PHOENIX (AP) — Former Phoenix-area Sheriff Joe Arpaio lost a bid to erase his criminal conviction for disobeying a 2011 court order, but claimed victory Thursday after an appeal’s court said the verdict no longer has any legal consequence because of President Donald Trump’s pardon.
The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals explained Arpaio was pardoned before he could be sentenced and that the final judgment in the case ended up dismissing the contempt charge.
“They can’t use that conviction against me in a court of law,” Arpaio said. “That’s a win.”
Gabriel “Jack” Chin, a professor at the University of California, Davis School of Law, agreed. “Even though Mr. Arpaio did not get the district court’s findings vacated, he still won his case.
”The Ninth Circuit clearly ruled that after the pardon there is neither a conviction for criminal purposes (say, sentencing in the future), nor a finding of fact binding in any future criminal or civil cases,” Chin added. “On the other hand, the underlying facts are out there for whatever the court of public opinion wants to do with them.”
Arpaio was convicted for disobeying an order barring his traffic patrols that targeted immigrants.
The 87-year-old lawman, who was defeated for reelection in 2016 after six terms, had argued the misdemeanor contempt of court conviction should be removed from his record so it can’t be raised against him in future court cases.
A 2017 lower court decision said Trump’s pardon removed his possible punishments and that pardons don’t erase convictions or the facts of cases.
The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals on Thursday rejected Arpaio’s request, saying the verdict no longer has any legal consequence because of the pardon.
Special prosecutor Christopher Caldwell had previously said there were no legal consequences to the verdict.
The U.S. Department of Justice, which had won the conviction, later sided with Arpaio after the pardon was issued and argued the conviction should be expunged.
Arpaio was accused of prolonging his immigration patrols for 17 months to boost his 2012 re-election. He has acknowledged continuing the patrols but insisted his disobedience wasn’t intentional.
By JACQUES BILLEAUD
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