EXCLUSIVE: President Trump may soon issue a pardon for Joe Arpaio, the colorful former Arizona sheriff who was found guilty two weeks ago of criminal contempt for defying a state judge's order to stop traffic patrols targeting suspected undocumented immigrants. In his final years as Maricopa County sheriff, Arpaio had emerged as a leading opponent of illegal immigration.
"I am seriously considering a pardon for Sheriff Arpaio," the president said Sunday, during a conversation with Fox News at his club in Bedminster, N.J. "He has done a lot in the fight against illegal immigration. He's a great American patriot and I hate to see what has happened to him."
Trump said the pardon could happen in the next few days, should he decide to do so.
Arpaio, 85, was convicted by U.S. District Judge Susan Bolton of misdemeanor contempt of court for willfully disregarding an Arizona judge's order in 2011 to stop the anti-immigrant traffic patrols. Arpaio had maintained the law enforcement patrols for 17 months thereafter.
The man who built a controversial national reputation as "America's toughest sheriff" admitted he prolonged his patrols, but insisted he did not intend to break the law because one of his former attorneys did not explain to him the full measure of restrictions contained in the court order.
He is expected to be sentenced on Oct. 5 and could face up to six months in jail. However, since he is 85 years old and has no prior convictions, some attorneys doubt he will receive any jail time.
'Is there anyone in local law enforcement who has done more to crack down on illegal immigration than Sheriff Joe?'
- President Trump
Citing his long service as "an outstanding sheriff," the president said Arpaio is admired by many Arizona citizens who respected his tough-on-crime approach.