For most of Joe Arpaio’s two-plus decades as Maricopa County, Arizona sheriff, he directed operations from the top floor of a downtown Phoenix tower, worlds away from the jails overseen by rank and-file deputies.

Arpaio first achieved national notoriety for making prisoners wear pink underwear and housing them in an outdoor tent city so hot that the inmates’ shoes melted. But his conviction stemmed from his constitutionally dubious dragnet search for undocumented immigrants. Patrol deputies became expert at inventing pretexts for stopping the “load cars” that ferried immigrants through the county to points across the nation.

Sheriffs descended on neighborhoods where day laborers waited for people willing to pay for their work. Voters repeatedly re-elected Arpaio as he carried out his pledge to transform the sheriff’s office into “a full-fledged anti-illegal immigration agency.”

The final chapter of this story is playing out now on the national stage.

Last month, federal Judge Susan Bolton found Arpaio guilty of criminal contempt of court. In December 2011, another federal judge ordered the sheriff’s office to stop detaining people based solely on their immigration status.

“Any stop or detention based only on a reasonable suspicion that a person is in the country without authorization, without more facts, is not lawful,” wrote Judge G. Murray Snow.

The agency ignored the judge’s ruling and went right on targeting immigrants. As the judge concluded in her written opinion, Arpaio had demonstrated a “flagrant disregard” for the court order.

The agency simply ignored the ruling and over the next 18 months, deputies detained at least 171 people without criminal charges and turned them over to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, according to its own internal reports. Arpaio, who lost his bid for a seventh term as sheriff in November, testified that he had no idea his deputies were blatantly violating the order.

There are no requirements for consultation within the administration before a decision is announced.

“The President exercised his lawful authority and we respect his decision,” said Ian Prior, a Justice Department spokesman.

Trump hinted at his decision earlier this week during a raucous campaign rally in Phoenix.

“So was Sheriff Joe was convicted for doing his job?” Trump queried his supporters. “I’ll make a prediction. I think he’s going to be just fine, OK.”

Trump tweeted Friday night about his decision: “I am pleased to inform you that I have just granted a full Pardon to 85 year old American patriot Sheriff Joe Arpaio. He kept Arizona safe!”

Arpaio, who was scheduled to be sentenced on Oct. 5, would have received a maximum potential penalty of six months in prison.

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