The Justice Department is siding with Joe Arpaio in asking a federal judge to toss the criminal contempt case that spurred President Trump’s pardon of the former Arizona sheriff, who had been found in contempt of court for violating a court order.
“The President’s decision to grant Defendant a ‘[f]ull and [u]nconditional [p]ardon [f]or [h]is [c]onviction’—and Defendant’s decision to accept it—ends this prosecution,” the DOJ said in a court filing Monday. “The presidential pardon removes any punitive consequences that would otherwise flow from Defendant’s non-final conviction and therefore renders the case moot.”
Prior to Trump’s pardon, Arpaio had been slated to receive his sentence for the criminal contempt conviction next month. A federal judge in July found Arpaio guilty of criminal contempt of court for violating court orders dating back to 2011 that barred discriminatory policing practices under his watch.
The court orders were the result of a civil lawsuit against Arpaio, brought initially by a motorist detained by his office who was later joined by the ACLU and other plaintiffs . The federal government had previously argued in favor of holding Arpaio in criminal contempt for violating a court’s order that he end his office’s practice of racially discriminatory traffic stops.
Trump last month pardoned Arpaio for the contempt conviction and for “any other offenses” that may arise from that case. Arpaio was an early Trump-booster during the presidential campaign and made appearances at Trump rallies.
The judge has since called off the sentencing hearing in light of Trump’s pardon, and instead plans to hear arguments next month on Arpaio’s request to toss the case entirely. Arpaio’s attorneys said in a court filing late last month that if the court did not toss the case, Arpaio “will certainly pursue his appeals to achieve that, which would be—to put it bluntly—a waste of everyone’s time and money.”
President Trump did not go through the DOJ process, which typically takes many months and usually begins at least five years after a pardon applicant has completed his or her sentence, in his pardoning of Arpaio. However, Trump is by no means required to go through that process, and Presidents can pardon Americans for any federal offense.