President Donald Trump is considering pardoning former Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio as early as in the next few days.
Arpaio is known for his tough stance on illegal immigration. As sheriff, he continued to carry out traffic patrols against illegal immigrants even after a judge ordered him to stop.
Arpaio was found guilty two weeks ago of criminal contempt for defying the judge’s order.
“I am seriously considering a pardon for Sheriff Arpaio,” President Trump told Fox News on Sunday.
“He has done a lot in the fight against illegal immigration. He’s a great American patriot and I hate to see what has happened to him.”
Arpaio earned the monicker “America’s toughest sheriff” for his tough treatment of inmates, which included issuing male prisoners pink socks and underwear, housing inmates in tent camps without air conditioning, and reintroducing chain gangs for both male and female prisoners.
The 85-year-old sheriff was convicted of misdemeanor contempt of court by U.S. District Judge Susan Bolton for maintaining traffic patrols for illegal immigrants 17 months after being ordered to stop.
He’s expected to be sentenced on Oct. 5. Arpaio faces up to six months in jail, but given his age and spotless record, lawyers doubt he will receive any time.
Arpaio’s legal team is planning to appeal the conviction because they believe the case should have been heard by a jury rather than a judge.
“The judge’s verdict is contrary to what every single witness testified in the case,” his attorneys said in a statement after the verdict.
“Arpaio believes that a jury would have found in his favor, and that it will.”
Arpaio, who endorsed Trump for president in January 2016, was surprised that his legal troubles were on the president’s radar.
“I am happy he understands the case,” Arpaio said. “I would accept the pardon because I am 100 percent not guilty.”
Arpaio expressed concern that a pardon would earn Trump unneccesary fire, saying that he would remain a supporter regardless of whether he receives a pardon or not.
“I would never ask him for a pardon, especially if it causes heat. I don’t want to do anything that would hurt the president,” Arpaio said.
Trump has so far not granted any pardons.
“Is there anyone in local law enforcement who has done more to crack down on illegal immigration than Sheriff Joe?” asked Trump.
“He has protected people from crimes and saved lives. He doesn’t deserve to be treated this way.”