On August 25, 2017, President Trump granted his first presidential pardon to self-proclaimed “America’s toughest sheriff” Joe Arpaio, of Maricopa County, Arizona.
The pardon was granted for a charge of criminal contempt of court, stemming from Arpaio’s ongoing policy of discrimination and racial profiling. This was the charge for which Arpaio had been tried and convicted, but it was far from his only crime. Read more: Jim Larkin | Crunchbase and Michael Lacey | Crunchbase
On October 18, 2007, media executives for The Village Voice Mike Lacey and Jim Larkin were arrested and forcibly removed from their Arizona homes. They had been reporting not only on Arpaio’s role in fostering anti-Mexican sentiment within the local community, but also on irregularities in his bookkeeping and rampant mismanagement in the sheriff’s office. Learn more about Jim Larkin and Michael Lacey: http://releasefact.com/2017/09/jim-larkin-and-michael-lacey-continue-fight-for-latino-rights-after-pardoning-of-joe-arpaio/ and http://frontpageconfidential.com/michael-lacey-jim-larkin-arpaio-frontera-fund-first-amendment/
They also covered substandard and unsafe conditions within Arpaio’s jails, and on retaliatory and predatory tactics carried out by Arpaio’s deputies, not unlike what the two were now experiencing.
The two were released from jail in under 24 hours. Thanks to a national outcry, all charges were dropped. This illegal detention led to a prolonged court battle in the ninth circuit, during which many of Arpaio’s misdeeds came to light. Of the case, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals wrote: “It is hard to conceive of a more direct assault on the First Amendment than public officials ordering the immediate arrests of their critics. And, in this case, there was nothing subtle about their efforts to stifle the New Times.”
In 2013 a $3.7 million settlement was paid to Lacey and Larkin by Maricopa County. The two used the money for the Frontera Fund, an initiative whose main goal is to benefit the Hispanic community, which has been heavily targeted by Arpaio.
Arpaio’s steadfast determination to ignore the ruling against him was the catalyst for this entire chain of events. In 2011, United States District Judge Murray Snow ruled that Arpaio could not continue to detain people of Hispanic descent based simply on his suspicion that they might be illegal immigrants. Because Arpaio had no evidence as to whether or not the detainee had proper status, it was unconstitutional to hold them.
Arpaio did not agree, and his contempt for the ruling was addressed several times behind closed doors before charges were filed publicly. This further exposed the conditions faced by Arpaio’s inmates in his infamous “Tent Cities,” and based on this information, he was charged with violating the rights of Latinos and other immigrant groups.
As Arpaio was never charged for these crimes, he ultimately faces no legal penalty. For the crimes for which he was charged and convicted, he has now been pardoned. However, Lacey and Larkin are determined that Arpaio not escape the judgement of the court of public opinion.