Joe's Spies

Campaign worker of Arpaio political foe targeted in surveillance

Bearup, who calls Cozzolino his "right-hand man," says Cozzolino, 46, had told him that in his early 20s he had been convicted of two burglaries and two forgeries that were reduced to misdemeanors and dismissed when Cozzolino sought law-enforcement certification.

There's no indication of those dismissals in the affidavit filed by Hendershott employee Rich Burden, who submitted the request for a search warrant on October 21, 1998, to Superior Court Judge Roger Kaufman. Instead, Burden lists Cozzolino's 17 arrests without explanation, even including Cozzolino's arrest, at age 16, for "driving without consent."

It's a damning list that, without explanation, makes it appear that the sheriff's office was after a hardened criminal: "Driving Without Consent 1968, Robbery 1971, Grand Theft Auto 1973, Forgery 1973, Burglary 1974, Forgery 1974, Forgery 1974, Forgery 1975, Forgery 1975, Burglary 1975, Burglary 1976, Attempted Arson 1976, Grand Theft Auto 1979, DUI 1982, Possession Marijuana 1982, Assault with a Deadly Weapon 1992, Welfare Fraud 1995."

Cozzolino turned over documents to New Times to show that most of the arrests did not result in convictions. The 1992 weapons charge, for example, occurred when Cozzolino was managing a hotel in Los Angeles and was shot at by robbery suspects; police reports indicate that Cozzolino returned fire, hitting one suspect. He initially was arrested but never was charged in that case.

Today, Cozzolino is certified as a law-enforcement officer and has a concealed-weapons permit, neither of which he could obtain if he were a convicted felon.

Offering records that show, for example, that the 1979 auto theft and 1995 welfare fraud charges were dismissed when Cozzolino proved he had been mistakenly arrested, Cozzolino acknowledged that the list nonetheless gives a terrible impression, and said he plans to resign from Bearup's campaign. He's angry, however, that he was targeted by the sheriff's office and has gone to the FBI to complain about the surveillance.

According to the affidavit the sheriff's office filed to get its search warrant, Cozzolino was suspected of making threats against Arpaio over sheriff's radio frequencies last May. The affidavit includes a transcript of the threats, which came in 14 separate transmissions over secured police radio frequencies on the night of May 11. A tape of the threats released by the sheriff's office does, in fact, sound like Jim Cozzolino.

Cozzolino denies making the threats. He does admit that he sent unfriendly e-mail messages to the sheriff. One of them is quoted in the affidavit:

"Hey, BOZO NOSE, Let see, you have a puppy posse, a pussy posse . . . you should start a Dick Posse . . . and you can be the BIG DICK you are in charge. Your an idiot . . . and a waste of tax payers money."

Cozzolino says it's no secret that he dislikes Arpaio. And he confirms what the affidavit reports: that after five months of training to become a member of the sheriff's posse, Cozzolino was asked to leave the program last year. Cozzolino says that when he joined he offered a complete list of his arrests and convictions and was told that because of the court dismissals, his background would not prevent him from becoming a posse member. Five months later, however, another posse supervisor told Cozzolino he had been kicked out.

Cozzolino says it wasn't made clear to him whether he was ejected for his background or for his support of Bearup.

Burden's affidavit lists the posse expulsion as a possible motive for the death threats, and says that while Cozzolino was in the posse some police radios went missing.

On September 2, someone called Arpaio at home. According to the affidavit, Arpaio believes that whoever made that call also made the radio death threats.

Burden asked Judge Kaufman to approve a search warrant so the sheriff's office could learn Cozzolino's phone number and get records of whether Cozzolino had made the September 2 call. Two days after Kaufman granted the search warrant, Burden informed the court that he had obtained the phone number and call log from US West.

If Burden found evidence that Cozzolino had made the call, however, no arrest in the case has been made. (And it's hard to believe that if the sheriff's office did find evidence that Cozzolino had made the threats, they would not have arrested him immediately, scoring a media coup that would have embarrassed Bearup.)

In the affidavit, Burden wrote that he knew where Cozzolino lived because he had sent Deputy Mark Koppinger to take Cozzolino's trash. "Several pieces of mail . . . were found in the trash can, which was out in front of the address . . . addressed to James Cozzolino."

The affidavit gives the impression that Cozzolino's trash was confiscated one time simply to confirm his address.

But Shannon Koppinger says her husband continued to take Cozzolino's trash through at least December, when she saw her husband stuffing binders with documents that he found in Cozzolino's garbage. Shannon and her husband separated in December. She says that in a recent phone conversation, her husband indicated that the confiscation has continued into March. She says he also told her that the sheriff's office was illegally tapping Cozzolino's phone.

Reached at home, Mark Koppinger deferred questions to Hendershott.
Neither Hendershott nor Arpaio could be reached for comment.
The sheriff's office sought no further warrants from Judge Kaufman regarding Cozzolino's home or phone number. If wire-tapping has been done by deputies, the sheriff's office apparently did not seek a court order from Kaufman.

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Cozz topcommenter

Burden has always been and will always be a corrupt lying piece of shit SCUMBAG.

Couldn't happen to a more deserving ASSHOLE.

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