PHOENIX — Sheriff Joe Arpaio brushed off his recent criminal conviction in U.S. court as a “petty crime” and insisted he won’t seek a pardon from President Donald Trump, despite the pair regularly sharing the stage at political rallies during the 2016 campaign.
In an interview with The Associated Press, the former sheriff of metro Phoenix said he was astonished he was found guilty of a crime last week after more than 50 years in law enforcement.
“S-U-R-P-R-I-S-E-D,” Arpaio said of the misdemeanor for defying a court order to stop traffic patrols that targeted immigrants.
He said he won’t rule out running for office again and remains steadfast in his support of Trump.
“I was with him since day one, and I am with him until the end. I don’t ask him for anything. He can throw me into the swamp and cover me up in garbage, and I’d still support him,” Arpaio said.
The lawman known for launching immigration crackdowns was set to be sentenced on Oct. 5. The 85-year-old faces up to six months in jail, though attorneys who have followed the case doubt someone his age would be incarcerated.
Trump’s victory fueled speculation that Arpaio would seek a pardon to have his legal troubles erased. His criminal attorneys have declined to say whether they were seeking relief from the president on Arpaio’s behalf.
While the former sheriff told the AP that he’s fighting his legal battles without Trump’s help, Phoenix news station KTVK-TV reported that Arpaio said during an interview he wanted to know why the president wasn’t rescuing him.
“Somebody ought to ask the president, where is he,” Arpaio told the station.
Arpaio showered Trump with support during the presidential campaign. Trump has invoked Arpaio’s name in his calls for tougher immigration enforcement and used some of the same immigration rhetoric and advocated for tactics that made the Arizona lawman a national name a decade earlier.
The lawman appeared for Trump at rallies in Iowa, Nevada and Arizona, including a huge gathering in the affluent Phoenix suburb where the sheriff lives. Arpaio also gave a speech at the Republican National Convention in which he said Trump would prevent immigrants from sneaking into the country.
Trump defeated Democrat Hillary Clinton in Arizona by 3 percentage points.
In Arpaio’s case, his attorneys have vowed to appeal the verdict and the former sheriff said he isn’t surrendering. He said the worst legal trouble he had faced were two parking tickets.
“Here I am at the end of my career sitting at a defense table in a contempt-of-court case,” Arpaio said.
He took solace in the fact his conviction isn’t a felony.
“It’s only a misdemeanor. You can run for anything you want with a misdemeanor. It’s a petty crime,” Arpaio said.