PHOENIX (CN) - After invoking the Fifth Amendment 220 times under five hours of questioning Thursday, an investigator for Sheriff Joe Arpaio blurted out an impassioned tale that the sheriff's office investigated the federal judge overseeing Arpaio's contempt-of-court hearing because the judge was "a victim" of the federal government's illegal seizure of his bank and IRS records.
Mike Zullo, a volunteer investigator in Arpaio's Cold Case Posse, delivered an emotional description of his involvement in an investigation of U.S. District Court Judge G. Murray Snow, who is overseeing the civil contempt hearing in which Arpaio and four of his current and former aides are accused of violating a court order in a 2007 racial profiling case.
The investigation was sparked by information from Dennis Montgomery, a former CIA contractor, who told the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office that the federal government had illegally accessed the bank and IRS records of about 150,000 residents of Maricopa County
"Judge Snow was a victim on that database, like I'm a victim," Zullo told plaintiffs' attorney Stanley Young, while appearing to choke back tears.
"Sir, you were a victim," Zullo said, turning to address Judge Snow. "I never did anything to hurt this man."
Zullo testified that Snow's name was found in the list because Montgomery said there were federal judges in it and Snow was the "only federal judge I know in Maricopa County."
After Montgomery gave him this information, Zullo said, he went straight to Arpaio and Chief Deputy Jerry Sheridan.
"I got a direct stand-down order from the sheriff," Zullo said. "No one was trying to hurt this judge, including the sheriff, much to everyone's astonishment. He did not do that."
Zullo said his job was to befriend Montgomery to get him to provide the Sheriff's Office with credible information that could be turned over to the FBI, and that Snow's information was never used for any other purpose.
"It's like the sheriff is a bank teller who gets handed the stick-up note," Zullo said. "Just because he's the one who got handed the stick-up note, he gets charged with facilitating the stick-up."
The court heard a number of audio recordings Zullo made with his iPhone, including a conversation between Zullo and Montgomery that implied that Sheridan had encouraged more investigation of Snow.
In it, Zullo and Montgomery talk vaguely about a situation in which Sheridan would say to continue investigating Snow, but that he could not be involved in it.
"We would use that as some type of leverage," Zullo said in court. "When Mr. Montgomery made the assertion to me that the Chief Sheridan said to do that, I didn't believe it."
Sheridan is one of the Arpaio aides accused of contempt of court.
In another recording, former billionaire Tim Blixseth tells Arpaio that then-Senator Barack Obama had hired computer hackers to doctor Obama's birth certificate and change Florida voting records to alter redistricting efforts.
Blixseth said he learned of Montgomery when Montgomery hacked into Blixseth's personal information to provide it to his ex-wife and her attorneys during their divorce proceedings.
That's when, Blixseth says, Montgomery told him about information he had uncovered about the federal government.
According to Montgomery, a young man working for John Brennan - now director of the Central Intelligence Agency - was hired to alter Obama's birth certificate while he was still a senator. When people began to question the authenticity of the certificate, the young man "got a bullet between the eyes," Blixseth said.
Blixseth also described to Arpaio a secret computer system Montgomery told him about that was built by the federal government, called "The Hammer." He said the system is housed in Fort Washington, Md., and Montgomery used it when he was contracted by the CIA.
Montgomery claimed the government asked him to hack into the Florida voter registration system and to upload information to alter it because there was "a big redistricting down in Florida."
In that same meeting, Arpaio is heard asking Blixseth whom he should contact with this information if he decided not to look into Montgomery's claims.
Blixseth recommended the FBI, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder or Arizona Sen. John McCain, much to Arpaio's audible disappointment.
"McCain? Are you kidding? He hates my ass and he's behind all this shit," Arpaio said.
Blixseth founded the exclusive Yellowstone Club in Montana, which filed for bankruptcy protection in 2008. He is in jail for civil contempt for failing to account for proceeds from the sale of a Mexican resort after he was ordered in bankruptcy proceedings not to sell any assets.
Zullo was expected to resume testifying Friday, and Arpaio may also take the stand again.
Arpaio and his aides face potential fines, criminal charges and jail time if they are found in contempt of court.
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