Oct 06

Federal Judge Vacates Sheriff Joseph Arpaio’s Contempt Conviction And Dismisses Charge

Sheriff Joseph Arpaio’s federal criminal contempt conviction was vacated and the charge dismissed on October 4, 2017 by U.S. District Judge Susan Bolton. Arpaio had been convicted by Judge Bolton on July 31, 2017 after a bench trial. On August 25, 2017 President Donald Trump issued a full and unconditional pardon of Arpaio.

Sheriff Joseph Arpaio

Sheriff Joseph Arpaio

Arpaio was the Maricopa County, Arizona sheriff when on December 23, 2011 U.S. District Court Judge G. Murray Snow issued a preliminary injunction barring the sheriff’s department from engaging in a pattern of discriminatory law enforcement actions against Latinos. Phoenix is the largest city in Maricopa County.

In May 2013 Judge Snow issued a permanent injunction that replaced his 2011 preliminary injunction.

After years of litigation, an evidentiary hearing was held, and in May 2016 Arpaio and several others were found in civil contempt for intentionally failing to implement the preliminary injunction. That finding was made even though the U.S. Dept. of Justice acknowledged that in May 2013 the sheriff’s department ended its immigration enforcement policies that were relied on to support the injunction.

In 2016 Arpaio was running for re-election as sheriff. He publicly supported Donald Trump’s presidential candidacy.

Although Arpaio had already been held in civil contempt, on October 25, 2016 Judge Bolton issued an Order to Show Cause “as to whether Joseph M. Arpaio should be held in criminal contempt for willful disobedience of Judge Snow’s preliminary injunction of December 23, 2011.” Judge Bolton was assigned the case after Judge Snow recused himself from the criminal contempt prosecution.

Arpaio was defeated for reelection on November 8, 2016. He had been the sheriff since 1993.

Arpaio’s trial was continued past December 2016.

Judge Bolton granted the government’s motion for a bench trial, while denying Arpaio’s cross-motion for a jury trial.

Arpaio’s contempt trial began on June 27, 2017.

On June 29, 2017 Arpaio filed a “Motion For A Judgment Of Acquittal” based on the court’s lack of jurisdiction. Arpaio’s motion was based on 18 U.S.C. § 3285 that provides a one year statute of limitations for criminal contempt. Arpaio argued the one-year time limit had expired because the government conceded the contumacious conduct at issue ended in May 2013 — more than three years before the Order To Show Cause was issued.

Arpaio’s four-day trial ended on June 30, 2017.

On July 6, 2017 Judge Bolton denied Arpaio’s Motion for a Judgment of Acquittal.

Arpaio was found guilty by Judge Bolton on July 31, 2017. She found that after the preliminary injunction was issued in 2011, Sheriff Arpaio continued to engage in discriminatory conduct in detaining certain people.

Arpaio’s sentencing was scheduled for October 5, 2017.

On August 25, 2017 President Trump issued Arpaio:


FOR HIS CONVICTION of Section 401(3), Title 18, United States Code (Docket No. 2:16-CR01012-SRB) in the United States District Court for the District of Arizona, of which he was convicted on July 31, 2017, and for which sentencing is currently set for October 5, 2017; and

FOR ANY OTHER OFFENSES under Chapter 21 of Title 18, United States Code that might
arise, or be charged, in connection with Melendres v. Arpaio (Docket No. 2:07-CV-02513-GMS)
in the United States District Court for the District of Arizona.

It was Trump’s first presidential pardon. However, it was consistent with other presidents exercising their broad pardon authority conferred by Article II, Section 2, Clause 1 of the U.S. Constitution. President Obama, for example, issued a pardon to 1,927 persons convicted of a federal crime.

Three days after the pardon was issued, Arpaio filed a “Motion For Vacature And Dismissal With Prejudice.” Arpaio argued that being granted a Presidential pardon before entry of the final judgment made his criminal case moot because he faced no consequences from his guilty verdict.

The next day Judge Bolton canceled Arpaio’s sentencing scheduled for Oct. 5.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office agreed with Arpaio in its response filed on September 11. The government’s response stated: “A pardon issued before entry of final judgment moots a criminal case because the defendant will face no consequences that result from the guilty verdict. Accordingly, the government agrees that the Court should vacate all orders and dismiss the case as moot.”

A number of organizations submitted amicus briefs opposing the granting of Arpaio’s motion.

After a hearing on October 4 concerning Arpaio’s motion, Judge Bolton issued an oral order vacating his conviction and ordering dismissal of his charge. As of October 5 Judge Bolton had not filed her written order.

Click here to read Arpaio’s pardon issued by President Trump.

October 6, 2017
By Hans Sherrer
Justice Denied

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