Now that he has obtained an unconditional pardon from President Donald Trump, former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio has asked a federal judge in Arizona to expunge his conviction for contempt of court.
Though the president has the power to grant reprieves to any person for crimes against the United States, he does not have the power to vacate convictions. That power rests exclusively with the federal courts. Thus, though the pardon protects him from a jail sentence and further prosecution, Arpaio is still technically a convict.
Arpaio’s lawyers asked the U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona to vacate his conviction Monday, arguing the pardon forecloses any chance for the former sheriff to appeal his conviction and seek reversal of the verdict.
“Because defendant will never have the benefit or opportunity to seek a reversal of the court’s verdict through appeal (and a re-trial by jury), it is only fair that the court vacate its verdict and all other rulings in the case,” the motion reads.
The sheriff’s lawyers filed motions seeking vacatur and a new trial earlier this month, before the president issued his pardon.
President Trump pardoned Arpaio late Friday. The former sheriff was convicted of criminal contempt in July for refusing to abide by an injunction ordering his office to cease operations related to the detention of undocumented immigrants. The court found his office regularly detained Latinos without reasonable suspicion of criminality for the sole purpose of assessing immigration status. He has also been accused of various forms of police misconduct.
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