WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Donald Trump is considering pardoning Joe Arpaio, the former Arizona sheriff found guilty last month of criminal contempt for violating the terms of a 2011 court order in a racial profiling case, Fox News reported on Monday.
“I am seriously considering a pardon for Sheriff Arpaio,” Trump told Fox News on Sunday at his country club in Bedminster, New Jersey.
The White House had no official announcement concerning Arpaio for now, a spokeswoman said on Monday.
Arpaio had styled himself as “America’s toughest sheriff” for his no-nonsense treatment of jail inmates and a crackdown on illegal immigrants.
Some of his tactics included requiring male inmates to wear pink underwear and the use of an outdoor jail known as “Tent City,” which remained open even during Arizona’s hottest months when temperatures can climb to 120 degrees.
Arpaio was convicted on July 31 of misdemeanor contempt by a U.S. District judge in Phoenix for willfully disregarding a judge’s order that barred his officers from stopping and detaining Latino motorists solely on suspicion that they were in the country illegally. Arpaio continued the patrols for about another 17 months.
The 85-year-old former lawman, who lost his bid for re-election as Maricopa County sheriff last November after 24 years in office, faces a maximum penalty of six months in jail and a fine when he is sentenced on Oct. 5.
Trump told Fox News the pardon could happen in the next few days.
“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,” Fox News quoted the president as saying.
The American Civil Liberties Union urged Trump not to pardon Arpaio due to his treatment of Latinos in Arizona.
“Make no mistake: This would be an official presidential endorsement of racism,” Cecillia Wang, an ACLU deputy legal director, said in a statement on Monday.
Reporting by Tim Ahmann and Sarah N. Lynch; Writing by Eric Walsh; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe and Leslie Adler