Thursday, September 21, 2023
Courthouse News Service
Thursday, September 21, 2023 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Arpaio’s Memory Gets Fuzzy Under Questioning at Contempt Hearing

PHOENIX (CN) - Sheriff Joe Arpaio on Thursday denied knowing that a private investigator he'd hired tried to show that the federal judge overseeing his civil contempt hearing was conspiring against the sheriff with the Justice Department.

U.S. District Judge G. Murray Snow questioned Arpaio about a flow chart generated by Dennis Montgomery, a private investigator hired by the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office. The chart appears to show Snow directing an alleged wiretap on Arpaio's phone, and connecting the judge with former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and the Covington & Burling law firm, which represents the plaintiffs in a 2007 racial profiling class action against Arpaio.

"It says I was the one that authorized the wiretap on your cell phone," Snow pointed out.

Arpaio responded: "I could never believe it was there."

After seeing Snow on the chart, Arpaio said, he ordered his subordinates not to look into the judge or investigate him at all.

"I said there would be no investigation of you," he told the judge, adding that as "a federal guy all these years, I was shocked, and didn't give much credibility to the source."

When pressed, Arpaio could not tell Snow whom he ordered not to investigate the judge.

"I think I reconfirmed it," Arpaio told the half-full courtroom, claiming Chief Deputy Jerry Sheridan was the one who gave the order.

The flow chart calls into question Arpaio's testimony in contempt proceedings in April: that Montgomery investigated Judge Snow's wife after she allegedly commented in a restaurant that her husband was going to "do everything to make sure" Arpaio was not re-elected, but that he did not investigate the judge.

"You were aware though, that Mr. Montgomery had investigated me, weren't you?" Snow asked.

"I don't think there was any investigation; he just came up with a flow chart," Arpaio said.

The self-described "America's Toughest Sheriff" and four of his current and former aides are accused of civil contempt for failing to deliver data to the court and failing to train deputies how to make constitutional traffic stops.

Arpaio and Sheridan have admitted they are in contempt of court.

The 2007 Melendres class action accused Arpaio's deputies of arresting Latinos during so-called "crime-suppression sweeps" and traffic stops, in violation of the Fourth Amendment. Snow agreed, issuing a 2011 preliminary injunction to put a stop to Arpaio's practice of having his officers arrest undocumented immigrants and turn them over to Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Arpaio testified that his former attorney Tim Casey never told him that transporting undocumented immigrants to the Border Patrol would violate the federal court order.

Stanley Young, an attorney for plaintiffs with Covington & Burling, asked Arpaio if any lawyer told him he could take undocumented immigrants to the Border Patrol as part of a "backup plan" the six-term lawman announced in a press release.

"I remember asking that question and I didn't get a negative or a positive," Arpaio responded.

Young played the court a clip from one of Arpaio's depositions, in which he claimed Casey never told him the Sheriff's Office could not transport immigrants to the Border Patrol.

"Did Casey tell you, 'Yes, you can do that and it complies with the injunction'"? Young asked in the clip.

"Either way, I recall him not having a problem with it," Arpaio replied.

Casey testified last week that he learned in 2012 that deputies were still violating the order, and that he was forced to withdraw as counsel after a 2013 trial in the matter, when he received "resistance" from Arpaio.

The 83-year-old sheriff said he could not remember if he ever told Casey his deputies would release undocumented immigrants if his office had no state charge to file against them.

"You deal with lawyers, you have conversations," Arpaio said. "Sometimes I might have a recommendation, but I leave it up to the legal people to do the legal work."

In another clip from Arpaio's deposition, Arpaio said he was "kind of convinced that [Casey] knew we were doing it."

Arpaio also testified that Montgomery presented evidence that the federal government illegally accessed the bank records of about 150,000 residents of Maricopa County, including Arpaio, his wife, and Judge Snow.

"You know, after being a top federal law enforcement official for many, many years, the possibility that a government agency is tapping my line is a little concerning," Arpaio said. Arpaio served in the Drug Enforcement Agency for 25 years.

He denied that information about the investigation came directly to him from Montgomery. He said Det. Brian Mackiewicz and investigator Mike Zullo acted as intermediaries between the two.

Montgomery conned the federal government into awarding him millions of dollars for computer software that he claimed could catch terrorists by decoding messages hidden in broadcasts on the Al Jazeera network. The software was fake. The government was reluctant to release details on the bogus software, claiming that to do so could jeopardize national security.

"The best informers are the ones that are involved in the illicit activities," Arpaio said in justification of using Montgomery. "They have the information, they know who the bad guys are; you have to give them some credibility ... [and] sometimes you invest in them, but they don't come through."

After the Montgomery investigation came to light in contempt proceedings in April, Snow ordered Arpaio and his office to deliver to the court any documentation related to it.

"Do you recall having any conversation with anyone about responding to the order I gave you?" Snow asked.

"The only way I can answer that is I wanted that order to be carried out," Arpaio responded. He said that other officials present during the hearing "just knew" he would want the order carried out.

"I don't want to sound pejorative, but you just assumed that they knew you wanted it carried out?" Snow asked, testily.

"I did not write any memos," Arpaio said.

Snow later learned that the Sheriff's Office had 50 hard drives in its possession from the Montgomery investigation that were never turned over to the court. He ordered the sheriff in July to deliver to the U.S. Marshals Service the hard drives and any other documents that were not delivered after the April hearing.

The contempt hearing continues Friday.

Follow @@jamierossCNS
Categories / Uncategorized

Read the Top 8

Sign up for the Top 8, a roundup of the day's top stories delivered directly to your inbox Monday through Friday.