.
President Donald Trump on Friday night followed through on his suggestion earlier this week to pardon former Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio, who last month was found guilty of criminal contempt after violating a court order that instructed him to stop racially profiling Latino motorists.
“Do the people in this room like Sheriff Joe?” Trump posed to attendees at a rally in Phoenix Tuesday where he hinted at the strong likelihood he would pardon Arpaio.
“Was Sheriff Joe convicted for doing his job?”
Both questions were met with applause.
“He should’ve had a jury, but you know what? I’ll make a prediction. I think he’s gonna be just fine, okay? But, but, but, I won’t do it tonight, because I don’t want to cause any controversy, is that okay? But Sheriff Joe can feel good.”
Arpaio, 85, prided himself as being “America’s toughest sheriff” while serving Maricopa County due to his hardline stance against immigration and his treatment of jail inmates.
U.S. District Court Judge Susan Bolton did not agree that Arpaio was “doing his job” when she last month found the former sheriff guilty of violating a 2011 court order from a different judge that instructed Arpaio’s officers to not racially profile against Latinos. Under Arpaio’s leadership, officers were arresting and detaining motorists simply under the suspicion that they were undocumented immigrants.
A 2011 Justice Department report found that Latinos drivers in Maricopa County were four to nine times more likely to be stopped than non-Latino drivers.
“Our review (which was conducted with the assistance of our expert law enforcement consultants) of all of the traffic-related incident reports generated by MCSO’s Human Smuggling Unit (‘HSU’) over a three-year period showed that roughly one-fifth of the reports, almost all of which involved Latino drivers, contained information indicating that the stops were conducted in violation of the Fourth Amendment’s prohibition against unreasonable seizures,” according to the DOJ.
Trump’s move to pardon Arpaio would have been unprecedented because Arpaio has not even been sentenced yet. That hearing is scheduled for Oct. 5. He only faces up to six months in jail.
Three Arizona congressmen had signed a letter addressed to the president on Aug. 17 asking him not to pardon the racist sheriff.
Reps. Ruben Gallego, Tom O’Halleran and Raúl Grijalva, all Democrats, had expressed they were “gravely concerned” by the possibility.
“We believe public officials should be held accountable when they commit crimes and that the rule of law should be applied fairly regardless of how powerful an office holder’s friends are,” the men stated.
Arpaio endorsed Trump for president during his campaign, and Trump has long been a supporter of Arpaio.
Arpaio and Trump both pushed the “birther” movement, making unsubstantiated claims that former President Barack Obama was not born in the United States.
While still serving as sheriff, Arpaio formed a “Cold Case Posse,” which was tasked with investigating the conspiracy. Trump tweeted out his support for Arpaio’s cause in 2012.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 18, 2012
Paul Penzone, who replaced Arpaio as Maricopa County’s sheriff, announced in January that the posse would be disbanded.