Editorial: No pardon for Arpaio

Then-Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump is joined by Joe Arpaio, the sheriff of Maricopa County, Arizona, at a campaign event in Marshalltown, Iowa. Trump is considering pardoning the former sheriff's recent criminal conviction for disobeying a judge's order in an immigration case. The prospect of absolving Arpaio has fueled speculation that Trump will issue his first pardon when he comes to Phoenix next week for a rally.

Photo by Associated Press.

Then-Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump is joined by Joe Arpaio, the sheriff of Maricopa County, Arizona, at a campaign event in Marshalltown, Iowa. Trump is considering pardoning the former sheriff's recent criminal conviction for disobeying a judge's order in an immigration case. The prospect of absolving Arpaio has fueled speculation that Trump will issue his first pardon when he comes to Phoenix next week for a rally.

Donald Trump, like many other presidents, is a creature of habit. It is commonplace for our nation’s leaders to go through phases of action, followed by efforts to gauge reaction or stir support.

Trump, for instance, does the latter at what have become known as rallies. While these rallies have also become magnets for protests and criticism, Trump may play another card next week when he visits Phoenix.

Speculation is high that while he is in Arizona, Trump will issue his first pardon — for former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio.

The self-styled “America’s Toughest Sheriff,” Arpaio, 85, was convicted of a misdemeanor contempt-of-court charge after a judge found he defied another judge by continuing to carry out traffic patrols that targeted immigrants. His Oct. 5 sentencing could bring up to six months in jail, though attorneys who have followed the case doubt someone his age would be incarcerated.

For his part, Arpaio has insisted his refusal to follow the rules wasn’t intentional and blamed one of his former lawyers for not properly explaining the importance of the court order. The former lawman said he was astonished by the verdict and brushed off the conviction as a “petty crime,” media sources have reported.

We believe Arpaio, who was sheriff for 24 years (1993-2016), knows a petty crime is still a crime.

Also, one cannot forget that Arpaio’s actions and leadership in recent years have led to many court cases; depending on the source, they have cost Maricopa County between $53 million and $80 million or more.

For example, the county has paid nearly $25 million in Arpaio’s racial-profiling case, since the case’s 2007 start, to cover legal fees and expenses related to the federal court monitor overseeing his office’s reforms. Add in another $30 million from the Sheriff’s Office budget for case-related expenses dating from mid-2013, and it is easy to see the tally spiraling upward.

Then we must examine the “rule of law” philosophy that Arizona lawmakers have professed over the years.

Five years ago, then-Gov. Jan Brewer cited the “rule of law” when she expressed her opposition to an Obama administration policy that protected young immigrants from deportation.

It also was invoked by Gov. Doug Ducey when he signed a 2016 law that requires immigrants who are convicted of crimes to complete 85 percent of their prison sentences before they are released to immigration authorities. “If you break the law and commit a crime in Arizona, we expect you to serve your sentence, no exceptions,” Ducey wrote last year.

Trump and Arpaio became linked during the 2016 campaign for their like-minded views on immigration, but they also have a similar history in sparring with judges.

Let’s remember Arpaio has led the charge against people being in this country illegally. His no-frills “tent city” jails — even with their pink underwear and bologna sandwiches — sent a strong message to lawbreakers.

Yet, simply, it would be hypocritical for advocates of “get tough on immigration” enforcement to now paint Arpaio with a more lenient standard.

It should come as no surprise though that Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton said last week he was hoping Trump would delay his rally plans. Since such a firestorm over the tragic events in Charlottesville has erupted, no city wants the spotlight next.

If Trump still believes Arpaio deserves a pardon, give it to him on the way out of the White House, as other presidents have done.

But, understand: an Arpaio pardon would appear to support racism — a central argument in opposition to racial profiling — and would add more mud to Trump’s coattails that started to accumulate when he tried to disavow white nationalists whose rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, turned violent and deadly.