A federal judge is pumping the brakes on former Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s bid to have his criminal-contempt conviction scrubbed following a presidential pardon, three days after prosecutors said they supported the defense’s effort.
In a Thursday filing in federal court, U.S. District Court Judge Susan Bolton ordered Department of Justice prosecutors to lay out what legal grounds back their position.
A pardon traditionally affects a defendant’s sentence, not the underlying criminal record.
But after President Donald Trump’s Aug. 25 pardon, Arpaio’s attorneys filed a motion to throw out the contempt verdict and dismiss the case.
DOJ prosecutors seemed to agree with their onetime adversaries in a Monday response.
They argued that because the pardon was issued before Arpaio was sentenced, the verdict is moot and the case should be dismissed.
But Bolton’s order pointed out case law that suggests that a conviction remains intact, even after a presidential pardon.
Citing Nixon vs. United States (federal judge Nixon, not the former president), she wrote, “The granting of a pardon is in no sense an overturning of a judgment of conviction by some other tribunal; it is an executive action that mitigates or sets aside punishment of a crime.”
“The Government’s Response does not sufficiently address this issue,” Bolton wrote. “Therefore, supplemental briefing is appropriate.”
She ordered DOJ attorneys to respond by Sept. 21, “addressing the extent to which vacatur should be granted, if at all, given both the absence of an entry of judgment and the authority provided in this order.”
READ MORE: What makes Joe Arpaio so controversial?
On July 31, Bolton found that Arpaio was guilty of defying another federal judge’s order in a racial-profiling case.
In December 2011, U.S. District Court Judge G. Murray Snow barred Arpaio’s deputies from detaining individuals based on their immigration status, effectively putting an end to his signature immigration patrols.
But the practice continued for 17 months, and during this time, Arpaio’s office illegally detained at least 171 individuals.
Arpaio has maintained that the violations were unintentional.
Bolton did not yet address the chorus of motions filed since Monday, all urging her not to drop the case.
The motions were lodged by constitutional attorneys and scholars outside the criminal case, as well as American Civil Liberties Union attorneys, who represented plaintiffs in the underlying civil suit.
Arpaio’s attorneys opposed the motions.
In a response Thursday to the ACLU, defense attorneys said throwing out a conviction is “established practice” in instances when a defendant’s appeal is moot. The same principal, they argued, applies when a defendant dies before a judgment is made or appeals are completed.
In their conclusion, defense attorneys threw a thinly veiled jab at Bolton:
“(T)he integrity of our courts should be judged not by how they treat defendants whom they believe are innocent, but by how they treat the defendants whom they believe are guilty, whom they accuse of ‘flagrant’ contempt,” the defense attorneys wrote. “The Court always sets its more powerful example when it follows the law to show mercy and integrity, than when it bucks the law to show pettiness or spite.”
Former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio answers tough questions | 3:51
Former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio speaks with Republic reporters Yvonne Wingett-Sanchez and Michael Kiefer after his pardon by President Donald Trump on Aug. 25, 2017. Patrick Breen/azcentral.com
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Gov. Ducey talks about Joe Arpaio pardon | 1:00
Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey speaks to reporters on Aug. 29, 2017, about President Donald Trump’s pardon of former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio. Mark Faller/azcentral.com
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From the Archive: Arpaio on Arpaio | 3:03
Joe Arpaio, longtime sheriff of Maricopa County, reflected on his law enforcement career in a 2015 interview with The Arizona Republic. The following year, voters cast him out of office and he lost his bid for a seventh consecutive term as sheriff.
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Joe Arpaio talks about President Trump’s pardon | 2:27
Republic reporters Yvonne Wingett Sanchez and Michael Kiefer talk to former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio in his home the night of his pardoning by President Donald Trump. Patrick Breen/azcentral.com
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Lucha co-director talks about Trump’s pardon of Arpaio | 9:40
Lucha co-director Alejandra Gomez talks about President Donald Trump’s decision on Aug. 25, 2017, to pardon former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio after his criminal-contempt conviction. Hannah Gaber/azcentral.com
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Trump pardons Arpaio: Activists and lawmakers respond | 3:12
Lawmakers, community members and activists attend a press conference at El Portal restaurant in Phoenix in response to President Donald Trump’s pardon of former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio on Aug. 25, 2017. Hannah Gaber/azcentral.com
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Trump pardons Arpaio | 0:53
President Donald Trump has pardoned former Sheriff Joe Arpaio from his criminal contempt conviction.
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Paul Penzone on if ex-Sheriff Joe Arpaio is pardoned | 1:20
Maricopa County Sheriff Paul Penzones shares his thoughts on the possibility of former Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who was found guilty of criminal contempt, being pardoned by President Donald Trump. Nicole Carroll/azcentral.com
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The Gaggle: Trump’s Phoenix rally, Arpaio pardon and Sinema’s run | 4:51
The Republic’s political team talks on Aug. 15, 2017, about Rep. Kyrsten Sinema’s likely Senate run, the drop in investigations into reports of child neglect, and Trump’s scheduled visit to Phoenix.
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Former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio answers tough questions
Gov. Ducey talks about Joe Arpaio pardon
From the Archive: Arpaio on Arpaio
Joe Arpaio talks about President Trump’s pardon
Lucha co-director talks about Trump’s pardon of Arpaio
Trump pardons Arpaio: Activists and lawmakers respond
Trump pardons Arpaio
Paul Penzone on if ex-Sheriff Joe Arpaio is pardoned
The Gaggle: Trump’s Phoenix rally, Arpaio pardon and Sinema’s run
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