PHOENIX (AP) — President Donald Trump spared former Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio the prospect of serving jail time in granting the first pardon of his turbulent tenure, wiping away the lawman’s recent federal conviction stemming from his immigration patrols that focused on Latinos.

The White House said 85-year-old Arpaio was a “worthy candidate” for the pardon, citing his “life’s work of protecting the public from the scourges of crime and illegal immigration.” Trump granted the pardon less than a month after a judge found Arpaio guilty of a misdemeanor contempt-of-court charge in a trial that was prosecuted by the president’s own Justice Department.

The pardon drew a swift and harsh denunciation from an array of Latinos and political leaders, who said it amounted to presidential approval of racism by eliminating the conviction of a law officer who the courts said had used immigration patrols to racially profile Latinos. And it overturned what critics saw as a long-awaited comeuppance for a lawman who long escaped accountability for his use of headline-grabbing tactics as sheriff in Phoenix.

“Pardoning Joe Arpaio is a slap in the face to the people of Maricopa County, especially the Latino community and those he victimized as he systematically and illegally violated their civil rights,” Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton said.



Arpaio earned a national reputation by taking aggressive action to arrest immigrants in the country illegally. But years of legal issues and related costs took a toll on his political power at home, and he was handily defeated by a Democrat in the 2016 election.

Arpaio defied court orders that he stop the patrols and has been pardoned by a president who has shown lack of respect for judges with whom he disagrees. Trump has had harsh words about judges overseeing the case against his now-defunct Trump University and his travel ban.

“So Sheriff Joe was convicted for doing his job?” Trump asked supporters at Tuesday’s rally. “I’ll make a prediction. I think he’s going to be just fine, OK.”

Trump issued the pardon seven months after taking office, though it is not unprecedented for a president to issue a pardon in their first year in office.

George H. W. Bush granted clemency after seven months in office, said Jeffrey Crouch, a professor of politics at American University who wrote a book on presidential pardons.

It is not unheard of for a president to exercise his broad power to grant pardons without formal input from the Justice Department, particularly when it involves an associate or a friend. President Bill Clinton ignited a major controversy on his final day in office with a last-minute pardon for fugitive financier Marc Rich, the ex-husband of a major Democratic fundraiser.

Former President George W. Bush set off a political backlash over his decision to commute the prison sentence of I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby on a perjury and obstruction of justice case that stemmed from a CIA leak. And Gerald Ford pardoned Richard Nixon for his involvement in the Watergate scandal just days after taking over for his predecessor.

Critics say the Arpaio pardon removed the last opportunity to hold the lawman accountable for what they say is a long history of misconduct, including a 2013 civil verdict in which the sheriff’s officers were found to have racially profiled Latinos in his immigration patrols.

Arpaio was accused of prolonging the patrols for 17 months after a judge had ordered them stopped so that he could promote his immigration enforcement efforts in a bid to boost his successful 2012 re-election campaign.

Arpaio acknowledged extending the patrols, but insisted it wasn’t intentional. He blamed a former attorney for not properly explaining the importance of the court order and brushing off the conviction as a “petty crime.”