Why People are Pissed (or Thrilled) About the Pardon of Joe Arpaio
Surprising nobody, Trump issued a presidential pardon for ex-Sheriff Joe Arpaio last week. Arpaio had been
jailed for convicted of criminal contempt and faced up to six months in jail, after he refused to obey a court order “to stop detaining people because he merely suspected them of being undocumented immigrants.”
Trump described Arpaio as a “patriot,” someone who “kept Arizona safe,” and cited his “years of admirable service to our nation.” Arpaio tweeted out his thanks:
Thank you @realdonaldtrump for seeing my conviction for what it is: a political witch hunt by holdovers in the Obama justice department!
— Joe Arpaio (@RealSheriffJoe) August 26, 2017
(Note: Arpaio’s contempt conviction came from U.S. District Judge Susan R. Bolton, a registered independent nominated to the court in 2000 by President Clinton, following a recommendation from Republican senator Jon Kyl of Arizona.)
Trump and Arpaio: Stoking the Birtherism Flames
The Trump/Arpaio relationship goes back years. Arpaio was a strong supporter of Trump’s Birtherism movement. Arpaio assigned a five-man “cold case posse” to investigate Obama’s birth certificate, eventually announcing it was a “computer-generated forgery.” I’m curious how much taxpayer money Arpaio spent on that particular conspiracy theory.
Trump sent him a personally written thank-you note, and praised him on Twitter as well:
Congratulations to @RealSheriffJoe on his successful Cold Case Posse investigation which claims @BarackObama‘s ‘birth certificate’ is fake
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 18, 2012
Trump had Arpaio as a speaker at a campaign rally in 2015, where Arpaio again brought up Obama’s birth certificate.
Arpaio’s “Years of Admirable Service”
Here are some highlights from Arpaio’s “patriotic” career in law enforcement.
- 1993: Arpaio set up a “Tent City” for ~1400 prisoners convicted of non-violent crimes. He literally described it as a concentration camp. Temperatures in the tents reached 145 degrees.
- 1996: Three months after federal investigators warned Arpaio that his jailers were using a “restraint chair” to abuse inmates, inmate Scott Norberg was killed while jailers tried to force him into the chair.
- Paraplegic Richard Post, arrested for possessing one gram of marijuana, was strapped to the restraint chair for six hours for demanding a catheter so he could urinate. The jailers broke his neck.
- 1999: Arpaio and his staff staged a fake assassination attempt and framed James Saville, who ended up spending 4 years in jail. This fraud ended up costing taxpayers well over $1 million.
- 2000: Arpaio set up a “jail cam,” streaming images from the jail on the web. The site noted that viewers “may see violence or sexually inappropriate behavior,” and included a webcam of female inmates using the bathroom.
- 2004: Arpaio’s “inept and bumbling SWAT team” raided a home and burned it to the ground. One member drove the family’s 10-month-old puppy back into the burning home, where it died. “Deputies reportedly laughed as the dog’s owners came unglued as it perished in the blaze.”
- 2011: The Justice Department released findings showing “Wide-ranging Discrimination Against Latinos” under Arpaio’s leadership.
Racial Profiling and Anti-Immigration Efforts
Some of Arpaio’s tactics included:
- Stopping cars and detaining people just because they’re Hispanic, in order to run immigration status checks.
- Defying court orders to stop racial profiling. (This is what got him jailed for contempt.)
- Employing jailers who referred to Latinos as “wetbacks,” “Mexican bitches,” and “stupid Mexicans.”
- “MCSO detention officers have forced Latino prisoners with limited English skills to sign key legal documents printed in English, in which they forfeited key rights.“
- A 2012 Justice Department complaint documents many more examples of discrimination against Latinos under Arpaio’s leadership.
“America’s Toughest Sheriff”
Trump and many of his base love Arpaio for his so-called toughness. But Arpaio isn’t “tough.” He’s a bully and a bigot. He commented recently:
.@RealSheriffJoe: “If they can go after me, they can go after anyone in this country.” #Hannity https://t.co/cIFDqXeKBh pic.twitter.com/POGavxfMRA
— Fox News (@FoxNews) August 24, 2017
The idea that the law could apply to him — that he could face consequences for knowingly and deliberately defying a court order — seems an alien concept. He thinks himself above the law.
I can see why he and Trump get along so well.
His attitude’s mirror Trump’s own comments about Mexicans as criminals and rapists. And a lot of folks support Arpaio’s anti-immigration crusade, and his determination to make jail so horrible it will deter people from committing crimes.
I’d ask those folks if they believe in the Constitution, and that law enforcement officials should follow it. Specifically, the Eighth Amendment, which states:
“Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishment inflicted.”
Cruel and unusual punishment. Things like…
- Subjecting prisoners to 145-degree tents.
- Refusing insulin to a diabetic prisoner, who died as a result.
- Beating a prisoner to death.
- Creating an environment with a suicide rate of 24 percent.
Or maybe we should look at the Fourth Amendment:
“The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated.”
In other words, if you support pulling people over, raiding their homes, raiding their workplaces, just because they’re Hispanic? Congratulations! You’re not just an asshole, you’re also anti-American and anti-Constitution.
I haven’t even touched on instances of Arpaio using the power of his office to attack and punish his enemies, or his neglect of hundreds of sexual assault cases, or the lack of prenatal care and infant deaths that resulted, or destroying evidence in a civil rights lawsuit, or so much more.
I’m not a lawyer. I don’t know what the future holds for Arpaio in terms of civil lawsuits or state charges or the rest.
But I know what I think of Trump and his base holding Arpaio up as a “patriot.” I know what I think of describing Arpaio’s crimes against his constituents as “admirable service to our nation.”
You can be an American who believes in equality and the Constitution. Or you can support Trump’s pardon of Joe Arpaio.
I don’t see any way you can be both.
August 27, 2017 @ 9:52 pm
There is also the worry that this is signaling to those that Mueller is investigating that if they are charged with contempt of court, for not testifying, and are in Trumps good graces, they will be pardoned.
August 27, 2017 @ 9:53 pm
Here’s one reason to support Trump’s pardon: it is in effect an admission of Arpaio’s guilt. This could cause Arpaio legal complications in the future.
August 27, 2017 @ 9:55 pm
Saw elsewhere the concept that this means the appearance of law & order is more important than the rule of law, i.e., that the law doesn’t apply to you if your actions make the world seem safer for others.
August 27, 2017 @ 9:55 pm
I live in Arizona, so I’m well acquainted with this a-hole. And yet it took until the last election for Maricopa County voters to wise up and kick him out. It’s shameful.
August 27, 2017 @ 10:03 pm
Thank you for this. I was trying to explain to my son what Arpaio did — and how gross it is that Trump pardoned him — and this will give me plenty to show him.
August 27, 2017 @ 11:53 pm
Those of you who vote Republican or Independent, please consider whether you want torture used on your sons and daughters if they should be accused of something (whether guilty or not). Those of you who consider yourselves patriots, who perhaps fought for this country, consider whether torture and murder are what you fought for, or whether freedom is. Those of us who consider ourselves Christians, consider the witness of our spiritual ancestors who suffered torture and murder for the freedom to resist in peaceful manner the tyranny of government.
If Trump and his political followers will not listen to Democrats, please consider whether your voices are not needed to stop this country’s peace officers from being corrupted in this way, and whether your voices are not needed to send the message that defying the Constitution will not be tolerated and must not be pardoned as if it does not matter.
Left, or right, or in the middle, we need to hold those with the power to use lethal force to very high standards. Please join me in insisting upon it to your lawmakers. Some things are not about being partisan. Some things are about being an American, Constitutionally lawful nation.
August 28, 2017 @ 12:08 am
Hm. I wonder how this does affect him legally in the future. When he does commit the same crimes again in the future, in whatever capacity Trump has in store for him, can these convictions still be used against him, or do they just disappear?
August 28, 2017 @ 10:02 am
I got a call from my mother the day the pardon happened. Her family had settled mostly in Arizona, including her younger sister. My aunt was diagnosed bipolar/schizo-effective/rapid cycling, and had been self-medicating with street drugs. She was slowly recovering from that, though, and under proper care, when she realized that things in her home were being moved around while she was gone. Her schizo-effective symptoms were always of the ‘hearing voices’ variety, so she was pretty certain that someone was coming in to her house and actively messing with her, to make her feel more crazy than she was. She complained to the Phoenix PD, to no effect, until (with my aunt’s permission), my mother got involved.
My mother has an old friend that is a high-powered attorney, and he suggested that, rather than the Phoenix police, the culprits were the Maricopa country sheriffs, run by one Joe Arpaio. My aunt went to their office with a complaint, got a very shifty/startled response, and while there was not a direct admission of guilt, she was reassured and the intrusions stopped immediately. She called my mother with the news as happy as she’d ever been.
I guess the point of this story is just to share one more example of the kind of department this man lead – one that looked at a woman who was (in her own words) crazy, but getting more stable, and decided it would be fun/funny/useful to undermine her efforts.
August 28, 2017 @ 11:18 am
Correction – he hadn’t been jailed. He had been fund in criminal contempt. His sentencing was not due to take place until next month.
Jim C. Hines
August 28, 2017 @ 12:11 pm
Pete – Thank you, correcting that now.
August 28, 2017 @ 2:29 pm
“Saw elsewhere the concept that this means the appearance of law & order is more important than the rule of law, i.e., that the law doesn’t apply to you if your actions make the world seem safer for others.”
According to Altemeyer’s “The Authoritarians,” this is a common trait among “authoritarian followers” (people who want an authoritarian government, but don’t want to lead it). If our glorious supreme leader has to break the law in order to keep everyone else in line, so what? Like you say, he’s keeping us safe.
August 28, 2017 @ 9:28 pm
As an Arizonan, I appreciate this. And I believe it should be required reading for all voters.