Arpaio to Face Special Prosecutor Over Bid to Vacate Conviction

Joe Arpaio is surrounded by protesters and members of the media at the the site of the Republican National Convention in downtown Cleveland, Ohio, on July 19, 2016.

Photographer: Spencer Platt/Getty Images

The Arizona sheriff pardoned by President Donald Trump for racially profiling immigrants in violation of a court order has a new fight on his hands.

The U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals on Tuesday appointed a special prosecutor to contest former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s move to vacate his conviction for contempt of court.

A Phoenix judge denied Arpaio’s request to erase his conviction entirely, saying in October that the presidential pardon didn’t “revise the historical facts of this case.” The appeals panel, by a 2-1 vote, said that since the U.S. Justice Department won’t defend that ruling, an outside lawyer must be appointed to argue against Arpaio, 85, who earned the nickname “Sheriff Joe” during more than 20 years in office.

The dissenting appeals judge, Richard Tallman, said the ruling sets a bad precedent.

“I fear the majority’s decision will be viewed as judicial imprimatur of the special prosecutor to make inappropriate, unrelated and undoubtedly political attacks on presidential authority,” he wrote. “We should not be wading into that thicket.”

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