Different presidents in the United States have made controversial pardons, but many of these cases might not be known to a majority in the current generation. However, President Trump has made one pardon that falls squarely in the league of controversial pardons by a head of state.
Towards the end of 2017, President Trump pardoned notorious former Sheriff of Maricopa County known as Joe Arpaio. Among the crimes he committed is unlawfully arresting Michael Lacey and Jim Larkin, journalists and owners of Village Voice Media.
The story of Arpaio and the two journalists goes back to 2007 when he ordered their arrest. He accused them of disclosing details related to grand jury proceedings. In what later came to be decided by the courts as a case of First Amendment violation, Arpaio took the journalists from their homes at midnight and proceeded to hold them in the illegal jails he was running.
Lacey and Larkin were held for 24 hours after which they were released following pressure from the media industry.
Through one of their newspapers known as the Phoenix New Times, Lacey and Larkin focused on the atrocities in Maricopa while Arpaio was the sheriff. They focused on illegal jails such as the Tent City which was a torture chamber for immigrants who he arrested. The paper also focused on crimes that were going in these jails. There were cases of human rights violations of worrying magnitude. Inmates were beaten mercilessly and tortured through the denial of basic supplies such as food and medicine. Read more: Michael Lacey | Crunchbase and Lacey and Larkin Speak Out on Trump Pardon of Arpaio | Phoenix New Times
Due to the nature of crimes Arpaio had committed, he found himself in court severally, answering to cases of harassment of immigrants. In 2011, he was ordered by a judge to stop racial profiling of immigrants, an order he never obeyed. Arpaio aggressively tortured thousands of Latinos who had crossed the border into the United States despite the court intervention.
After Michael Lacey and Jim Larkin took up the case of Arpaio and covered it in deals, his criminal deeds caught the attention of the whole country. The public pressure had the Sheriff taken back to court once more to face charges of contempt of court orders.
Joe Arpaio was found guilty by the courts and was to be sentenced in October 2017. However, those like Lacey and Larkin who wanted to see the former Sheriff pay for his mistakes were left dismayed after President Trump gave Arpaio a pardon even before the sentencing date.