Arpaio moves to dismiss case against him after Trump's pardon

Posted at 5:08 PM, Aug 28, 2017

Attorneys for Arizona's former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio on Monday asked the court to dismiss his case and vacate his conviction for contempt, now that he has been pardoned by President Donald Trump.

The move would essentially erase a federal district court judge's guilty verdict against Arpaio for contempt of court after he defied a federal court order to stop arresting individuals solely because they may be in the country illegally, which the court found to be unconstitutional racial profiling.

Arpaio's legal team on Monday asked the court to vacate the conviction and dismiss the case permanently before his scheduled October 5 sentencing and before the Supreme Court convenes in September. Arpaio had appealed his case to the Supreme Court.

Trump granted Arpaio a full and unconditional pardon last week in the case, effectively nullifying the court's finding. The 85-year-old former sheriff lost his run for a seventh term in 2016.

Attorneys for Arpaio argued that because the former Maricopa County Sheriff was pardoned before he could exhaust all of his appeals, his case is rendered moot. But because the case is moot, Arpaio cannot pursue an overturning of his conviction. Thus, his only avenue is to have the court vacate it.

Arpaio faced up to six months of jail time.

Trump's decision to pardon Arpaio has been widely criticized, including by prominent members of his own party. House Speaker Paul Ryan said through a spokesman that he "does not agree" with the move.

Arizona's senators, both Republicans, also criticized Trump for interfering with the judicial process.

The timing of the pardon was also questioned, with Trump making the move late on a Friday as a catastrophic hurricane was bearing down on Texas.

But the move was also seen as a nod to the President's base. Arpaio was known nationally for his tough stance on crime and especially illegal immigration -- and was an early adopter of unfounded "birther" conspiracy theories about former President Barack Obama's birthplace, aligning him closely with Trump.

Arpaio's conviction was a decade in the making.

In a case first filed in 2007, US District Court Judge G. Murray Snow found that Arpaio was unconstitutionally detaining people based on a belief they were in the country illegally, rather than suspicion of a crime. The first order to stop conducting such detentions was in 2011.

But Arpaio refused to comply and spoke openly about defying the court. In 2013, Snow issued a permanent injunction against the sheriff's office, ruling Arpaio had no authority as a non-federal official to pursue immigration violations.

In her July 31 order this summer finding Arpaio guilty of criminal contempt, US District Judge Susan Bolton noted Arpaio's open talk of his defiance.

"Not only did (Arpaio) 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.