On Thursday, the same federal judge who begrudgingly tossed Arpaio’s contempt of court violation, U.S. District Judge Susan Bolton, ruled that the former Maricopa County sheriff could not have it wiped from his record.
“The power to pardon is an executive prerogative of mercy, not of judicial record-keeping,” Bolton said. “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.”
Arpaio’s attorneys argued that the pardon nullified the conviction, and therefore, it should be erased. “The whole case gets undone,” his lawyer, Jack Wilenchik, said. The impetus, it seems, to have his conviction erased was the possibility that it might later be used against him in civil court proceedings. But Bolton was having none of it.
“It does not erase a judgment of conviction, or its underlying legal and factual findings,” Bolton said. In fact, the judge said there is case law showing that a pardon carries an imputation of guilt — and that acceptance is “a confession of it.”
Before he was pardoned, Arapio was convicted of intentionally disobeying a court order to stop racially profiling members of his community suspected of being undocumented immigrants. Despite the fact that they had not disobeyed any laws, Arpaio directed his deputies to pull over suspected undocumented immigrants and turn them over to federal immigration authorities. It was an extremely racist policy, spearheaded by an extremely racist former sheriff.
But with the conviction still on his record, Arpaio remains a criminal in the eyes of the law. One tiny loss for Arapio, one monumental win for mankind.