Two days ago, Donald Trump announced he was granting a pardon to former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio.
The octogenarian ex-lawman had been found guilty of criminal contempt of court.
Arpaio was supposed to be sentenced during an October hearing and could have faced a term of up to six months in jail.
Speaking a rally last week in Yuma, President Trump hinted at a plan to grant clemency to Maricopa County’s former longtime sheriff. Despite saying that the White House wouldn’t be authorizing any immediate action, the pardon was quick to come.
In a statement justifying the high-profile pardon, the president called Arpaio a ‘patriot’ and said he’d served the people of Arizona and the United States of America heroically.
Arpaio – who was only recently voted out of office – accrued a controversial reputation during his decades-long tenure. Media outlets often referred to him as the “toughest sheriff in America.”
The former lawman was known for building and running a work camp in the Arizona desert, which served as a jail for many of Maricopa County’s inmates. The conditions were reportedly brutal, with temperatures in the facility reaching upward of 100 degrees Fahrenheit.
Inmates were made to wear pink jumpsuits and undergarments, with the intent being to humiliate.
Arpaio responded to accusations of cruel and unusual punishment by saying that criminals needn’t live more luxurious lives than American soldiers in the deserts of Iraq.
However, Arpaio’s criminal contempt conviction stemmed from charges of racial profiling rather than his since-closed and gutted gulag.
On top of adopting a tough-on-crime attitude, Arpaio also attracted attention by trying to crack down on illegal immigration in Arizona.
The ex-sheriff purportedly instructed his deputies to target persons who appeared to be Hispanic or Latino for traffic stops, during which they’d be asked to show proof they were in the United States legally.
One judge ordered Arpaio’s department to cease the practice.
Nevertheless, Arpaio quietly encouraged his colleagues and subordinates to continue performing immigration checks. The sheriff’s dismissal of a court order led to his being tried for criminal contempt.
In an interview with Fox News earlier in August, President Trump called Arpaio an “American patriot who has done a lot in the fight against illegal immigration.”
He received applause from a crowd in Yuma when he said a pardon was likely in store for Arpaio, although the president said clemency wouldn’t be granted that particular day.