Opponents of Joe Arpaio speak out against potential presidential pardon

President Trump could pardon Joe Arpaio who was found guilty of defying a court order to stop immigration arrests. 

PHOENIX - Arizona civil rights activists and opponents of Joe Arpaio gathered Tuesday to voice their concerns of the possibility President Trump will pardon the former Maricopa County sheriff.

Trump said Monday he is “seriously considering” a pardon of the former sheriff who was found guilty of criminal contempt last month. Promise Arizona, a local immigrant and Latino rights group, held a press conference Tuesday to address the potential pardon.

"This is privilege in action, this privilege that allows people to flaunt the law, to take advantage of positions of authority," Senator Martin Quezada (D-Ariz.)  said at the press conference.

Arpaio is scheduled to be sentenced in October and is facing fines, community service and possible jail time.

The former sheriff's lawyers filed a new motion, again, this week asking the court to grant him a new trial or reconsider his guilty verdict-- but he could avoid altogether having to return to court if Trump pardons him.

Typically, presidents issue pardons at the end of their terms, but just eight months in office, Trump has sent a clear signal he may pardon Arpaio and soon. If he decides to do so, Trump could issue the pardon this week.

Controversial Presidential pardons are embedded in history. Richard Nixon pardoned famous labor leader James Hoffa. President Ford pardoned Nixon after Nixon was facing the possibility of criminal charges. Jimmy Carter granted unconditional pardons to hundreds of thousands of so-called draft dodgers. Bill Clinton pardoned hedge-fund manager Marc Rich, who had been indicted for tax evasion and was a friend of the Clintons. And Barack Obama commuted the sentence of Chelsea Manning, the Army private who leaked classified military secrets.

"What the law says is a little ambiguous. The president has wide pardoning power," says attorney and constitutional historian Robert McWhirter. "Presumably, Arpaio would have to go to his sentencing hearing, receive his judgment and then the President would pardon in course. Usually it doesn't  happen before."

As history has shown, presidents have wide latitude.

The pardon, if granted, would no doubt send a surge of energy in the president's base and stoke anger among critics.

"The pardoning power assumes a certain political fallout," McWhirter says. "That's why presidents like to do it at the end when the damages are much less."

© 2017 KPNX-TV


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