PHOENIX – Saying the president can’t erase facts, a federal judge on Thursday rejected a bid by former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio to have all record of his criminal conviction wiped out.
Susan Bolton said she already dismissed the criminal contempt case against Arpaio following the decision by President Trump to issue a pardon. That saved the former sheriff, who had been found guilty, from the possibility of going to jail for up to six months.
But Bolton rebuffed Arpaio’s claim that the pardon also entitled him to have the entire conviction erased.
“The power to pardon is an executive prerogative of mercy, not of judicial record-keeping,” Bolton wrote, quoting earlier court precedent.
“The pardon undoubtedly spared the defendant from any punishment that might otherwise have been imposed,” the judge continued. “It did not, however, revise the historical facts of this case.”
Arpaio, however, is not willing to simply enjoy his freedom.
“It’s not going to be dropped,” he told Capitol Media Services.
Jack Wilenchik, one of his attorneys, said the relief the sheriff is seeking is important.
He said Arpaio intended to appeal his conviction, if for no other reason than Bolton had said he was not entitled to a jury trial. Wilenchik said he believes Arpaio would have won.
But now, with the pardon, there’s no opportunity to appeal, meaning the record of the conviction remains. And that, he said would be something that could be used against the former sheriff in any future criminal or civil case.
The conviction stems from the years’ old case filed against Arpaio and the department he led, accusing the agency of having policies of stopping motorists who look like they might be in the country illegally, whether or not they had violated any state laws. Deputies then would hand the people over to federal immigration officials.
U.S. District Judge Murray Snow found Arpaio and the department guilty of illegal racial profiling and he ordered it to stop. Snow later concluded the department of violating his orders and referred Arpaio, two aides and a former attorney for charges of criminal contempt.