PHOENIX (CN) — A federal judge Thursday found a presidential pardon does not wipe out a guilty verdict, rejecting former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s request to vacate his criminal conviction for contempt of court.
U.S. District Judge Susan Bolton found Arpaio was not entitled to have all her rulings in the case vacated after he was pardoned by President Donald Trump.
“The pardon undoubtedly spared defendant from any punishment that might otherwise have been imposed. It did not, however, ‘revise the historical facts’ of this case,” Bolton wrote.
Bolton accepted the pardon and dismissed the criminal contempt action at an Oct. 4 hearing, saying she was bound to accept it by law.
Attorneys for Arpaio and the Justice Department argued at the hearing that Bolton’s rulings should be vacated, calling it a matter of “basic fairness” and “good housekeeping.”
However, citing the 1990 ruling from the Third Circuit in United States v. Noonan, Bolton wrote: “‘The power to pardon is an executive prerogative of mercy, not of judicial recordkeeping.’”
She continued: “To vacate all rulings in this case would run afoul of this important distinction.”
Trump pardoned the 85-year-old former lawman in August, calling Arpaio a “worthy candidate” for his first presidential pardon.
Bolton had found Arpaio guilty of criminal contempt in July, for willfully violating another federal judge’s order to stop performing immigration sweeps in a class action.
The lawsuit, filed in 2007, accused Arpaio and his deputies of racially profiling Latinos during traffic stops and neighborhood sweeps.
“Defendant accepted the pardon … before a judgment of conviction was entered. Therefore, the only matter mooted by the pardon was defendant’s sentencing and entry of judgment, the hearing for which was duly vacated,” Bolton wrote.
Arpaio served 24 years as Maricopa County’s top lawman, but lost his bid for a seventh term in 2016 to Paul Penzone, a Democrat.
He gained popularity for his hard-line views against undocumented immigrants, but rising court costs in the 2007 lawsuit lost him favor with Maricopa County taxpayers.
The case has cost county taxpayers more than $70 million.
Attorneys for Arpaio said they will challenge the ruling, and if necessary, appeal to the Ninth Circuit.
Trump’s pardon raised alarm among civil libertarians, who feared it was a de facto offer of pardon to presidential aides or Cabinet members who may be caught up in the many investigations of Trump. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, testifying to the Senate Judiciary Committee this week, said he was not sure whether Trump had the power to pardon himself, should the matter arise.