WASHINGTON—Arizona Rep. Trent Franks praised President Donald Trump’s decision to pardon former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio on Friday, calling it “right and just” for Arpaio and his family.
Arpaio was held in contempt of court by a federal judge for continuing his policy of enforcing immigration laws against illegal aliens. When Arpaio was sued for allegedly violating civil rights, a federal judge whose family member was representing the side suing Arpaio—a conflict of interest that under federal law requires the judge to recuse himself—ordered Arpaio to cease his law enforcement efforts.
When the judge later decided Arpaio was not fully complying with that order, he held Arpaio in contempt of court and referred the matter to the Obama-Lynch Justice Department for criminal prosecution. Judge Susan Bolton—who was appointed by President Barack Obama—convicted Arpaio without a jury on July 31 of this year.
Although Arpaio is 85 years old and his wife is gravely ill, federal prosecutors from the Obama administration sought six months behind bars for the sheriff. If prosecutors had requested a single day more than six months of jail time, then the Sixth Amendment of the Constitution’s Bill of Rights would have entitled Arpaio to a jury trial.
But by asking for only six months of jail time, Arpaio was denied the right for his fate to be decided by twelve Arizonans, who it is widely believed would likely have acquitted him. Instead, the aged lawman’s fate was decided by a district judge, and so Arpaio faced the threat of being locked up behind bars alongside hundreds of criminals who were locked up by him.
Article II of the Constitution gives every president authority to grant pardons, commutations, and other reprieves for federal crimes. The power is unlimited, with the sole exception that a president cannot pardon a federal officer who is impeached and removed from office by Congress.
The White House statement accompanying the pardon declared of Arpaio, “After more than fifty years of admirable service to our Nation, he is a worthy candidate for a Presidential pardon.”
Commending President Trump for granting the pardon, Franks contrasted it to Obama’s commuting the prison sentence of Bradley Manning, the transgender Army soldier convicted of one of the worst leaks of classified information in American history, giving those documents to Wikileaks for worldwide disclosure.
“While no one can dispute Manning acted to undermine our country’s national security, Joe Arpaio has spent a lifetime trying to maintain it,” Franks, a longtime Republican favorite of Christians and conservatives, said in his statement. “Comparing the two, it is easy to discern that Arpaio is a patriot, while Manning is a traitor.”
“Arpaio is the victim of political assassination and a partisan prosecution,” Franks concluded. “It is right and just for him and his ailing wife to receive the peace of an honorable retirement.”
Ken Klukowski is senior legal editor for Breitbart News. Follow him on Twitter @kenklukowski.