A federal judge on Thursday shot down former Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s bid to sweep his criminal record clean.
Arpaio, the controversial former lawman in Arizona’s Maricopa County, was granted a pardon by President Donald Trump on Aug. 25. He had been found in criminal contempt after a five-day bench trial earlier this year and faced the possibility of up to six months in jail. After the pardon, Arpaio petitioned the court to clear his record and prevent the ruling from being used in future litigation.
The case raised the novel question of how far a presidential pardon actually reaches.
In her ruling, U.S. District Judge Susan Bolton said the pardon only freed Arpaio from possible punishment. In a four-page order offering a check on the president’s executive power, Bolton wrote that a pardon could not erase the facts of the case.
“The power to pardon is an executive prerogative of mercy, not of judicial recordkeeping,” Bolton wrote in a four-page decision. “To vacate all rulings in this case would run afoul of this important distinction. The Court found Defendant guilty of criminal contempt.”
The president issued the pardon, and Arpaio was spared “from any punishment that might otherwise have been imposed,” the judge wrote. “It did not, however, ‘revise the historical facts’ of this case.”
(c) 2017, The Washington Post · Kyle Swenson