PHOENIX (AP) – Prosecutors said Monday that a ruling explaining the reasoning behind former Sheriff Joe Arpaio's criminal conviction should be thrown out now that President Donald Trump has pardoned the Arizona lawman for disobeying a judge's order in an immigration case.
The U.S. Justice Department said in a court filing it agreed with Arpaio's attorneys who argued the lawman's conviction and the 14-page ruling should be voided, arguing the case and any punitive consequence from it are mooted by the pardon.
The filing brings Arpaio's criminal case one step closer to a conclusion after the former lawman's attorneys argued the ruling should be tossed in a bid to clear their client's name.
Arpaio's lawyers also want to prevent its possible use in future court cases as an example of a prior bad act. U.S. District Judge Susan Bolton, who found Arpaio guilty, has not yet carried out the formality of dismissing the case.
Trump two weeks ago pardoned Arpaio's misdemeanor contempt of court conviction for intentionally disobeying another federal judge's 2011 order to stop his traffic patrols that targeted immigrants.
Arpaio was accused of continuing the patrols for 17 months so that he could promote his immigration enforcement efforts in a bid to boost his successful 2012 re-election campaign.
Arpaio, who endorsed Trump and appeared alongside him at rallies during the 2016 campaign, has acknowledged prolonging the patrols.
But he insisted his disobedience was not intentional and blamed one of his former attorneys for not adequately explaining the importance of the order.
In the ruling that Arpaio wants thrown out, Bolton cited TV interviews and news releases in which the sheriff made comments about keeping up the patrols, even though he knew they were no longer allowed.
"Not only did defendant abdicate responsibility, he announced to the world and to his subordinates that he was going to continue business as usual no matter who said otherwise," Bolton wrote in the July 31 verdict.
Since the pardon, Arpaio has said he did nothing wrong, criticized Bolton as biased and called the offense behind his conviction a "petty crime."
Arpaio, defeated last year in the same election that sent Trump to the White House, is now talking about getting back into politics.
In an unusual move for a criminal case, the Roderick & Solange MacArthur Justice Center petitioned Bolton to let Arpaio's conviction stand.
The group, which is a public-interest law firm that advocates for human rights and social justice, said Arpaio's pardon would have "the effect of eviscerating the judicial enforcement of constitutional rights."