In a defining political act, President Donald Trump granted pardon to Joe Arpaio Friday night.
Arpaio, 85, made worldwide news for his tactics. He jailed inmates in tents during triple-degree summer heat and forced them to wear pink underwear. He also refused to leave immigration enforcement up to federal authorities.
"So Sheriff Joe was convicted for doing his job? I will make a prediction; I think he is going to be just fine," Trump said during his rally in Phoenix earlier this week.
Without Trump's pardon, the controversial former Mariposa County Sheriff faced up to six months in jail for a misdemeanor contempt of court. His sentencing was scheduled for Oct. 5.
"After more than fifty years of admirable service to our nation, he is worthy candidate for a presidential pardon," a White House statement released Friday night said.
Arpaio served as metro Phoenix's sheriff for 24 years. A federal judge ruled he ordered officers to racially profile Latinos in his illegal hunt for undocumented migrants. A judge later found him guilty of contempt of court for ignoring an order to stop the traffic patrols that targeted immigrants.
"Not only did the defendant abdicate responsibility, he announced to the world and to his subordinates that he was going to continue business as usual no matter who said otherwise," U.S. District Judge Susan Bolton wrote.
Prosecutors said Arpaio ignored the order to boost his 2012-re-election campaign. But voters got tired of his legal troubles and the protesters who descended regularly to Phoenix. They didn't elect him last year. Instead, they voted for Paul Penzone, a retired police sergeant.
Immigrants who were illegally detained under Arpaio's orders will be able to seek damages. Critics were responding to the announcement Friday, as Texas braced for Hurricane Harvey, a Category 4 storm.
"Instead of uniting the nation, the president chose to obstruct justice and send a message to racists that they are O.K.," The Miami Herald's Fabiola Santiago tweeted.
ACLU Deputy Legal Director Cecillia Wang agreed with Santiago.
"Trump has chosen lawlessness over justice, division over unity, hurt over healing ... His pardon of Arpaio is a presidential endorsement of racism," Wang said in a statement.