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President Trump's pardon of former Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio
Former Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio.
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OKLAHOMA CITY- The same day Hurricane Harvey pummeled into the southern coast of Texas, President Donald Trump used his presidential power to pardon a man found guilty of criminal contempt.

Eighty-five-year-old former sheriff Joe Arpaio was to be sentenced to 10 months in prison for violating the fourth amendment. 

In a press conference last Monday, President Trump defended the pardoning of Arpaio.

Arpaio was the sheriff of Maricopa County in Arizona for 24 years, from 1993 to 2016. He was elected, in large part,  due to his tough stance on crime and illegal immigration. 

Upon entering the office, Arpaio wasted no time in cracking down on who he considered the nation’s domestic enemies. In the same year that he was elected, he created a Tent City for criminals.

A Tent City jail is a prison system in which prisoners are required to sleep outside in tents with little to no protection from the outdoor elements.

Aside from living in these conditions, Arpaio forced prisoners to wear old fashioned pinstripe jumpsuits and wear ladies pink underwear. Beginning in 1995, Arpaio reinstituted voluntary chain gangs to work in the Arizona heat in exchange for a high school GED. It wouldn’t be for a few years that he would offer this option to the female prison population.

According to an NPR article reporting the living conditions of prisoners in the Tent City, the Arizona summer heat reached 145 degrees. The fans didn’t work and the heat was melting the shoes of the workers.

When asked if the problems would be solved, Arpaio was reported saying, “It’s 120 degrees in Iraq and the soldiers are living in tents and they didn’t commit any crimes, so shut your mouths!”

Arpaio quickly gained the reputation as America’s toughest sheriff. This would be his campaign cornerstone during his next five re-election cycles.

As his infamy and notoriety began to spread, his influence took to the streets of Maricopa County. In the early 2000’s New York law enforcement implemented a policy called “Stop and Frisk” This style of crime prevention attracted the attention of Arpaio.

According to ACLU documents, the sheriff equipped a combative task force to help reduce crime and illegal immigration which closely resembled the Stop and Frisk movement. Even after Stop and Frisk was labeled unconstitutional, Arpaio continued on.

Over an estimated 1,800 traffic stops were made in 2010. From documents provided to the district court, the number of Latino drivers licenses on file for these stops were 1,500.

Civil Liberty Unions such as the ACLU, the Mexican-American Legal Defense and Education Fund, and the law firm of Covington & Burling caught onto Arpaio’s actions.

By 2011, Arpaio was hit with a class action lawsuit. In response, he was reported to have arrested 500 more Latinos. According to the LA Times, he said, “After the Justice Department went after me, we arrested 500 more just for spite.”

Arpaio continued to protest the actions of the courts.

“I will never give into the federal government,” Arpaio said to NPR reporters. “If they don’t like what I’m doing, get the laws changed in Washington.”

The 2011 lawsuit gained national traction in 2013. Many civil rights advocated called for his immediate termination. The unions say that Arpaio is in violation of the fourth amendment and is promoting Latino by his actions.

While the lawsuits piled on Arpaio’s desk, Arpaio took his role as a prominent leader in the Republican foundation of Arizona seriously. During the 2016 presidential campaign, President Trump made a visit in Arizona for one of his rallies. Arpaio led the charge for Arizona in endorsing candidate Trump.

It wouldn’t be until July of 2017 that Arpaio would be found guilty in violation of the fourth amendment. Though his sentencing was to take place in October, President Trump pardoned him of all charges.

As the nation was bracing itself for tropical storm Harvey, Trump took to the stage to announce the pardoning of the ex-sheriff.

Many have opposed President Trump’s decision including some members of the Republican Party.

According to CNN, U.S. District Judge Susan Bolton said, “Not only did (Arpaio) abdicate responsibility, he announced to the world and to his subordinates that he was going to continue business as usual no matter who said otherwise”

On Monday, President Trump did not back down from his opposition.

"He’s done a great job for the people of Arizona, he’s very strong on borders, very strong on illegal immigration, he is loved in Arizona,” Trump said. “I thought he was treated unbelievably unfairly when they came down with their big decision to go get him, right before the election voting started.”

Trump went on to add: “Should we fire a man for doing his job?”

The implications of President Trump’s decisions have sent out waves of anxiety to the majority of civil rights groups and law enforcement.

With Arpaio pardoned, he is left to his devices to do as he pleases. The only exception is to go back to his job as the sheriff of Maricopa County.

There is a new sheriff in town. His name is Sheriff Paul Penzone and he aims to right the wrongs done by Ex-Sheriff Arpaio. Penzone explained that he will start with the Tent City Prison System.

“This facility became more of a circus atmosphere for the general public," Penzone said. "Starting today, that circus ends and these tents come down."

Penzone was elected on behalf of the Arizona people to ensure safety through the means of the justice system and not by racial biases.

As for the President’s decision?

Only time will tell what the pardoning will do for the fate of the justice system in the United States. 

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Brandon King

Brandon King is a journalism student at OCCC, working towards becoming a professional writer....

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Red Dirt Report was launched July 4, 2007 as an independent news website covering all manner of news, culture, entertainment and lifestyle stories that affect and interest Oklahoma readers and readers outside of our state. Our mission is to educate, promote civic engagement and discourse on public policy, government and politics. Our experienced journalists provided balanced in-depth coverage of news stories that affect Oklahomans. Our opinion/editorial stories come from a wide range of political view points. We carry out our mission by reporting, writing, and posting news and information. read more

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