WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump has pardoned the controversial former Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio, who was convicted of failing to follow a court order to end the practice of detaining people merely on the suspicion that they might not have legal status.

In a statement, Trump made no mention of Arpaio’s conviction, but praised his past military service. It is the first pardon of Trump’s presidency.

“Arpaio’s life and career, which began at the age of 18 when he enlisted in the military after the outbreak of the Korean War, exemplify selfless public service,” Trump said. “Throughout his time as Sheriff, Arpaio continued his life’s work of protecting the public from the scourges of crime and illegal immigration.

“Sheriff Joe Arpaio is now eighty-five years old, and after more than fifty years of admirable service to our Nation, he is worthy candidate for a Presidential pardon,” the statement continued.

Arpaio’s practices have been characterized as racial discrimination. He was awaiting sentencing at a hearing in October.

Trump’s pardon came late on a Friday night, at a time when much of the country is focused on a Category 4 hurricane bearing down on Texas. Hurricane Harvey is the most powerful such storm to hit the nation in 12 years.