After 20 days of testimony spread out over many months in the civil contempt trial of Crazy Uncle Joe Arpaio, the lawyers made their closing arguments to U.S. District Court Judge G. Murray Snow on Friday.
Crazy Uncle Joe Arpaio and Chief Deputy Jerry Sheridan have already admitted to civil contempt, but they face the possibility of a referral to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for criminal contempt charges.
Crazy Uncle Joe Arpaio has always avoided being held to account by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the past, so whether this cat has used up his nine lives and will finally be brought to justice this time remains to be seen.
The Arizona Republic reports, Judge: Arpaio not forthcoming on stand:
Arpaio and four of his current and former aides are accused of continuing to enforce illegal-immigration laws after Snow barred the practice; of failing to produce video evidence prior to the core discrimination trial, and of failing to quietly collect video evidence after Snow ordered them to do so.
The violations stemmed from a long-running racial-profiling case, where Snow ultimately ruled that Arpaio’s deputies had violated the constitutional rights of Latinos during traffic stops.
Arpaio and Chief Deputy Jerry Sheridan have both acknowledged the failures, and that they were in civil contempt, but deny the violations were willful. Intentional flouting of a court’s order could result in more severe remedies for the Sheriff’s Office or a finding of criminal contempt.
Plaintiffs’ attorneys did not take a stance on whether the evidence warrants a criminal-contempt referral, but they repeatedly stressed that they believed the violations were intentional.
Stanley Young, an attorney from Covington & Burling, highlighted the 18 months that the Sheriff’s Office went without following Snow’s order to halt immigration-enforcement practices.
Young contended that the violations were a matter of politics rather than confusion.
“They wanted to be able to tell the public that he was continuing to enforce immigration laws,” Young said.
Young went on to condemn Arpaio’s so-called “Seattle Investigation,” where the office employed a confidential informant named Dennis Montgomery.
Montgomery told sheriff’s investigators he could prove the CIA had harvested the banking information of Maricopa County residents. But his work product strayed from this mission, and Montgomery frequently produced documents that indicated a collusion between Snow and the federal government.
“I think it’s pretty clear what the sheriff was going after,” Young said Friday. “What he was seeking was information about your honor.”
Though the “Seattle Investigation” is not one of the three allegations of contempt, plaintiffs say the operation speaks to Arpaio’s state of mind. The sheriff, they say, would rather spend his time concocting a conspiracy against a federal judge than following his orders.
Paul Killebrew, an attorney for the Department of Justice, recommended the judge impose sweeping reforms over the Sheriff’s Office’s internal affairs.
“I just want to say that … we’ve never seen facts like these,” Killebrew said. “This is an extreme case.”
He pointed to other police agencies across the country that have, for instance, replaced their own internal-affairs unit with a citizen-run bureau.
The DOJ intervened in the case’s remedies after settling their own racial-profiling suit against the Sheriff’s Office this summer.
Snow remained mostly silent throughout the plaintiffs’ and DOJ’s arguments, only sporadically asking for clarification.
He reserved most of his more stringent questioning for defense attorney John Masterson.
Masterson set out to stress what he and his clients have reiterated for weeks: The Sheriff’s Office’s violations were a matter of misunderstandings and were completely unintentional.
He said their failures to halt immigration enforcement were, in part, a result of not understanding their former attorney’s explanation of the court’s order.
He stressed Arpaio and Sheridan’s willingness to accept responsibility for their department by acknowledging civil contempt.
Masterson had just called the plaintiffs’ focus on Montgomery a “sideshow” when Snow intervened.
Snow said there was marginal evidence that Arpaio had chased a conspiracy involving himself and the DOJ.
“But truthfully, I’m far less concerned about that than Sheriff Arpaio’s willingness to tell the truth while he’s on the stand,” Snow said.
Snow referenced the sheriff’s April testimony, in which Snow asked Arpaio whether he was aware of anyone investigating Snow or his activities.
The sheriff at the time said no but altered his story during this fall’s testimony. According to Arpaio, the office was interested in Snow only because he was an alleged victim of the CIA’s bank-hacking scandal.
Masterson quibbled with Snow’s definition of “investigation” and maintained that the sheriff was honest about the question at hand.
Snow was unconvinced.
“His forthcomingness,” Snow said, “is what really gives me major concern about what order I have to enter.”
In the same vein, Snow challenged Masterson on his clients’ failures to turn over required evidence this past summer, including nearly 1,500 ID cards and 50 hard drives.
Snow at another point called certain internal investigations a “joke.” It was an agreement with the plaintiffs’ assertion that internal policing policies were less about justice than excusing bad deputy behavior.
Snow is not expected to issue his findings for at least two weeks.
Stephen Lemons at the Phoenix New Times adds, Joe Arpaio Accused of Deception Under Oath by Federal Judge:
[Judge] Snow conceded that Arpaio’s state of mind was an issue, but Snow was bothered more by Arpaio’s apparent untruthfulness.
The judge hearkened to April 23, when Arpaio was under oath, being questioned by Snow about a June 2014 article in New Times, alleging that the MCSO had hired Dennis Montgomery, a Seattle-based computer consultant and former CIA-subcontractor, as part of an investigation into a fantastic anti-Arpaio plot, involving Snow, the U.S. Department of Justice, the law firm of Covington and Burling, former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, and many others.
At that time, Snow directly asked Arpaio about the article’s allegation that Montgomery was investigating the judge.
Arpaio said it was “not true,” and when Snow asked if Arpaio was aware of anyone investigating Snow or his activities, Arpaio replied, “No, no.”
Then, several weeks later, Arpaio, Snow said, “gets back on the stand and acknowledges he was aware” that the investigation involved the judge.
“He has not been fully forthcoming with this court,” declared Snow on Friday, later adding that Arpaio’s answers and those of MCSO Chief Deputy Jerry Sheridan raised the question of “whether they are trying to deceive this court.”
Snow also referred to statements made by Arpaio, “filed under penalty of perjury,” to the effect that the MCSO was not investigating him.
But Masterson argued that the MCSO really had not been investigating Snow.
Snow countered that Arpaio had received both timelines and a flowchart of the alleged conspiracy created by Montgomery, and the latter document “said I was the one who authorized [a] wiretap” targeting the MCSO. In fact, Snow has never authorized such a wiretap.
Masterson claimed Snow had not been a target of an “investigation,” and therefore Arpaio had not perjured himself.
Snow told Masterson that in April, he had intentionally used the broadest language possible in questioning Arpaio.
As for the word “investigation,” Snow suggested Masterson was borrowing a page from former President Bill Clinton in parsing words, as Clinton infamously did during the Monica Lewinsky scandal.
“What word should I have used?” Snow said, with a Cheshire cat grin.
Masterson claimed Arpaio had no choice but to investigate Montgomery’s allegations regarding the CIA’s illegally harvesting the banking information of more than 150,000 Maricopa County residents.
Snow, however, noted that Arpaio had gone to the Arizona Attorney General’s Office seeking immunity for Montgomery, but Arpaio did not go the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
The state AG at the time was Arpaio’s political ally, Tom Horne.
Regarding the various allegations in Snow’s list of possible violations of the court’s orders, Masterson argued that any disobedience was unintentional.
“The buck stops there and there,” said Masterson pointing at Arpaio and Sheridan, seated at the defense table, with a plethora of lawyers.
“But it was not willful,” insisted Masterson of the pair’s admitted contempt.
Significantly, under federal statute, if the contempt was “willful,” that would fit the definition of criminal contempt.
* * *
Masterson cast doubt on Casey’s shorthand for Snow’s 2011 order “arrest or release,” meaning that MCSO deputies could only hold suspected illegal aliens on a possible violation of a state crime, and could not prolong detention to turn them over to federal agencies such as U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement or the U.S. Border Patrol.
There was nothing in writing indicating that Casey conveyed that shorthand to the MCSO, noted Masterson.
Regardless, Snow said Arpaio had been informed of the order by several individuals: Casey (on several occasions), then-Executive Chief Brian Sands, Deputy Chief Jack MacIntyre, and even Sergeant Brett Palmer, who once argued with Arpaio about the sheriff’s wanting some suspected illegal aliens held until Arpaio could arrive with the media in tow.
Indeed, Friday morning, plaintiffs’ attorneys had gone through numerous MCSO press releases and press interviews with Arpaio following the preliminary injunction, wherein Arpaio announced that he would continue to enforce “all” immigration laws, both state and federal.
Snow questioned Arpaio and Sheridan’s credibility, saying both may have “misstated facts under oath” and “intentionally violated orders” of the court.
The judge also didn’t let the other defendants off the hook. On MacIntyre, Snow said the deputy chief “was up to his eyeballs early on” and was “involved from the beginning” when it came to violations of his 2011 order.
Snow also dinged MacIntyre for a previous admission that MacIntyre never passed on a “preservation letter” from the plaintiffs asking for records from the MCSO. The letter would have covered MCSO video of traffic stops not turned over until more than two years following the 2012 trial in the underlying civil rights case, Melendres v. Arpaio.
* * *
Snow’s give-and-take with Masterson outshone plaintiffs’ attorneys’ efforts earlier in the day to characterize the defendants’ actions in the worst possible light.
Both attorneys, Stanley Young and Cecillia Wang, were relentless in their hammering of Arpaio, Sheridan, and the rest.
But Snow’s suggestion of possible perjury by Arpaio stole the show.
At day’s end, Snow gave the parties until December 4 to file written responses to questions he previously had posed to them. Snow will next issue findings of fact and hear arguments on possible remedies.
After remedies are decided upon, criminal counsel for Arpaio will address the court on the possibility of a referral of the case to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for criminal-contempt allegations. Criminal counsel for the other defendants could address the court on the same issue at any time.
Hopefully this phase of the case will conclude before the end of this year, and we can move on to the next criminal contempt phase of the case. Here’s hoping that Judge Snow delivers a Christmas present to Arizona — a criminal contempt referral of Crazy Uncle Joe Arpaio and his henchmen.