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Judge to hear Arpaio’s plea for dropping criminal conviction

Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio (Photo by the Arizona Center for Investigative Reporting)

Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio (Photo by the Arizona Center for Investigative Reporting)

A federal judge will hear arguments in October over whether she should set aside the criminal contempt of court conviction of Joe Arpaio.

In a brief order late Tuesday, Judge Susan Bolton vacated the scheduled Oct. 5 sentencing of the former Maricopa County sheriff. That followed Friday’s pardon issued by President Trump.

But Bolton, who found the sheriff guilty of ignoring an order by fellow Judge Murray Snow, put off a separate bid filed by Arpaio’s lawyers on Monday to overturn her finding of guilt, a move that would legally wipe out any legal record he had ever been convicted in the first place. Bolton said she wants to hear from federal prosecutors at a hearing on Oct. 4.

The president’s pardon eliminated any possibility that Arpaio, facing a possible six months in jail, will actually do any time.

That, however, is not enough to satisfy the former sheriff who continues to insist he did not ignore orders by Snow, hearing a separate civil case, to stop trying to enforce federal immigration laws against people his deputies suspect were in this country illegally. Bolton, who heard the criminal contempt charge, disagreed, saying Arpaio’s nearly two dozen public statements saying he would continue to do things his way, showed a “flagrant disregard” for Snow’s order.

In seeking to have the conviction voided, Arpaio’s attorneys said the former sheriff never actually asked for the presidential pardon.

More to the point, they said the conviction remains on Arpaio’s record, pardon or not. And while Arpaio cannot be punished for what Bolton found him guilty of in this case, they said that conviction could have repercussions down the road.

For example, they cited court rulings that said this conviction could be used against him at the time of sentencing if he is ever found guilty of any other crime. That could result in a stiffer sentence.

And they said that the conviction, even for a misdemeanor, could be used to argue to a judge or jury in a future case that the sheriff’s testimony was not credible.

Arpaio’s attorneys also suggested that if Bolton refuses to budge they may appeal his conviction anyway to clear his name, something they said would be “a waste of everyone’s time and money.”

Tuesday’s court development came as Gov. Doug Ducey defended his support for the pardon and bristled at the idea that his position could be seen as offensive to the state’s Latino community, many of whom were victimized by the sheriff’s immigration raids.

On the heels of the pardon, the governor said Arpaio “deserves credit for helping to reduce crime in Maricopa County over his long career.” And Ducey said the pardon “brought finality to this chapter in Arizona’s history” and allowed the sheriff and his wife to “move on and enjoy their retirement together.”

Ducey said supporting the pardon did not mean he does not support Latino rights.

“Everything we’ve done in our administration is standing up for all of the citizens of Arizona,” the governor said, saying his administration “has been about opportunity for all” in things like creating jobs or supporting the ability of parents to use tax dollars to send their children to whatever school they want, including private and parochial schools.”

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