Trump mulls pardon of ex-sheriff with same immigration views

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Arpaio has been a strong supporter of Trump and campaigned for him. (Source: The Associated Press) Arpaio has been a strong supporter of Trump and campaigned for him. (Source: The Associated Press)
PHOENIX (AP) -

Former Sheriff Joe Arpaio is awaiting sentencing and the possibility of jail time following a criminal conviction for disobeying a judge's order to stop his traffic patrols that targeted immigrants.

Now, he could be getting a get-out-of-jail free card from President Donald Trump.

[RELATED: Report: Trump seriously considering a pardon for former Sheriff Joe Arpaio]

The president told Fox News that he's considering wiping away Arpaio's misdemeanor contempt-of-court verdict, inflaming tensions with Latinos in Arizona amid a national debate over race after the violent protests in Virginia.

Trump told the network that he hates "to see what has happened" to Arpaio and that the retired lawman fought tirelessly to keep his community safe by targeting immigrants in the country illegally.

Critics found it offensive that Trump would disavow racism in his comments over the protests but at the same time consider a pardon for a man they say routinely discriminated against Latinos.

[RELATED: As Trump considers Arpaio pardon, critics call out president]

Here are some facts about Arpaio, Trump and the pardon process:

KINDRED SPIRITS

The alliance between Trump and Arpaio centers heavily on immigration enforcement.

Arpaio campaigned for Trump on several occasions during the presidential race, with immigration the dominant theme of his speeches as he shared the stage with Trump.

During nine of his 24 years as sheriff, Arpaio did the sort of immigration crackdowns that Trump is now encouraging local police to do.

He launched more than 80 business raids in search of immigrants who used fraudulent documents to get jobs and another 20 large-scale traffic patrols known as "sweeps" in which sheriff deputies flooded an area - in some cases, heavily Latino areas - over several days to seek out people who were in the United States illegally.

[RELATED: Sheriff Penzone expected Arpaio guilty verdict]

Arpaio remains influential in Republican circles on border issues even though he was voted out of office last year and lost the last of his immigration powers during his last few years in office, culminating with a 2013 ruling that concluded his officers had racially profiled Latinos.

The two politicians also separately questioned the authenticity of then-President Barack Obama's birth certificate.

SEEKING PARDONS

Normally, people seeking pardons have to wait five years from their conviction to apply for relief from a president, said Jeffrey Crouch, a professor of politics at American University who has written a book on presidential pardons.

Presidents typically wait until pardon applications have been reviewed by the U.S. Justice Department's Pardon Attorney's Office.

[SPECIAL SECTION: Former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio]

"There is normally an investigation before a recommendation is made to the president, and that recommendation is usually to not grant clemency," Crouch said.

Still, Crouch said presidents can act as soon as they wish and don't have to wait for an investigation from the Pardon Attorney's office, which he said isn't designed to handle politically volatile clemency decisions.

That has led to contentious decisions such as the pardons of Richard Nixon in Watergate investigation and figures in the Iran-Contra scandal of the Reagan administration.

Arpaio attorney Jack Wilenchik declined to comment on whether the retired sheriff's attorneys filed a pardon application with the Justice Department, noting though that "Joe Arpaio will accept it (a pardon) if it's granted."

THE OFFENSE

Arpaio's conviction sprang from his disobedience of a court order issued in the racial profiling case.

He was accused of prolonging his patrols for nearly a year and a half so he could promote his immigration enforcement efforts in a bid to boost his 2012 re-election campaign.

The retired lawman acknowledged prolonging the patrols, but insisted he didn't intentionally violate the order. He blamed one of his former attorneys for not properly explaining the importance of the court order.

The 85-year-old, who is scheduled to be sentenced on Oct. 5, faces up to six months in jail, though attorneys who have followed the case doubt someone his age would be incarcerated.

Arpaio's office was accused in other instances of wrongdoing in the profiling case, though none led to criminal charges.

His office had acknowledged throwing away or shredding some records of traffic stops made during Arpaio's sweeps.

Arpaio was accused of ordering some of the patrols not based on reports of crime but rather on letters from Arizonans who complained about people with dark skin congregating in an area or speaking Spanish.

Arpaio also was accused of investigating the judge who presided over the profiling case. The sheriff vigorously denied the allegation.

When Arpaio's office refused the judge's order in 2015 to hand over 50 hard drives from the investigation, the judge ordered the U.S. Marshals Service to retrieve them from a sheriff's evidence-storage office.

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