News World Behind the controversies of America’s ‘toughest sheriff’ pardoned by Donald Trump
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Behind the controversies of America’s ‘toughest sheriff’ pardoned by Donald Trump

Donald Trump has pardoned former Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio. Photo: Getty
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US President Donald Trump has received widespread condemnation for pardoning former Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio.

Mr Arpaio, 85, branded himself “America’s toughest sheriff” for his hard-line stance on immigration.

His discriminatory tactics as sheriff of Maricopa County, from 1993 until last year, saw him convicted for contempt of court. He will escape a possible six-month jail sentence after Mr Trump pardoned his conviction on Friday.

The decision to side with Mr Arpaio, who is famed for racial profiling, comes in the aftermath of the deadly white supremacist rallies in Charlottesville. Mr Trump was criticised for his soft response and blaming “both sides” for the race-fuelled clash.

President Trump reportedly asked Attorney General Jeff Sessions earlier this year whether it would be possible to drop the federal case against Mr Arpaio, but was rebuffed at the time, CNN quoted a White House official as saying.

The CNN report said the President asked Mr Sessions and other administration lawyers, including White House counsel Don McGahn, whether his administration could intercede in the matter, the official was quoted as saying.

Mr Sessions told the President the case could not be closed.

Even fellow Republicans came out to criticise Mr Trump’s decision to pardon Mr Arpaio.

Senator John McCain said the decision “undermines” Mr Trump’s claim for the respect of rule of law “as Mr Arpaio has shown no remorse for his actions”.

“Mr Arpaio was found guilty of criminal contempt for continuing to illegally profile Latinos living in Arizona based on their perceived immigration status in violation of a judge’s orders,” he said in a statement.

House Speaker Paul Ryan signalled his disagreement with the pardon.

“Law enforcement officials have a special responsibility to respect the rights of everyone in the United States,” he said in a statement. “We should not allow anyone to believe that responsibility is diminished by this pardon.”

And in the wake of the Charlottesville violence, Democratic congresswoman Karen Bass told ABC America it would send a horrible message.

“Because [Mr Arpaio] was tried and convicted for discrimination, so what does that say for white supremacy? It says OK,” she said.

The American Civil Liberties Union and the National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People also criticised the move.

After the White House announced the pardon, Mr Trump tweeted: “I am pleased to inform you that I have just granted a full Pardon to 85-year-old American patriot Sheriff Joe Arpaio. He kept Arizona safe!”

Critics aren’t so convinced by Mr Arpaio’s track record and controversies.

Racial profiling and contempt of court charge

Mr Arpaio earned the contempt conviction by defying a court order to stop discriminating against Latinos.

As sheriff, he coordinated “sweeps” of illegal immigrants in targeted patrols and traffic stops.

In 2011, a judge ordered him to stop detaining Latino drivers solely on the suspicion of being in the country illegally on the grounds it violated their constitutional rights.

He was charged with contempt of court for intentionally defying the order, and was found guilty last month.

Mr Arpaio was due to be sentenced in October, and faced up to six months behind bars. He was expected to appeal the conviction before being pardoned by the president on Friday.

Joe Arpaio is pictured with inmates at Tent City, open-air jail. Photo: Getty

Tent City and prison conditions

Mr Arpaio opened a notorious outdoor jail called ‘Tent City’ and himself described it as a “concentration camp”.

Temperatures inside the tents have been found to reach up to 63 degrees Celsius.

His replacement sheriff Paul Penzone has committed to closing Tent City this year.

Phoenix New Times investigations have alleged the county jails have an inexplicably high death and suicide rate, violent punishment tactics, and negligent medical care.

Maricopa County taxpayers have forked out $US140 million ($A177 million) to settle lawsuits over jail conditions in the time Mr Arpaio was sheriff.

Federal Judge Neil Wake reportedly said medical care in the jails was so deficient it was “unconstitutional”.

Temperatures inside the tents have reached up to 63 degrees Celsius. Photo: Getty

Sheriff Arpaio a force behind Obama birther conspiracy

Mr Arpaio was a major force behind the “birther” conspiracy that questioned former US president Barack Obama’s nationality.

He led a five-year investigation and accused Mr Obama of having a forged birth certificate.

Mr Arpaio’s “cold case posse” travelled to Hawaii to investigate the legitimacy of Mr Obama’s birth certificate in 2012.

-with wires

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