Photo: AP

Donald Trump may have the power to alter history by pardoning former Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio, but he canā€™t also retroactively efface that history. I mean, in this particular case he canā€™t, according to a judge.

On Thursday, US District Court Judge Susan Bolton rejected arguments made by Arpaioā€™s lawyer and the Justice Department insisting that all the rulings in Arpaioā€™s case should be nullified. The ruling for which Arpaio was pardoned in August found him guilty of criminal contempt of court for ignoring a courtā€™s order to have his department stop profiling Latinos. Arpaio had yet to be sentenced when Trump pardoned him, but was facing up to six months in prison.

Judge Bolton wrote in her opinion on Thursday:

ā€œThe power to pardon is an executive prerogative of mercy, not of judicial recordkeepingā€¦. To vacate all rulings in this case would run afoul of this important distinction. The Court found Defendant guilty of criminal contempt. The President issued the pardon. Defendant accepted. The pardon undoubtedly spared Defendant from any punishment that might otherwise have been imposed. It did not, however, ā€˜revise the historical factsā€™ of this case.ā€

Politico reports that some Democratic lawmakers and ethics groups had previously tried to persuade Judge Bolton to reject the presidential pardon entirely, but instead she ruled on October 4 that Trumpā€™s pardon constituted the end of Arpaioā€™s prosecution for criminal contempt of court.


Which is not to say the judgeā€™s ruling today wonā€™t necessarily yield a material victory for those who despise Arpaio (hi), and not just a symbolic one. So long as the conviction stays on the record it can be used in a future criminal or civil case, and canā€™t technically be appealed, since the former sheriff was pardoned, according to the Arizona Daily Star.