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Judge denies Joe Arpaio’s request to vacate contempt of court conviction

FILE - In this Jan. 26, 2016, file photo, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump is joined by Joe Arpaio, the sheriff of metro Phoenix, at a campaign event in Marshalltown, Iowa. Trump's pardon of former Sheriff Joe Arpaio's conviction for disobeying a court order in an immigration case will stand after a judge on Wednesday, Oct. 4, 2017, rejected arguments that it would encourage government officials to flout similar judicial commands in the future. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer, File)

PHOENIX — A judge denied former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s request to vacate his criminal contempt of court conviction on Thursday.

In July, Arpaio was found guilty of criminal contempt of court for prolonging his controversial immigration sweeps for 17 months after being directed to stop them.

Arpaio was never sentenced in the case, but he could have faced up to six months in jail.

Less than a month later, his sentenced was pardoned by President Donald Trump, who praised the lawman for “protecting the public from the scourges of crime and illegal immigration.”

According to Cecillia Wang with the American Civil Liberties Union, U.S. District Judge Susan Bolton said in a court ruling Thursday pardons don’t erase convictions or the facts of cases.

Bolton said the pardon issued by President Donald Trump only mooted Arpaio’s possible punishments.

“The pardon undoubtedly spared defendant from any punishment that might otherwise have been imposed,” Bolton wrote. “It did not, however, ‘revise the historical facts’ of this case.'”

Arpaio’s attorneys appealed Thursday’s decision to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

The conviction stemmed from Arpaio’s disobedience of a 2011 court order that barred his traffic patrols that targeted immigrants.

Prosecutors had accused Arpaio of prolonging the patrols for 17 months so that he could promote his immigration enforcement efforts in a bid to boost his successful 2012 re-election campaign.

Arpaio, who endorsed Trump and appeared alongside him at rallies during the 2016 campaign, has acknowledged prolonging the patrols, but insisted his disobedience wasn’t intentional and blamed one of his former attorneys for not adequately explaining the order’s importance.

Critics said the Aug. 25 pardon removed the last chance at holding Arpaio legally accountable for a long history of misconduct, including a 2013 civil verdict in which Arpaio’s officers were found to have racially profiled Latinos in the sheriff’s immigration patrols.

The sheriff’s defiance of the court order is believed to have contributed to his 2016 election loss after serving 24 years as metro Phoenix’s top law enforcer.

Several legal advocacy groups had requested that the pardon be declared invalid or unconstitutional, arguing that letting it stand would encourage future violations of court orders.

Earlier this month, Bolton ruled that the pardon will stand and dismissed the case.

Thursday’s ruling came days after four legal-advocacy groups asked Bolton to appoint a lawyer to appeal the judge’s decision to let the lawman’s pardon stand.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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