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Judge Won't Clear Pardoned Joe Arpaio's Criminal Record

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A federal judge has ruled that Joe Arpaio, the former sheriff of Maricopa County, Arizona, who was pardoned by President Donald Trump in August for acting against a court order, will keep his criminal record. 

Arpaio, who once billed himself as "America's toughest sheriff," had been found guilty of criminal contempt after he ignored a court order to stop profiling individuals and detaining them on suspicion of being undocumented immigrants, according to The Washington Post. 

The 85-year-old faced up to six months in jail before he was pardoned by Trump, a close ally. Arpaio had previously appeared at Trump campaign events in Arizona during the 2016 presidential election. 

Not content with avoiding jail time, Arpaio petitioned the court to have his record wiped clean. 

On Oct. 19, U.S. District Judge Susan R. Bolton ruled that Arpaio's record would stand, on the grounds that a presidential pardon only frees the recipient from punishment. 

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The power to pardon is an executive prerogative of mercy, not of judicial recordkeeping," Bolton wrote, according to The Post. "To vacate all rulings in this case would run afoul of this important distinction. The Court found Defendant guilty of criminal contempt."

Trump's pardon could not "revise the historical facts of this case," she continued. 

Arpaio has appealed the judge's ruling. 

"It's not going to be dropped," he told Capitol Media Services. 

Jack Wilenchik, one of Arpaio's attorneys, told Capitol Media Services that Bolton's ruling misstates his argument. 

"We're not asking to undo facts," he said. "We're not asking for expungement. There's no such thing in federal law." 

Wilenchik argues that because of the presidential pardon, Arpaio's criminal case is pointless and the conviction should be dismissed, similar to what happens if someone is convicted but dies before they are sentenced or can appeal. 

The Department of Justice agreed with Wilenchik, filing a brief in Arpaio's case arguing that "the court should vacate all orders and dismiss the case as moot," according to The Post.

Trump's pardon of Arpaio faced legal challenges, but was ultimately upheld by Bolton. 

"If the President may employ his pardon power to relieve government officers of accountability and risk of penalty for defying injunctions imposed to enforce constitutional rights, that action will permanently impair the courts' authority and ability to protect those inalienable rights," read one legal challenge by Free Speech for People, according to The Post.

"The result would be an executive branch freed from the judicial scrutiny required to assure compliance with the dictates of the Bill of Rights and other constitutional safeguards," the brief continued. 

Sources: The Washington Post, Capitol Media Services via Arizona Daily Star / Featured Image: Gage Skidmore/Flickr / Embedded Images: Max Pixel, Gage Skidmore/Wikimedia Commons

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