US President Donald Trump pardons ex-Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio accused of racial profiling

August 26, 2017 9:30 am

Then Republican presidential candidate is joined by Maricopa County, Arizona, Sheriff at a campaign event in Marshalltown, Iowa, Jan. 26, 2016. (AFP photo)

President Donald Trump has pardoned a controversial former law enforcement official in the state of Arizona less than a month after he was convicted of criminal contempt in a case involving racial profiling.
Joe Arpaio was found guilty in July on criminal contempt charges stemming from his refusal to stop detaining suspected illegal immigrants from Central America.
Arpaio was a political ally and strong supporter of Trump and appeared on the election campaign trail with the Republican candidate in 2016.
“Throughout his time as sheriff, Arpaio continued his life’s work of protecting the public from the scourges of crime and illegal immigration,” a White House statement said on Friday in announcing Arpaio’s pardon, the first of Trump’s administration.
Arpaio, who had dubbed himself as “America’s Toughest Sheriff,” lost a bid for re-election in November as sheriff of Arizona’s Maricopa County after 24 years in office.
Arpaio, 85, was known for his crackdown on undocumented immigrants entering from neighboring Mexico and investigating unfounded Trump-supported claims that former President Barack Obama’ birth certificate was forged.
He was also accused of various types of misconduct, including abuse of power, failure to investigate sex crimes, misuse of funds, improper clearance of cases and election law violations.
Arpaio was convicted on July 31 by a US federal judge, who ruled the elected sheriff had deliberately violated a 2011 court order barring his officers from stopping and detaining Hispanic drivers solely on suspicion that they were in the US illegally.
Arpaio admitted to inadvertently disobeying the court order but said his actions were not criminal. He said the prosecution was a politically motivated attempt by the Obama administration to undermine his re-election bid.
Arpaio had been scheduled to be sentenced on October 5 and faced a fine and maximum sentence of six months in jail.

Immigrant rights groups gather to protest in Phoenix, Arizona, on August 25, 2017, after former Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio was pardoned by US President Donald Trump. (Reuters photo)

Civil rights advocacy groups condemned Trump’s pardon as an endorsement of racist and unlawful immigration policies.
“Once again, the president has acted in support of illegal, failed immigration enforcement practices that target people of color and that have been struck down by the courts,” said Cecilia Wang, the deputy legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).
The pardon sent “a dangerous message that a law enforcement officer who abused his position of power and defied a court order can simply be excused by a president who himself clearly does not respect the law”, said Vanita Gupta, the former head of the US Justice Department’s civil rights division and president of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights.
“President Trump pardoned a terrorist tonight. Joe Arpaio intentionally terrorized immigrant communities across Arizona for decades and traumatized an entire generation of Arizonans,” said Alejandra Gomez, co-executive director of Living United for Change in Arizona. “The only proper place for him is in a jail cell,” Gomez said in a statement.
Trump’s pardon comes as the president has been widely criticized for his response to the deadly racist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, after he blamed both the white supremacist protesters and counter-demonstrators for the violence.
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