President Trump pardons former Sheriff Joe Arpaio

Posted at 5:12 PM, Aug 25, 2017
and last updated 2017-08-28 13:29:49-04

President Donald Trump has granted a Presidential pardon to former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, according to a White House statement released Friday.

"Throughout his time as Sheriff, Arpaio continued his life's work of protecting the public from the scourges of crime and illegal immigration," the statement read. "Sheriff Joe Arpaio is now 85 years old, and after more than 50 years of admirable service to our nation, he is a worthy candidate for a Presidential pardon."

Trump hinted at a possible pardon during his Tuesday visit to Phoenix, saying, "I'll make a prediction, I think he's going to be just fine." 

During the speech, Trump went on to say he was not issuing the pardon that night "because I don't want to cause any controversy."

Arpaio, who did not attend the rally, was convicted July 31 of criminal contempt of court for failing to stop traffic patrols targeting immigrants after being ordered to do so by a federal judge.

When reached Tuesday night, Arpaio said he was surprised the president mentioned him. 

"I am very humble he brought me up, and didn't know he was going to [do so]," Arpaio said. "I'm very happy. I was with him from day one and will be with him as long as he is president."

FULL COVERAGE: Joe Arpaio contempt of court case

In an interview with FOX New's Sean Hannity, Arpaio said "It's great. I love the president. He supports law enforcement and I'm very humbled."

He also said he plans to reveal more about his court battle in a press conference slated for next week.

"Show the abuse in the judicial system and politics," Arpaio said. "I'm not going down without trying to defend myself to all those people who don't like what I've done."

ABC15 talked with Arpaio's attorney Jack Wilenchick who said he was contacted by the White House's Council Friday — completing the first step, which is accepting the pardon.

"It's the end of his criminal case, assuming the judge undoes his criminal conviction which he is obligated to do so," Wilenchick said.

Arpaio's team plans to officially file the pardon in federal district court next week. The news broke on his wife's birthday.

Hearing this, is a good present for her too, believe me," Arpaio said.

Pardons are incredibly rare for presidents in their first year in office. Since President Gerald Ford, the average is about two pardons per year, with the number increasing the longer they are in office.

Arpaio joins the ranks of several other Arizonans to receive pardons. Former Governor Fife Symington's conviction on seven counts of bank fraud was pardoned by then-President Bill Clinton on his last day in office, President Obama pardoned Andrew Ellifson after being convicted of setting up an offshore pornography spamming operation, and during the term of President Richard Nixon two Arizonans were pardoned: Alejandro Munoz and Ella DeClay. 

The typical pardon process involves a formal petition through the Department of Justice. According to official statistics, the administration has received 376 requests for pardons and 1,508 requests for clemency since President Trump took office.