Here's my pick for the most ridiculous quote from MCSO Chief Deputy Jerry Sheridan's testimony in federal court Friday, during day-four of his and Sheriff Joe Arpaio's civil contempt trial in downtown Phoenix:
"It depends on how you define, `investigated your wife,'" said Sheridan, his face redder than a pack of Twizzlers.
Talk about a Bill Clinton moment.
Seems Sheridan doesn't believe that interviewing witnesses about statements allegedly made by federal Judge G. Murray Snow's spouse rises to the level of an "investigation."
Snow is the judge who ruled against the Sheriff's Office in the ACLU's big civil rights lawsuit Melendres v. Arpaio.
In 2013, Snow found the MCSO guilty of widespread racial profiling of Latinos. The judge ordered the MCSO to cease this activity.
But in 2011, Snow already had issued a preliminary injunction, prohibiting sheriff's deputies from enforcing federal civil immigration law.
The MCSO failed to follow that 2011 directive, which is one reason why Arpaio, Sheridan and three other current and former MCSO bigwigs are on trial before Snow for civil contempt, with the possibility that Snow could turn them over to another judge for criminal contempt proceedings.
Technically, the investigation into Snow's wife is a side issue. But hardly an unimportant one.
Sheridan says the MCSO's non-investigation investigation was prompted by a Facebook message to Arpaio.
According to Sheridan, the communication stated:
"I know Judge Snow's wife, she told me he hates you and wants to see you out of office."
Arpaio's attorney, Tim Casey, hired a private detective to look into it, said Sheridan, confirming Arpaio's testimony from the previous day.
The detective interviewed the woman who had spoken with Snow's wife, Cheri. Sheridan identified this woman as "Karen Grissom." The detective also talked to Grissom's husband and her son, regarding "the veracity of the statement."
See also: -Arpaio Cops to Investigating Federal Judge, Judge's Wife, Confirming New Times Story -Noose Tightens Around Arpaio's Neck as He Channels Ronnie Reagan in Day Two of Contempt Trial -MCSO Sergeant Implicates Arpaio in Willful Defiance of Federal Judge
Sheridan said Grissom's account was deemed credible.
What was the "endgame" of this probe, wondered Snow, as he questioned Sheridan, toward the end of Friday's court session?
"Nothing," replied, Sheridan, claiming it went no further.
On Thursday, after Casey's ex-client, Arpaio, threw Casey under the bus, identifying him as the person who hired a private detective to investigate Snow's spouse, Casey's flack said the following:
"Mr. Casey is confident that when the evidence the Court's monitor is gathering is reviewed, it will reveal that Mr. Casey was never involved in an investigation of Judge Snow or his family."
Interesting lawyer-speak, also echoing President Clinton's infamous statement during a deposition in the Monica Lewinsky scandal, that, "It depends upon what the meaning of the word 'is' is."
Because if Casey does not believe he was involved in an investigation, then it wasn't an investigation, right?
After court on Friday, Arpaio's mouthpiece, Mel McDonald, claimed the non-investigation investigation was legitimate and that it had not been part of an attempt to intimidate Snow or create a conflict of interest for the jurist.
"It was an inquiry, it ended there, it was not any kind of a witch hunt, case closed," he said.
He also said he didn't think Snow should recuse himself from the proceedings, which seems unlikely, in any case.
As we all know, investigating judges who rule against him is old hat for Joe.
Some of his targets on the bench have included former Maricopa County Superior Court judges Ana Baca, Barbara Mundell, and Gary Donahoe.
Donahoe perhaps was the most egregious to date.
In 2009, Arpaio and his onetime crony, ex-County Attorney Andy Thomas (now disbarred), ginned up bogus and later-dismissed accusations of bribery against the respected judge.
Then, there's Arpaio's 20-plus year history of abuse of power, targeting county supervisors, politicians, newspaper executives, and anyone who defies or criticizes him.
Casey, Sheridan, and McDonald can spin it any way they want.
But it's pretty obvious that Arpaio was targeting Snow and his family.
That's a federal crime, by the way, if anyone at the U.S. Attorney's Office is reading and has a pair.
Sheridan had even less success in explaining a secret MCSO investigation, which employed a Seattle computer guy named Dennis Montgomery, who is the subject of a fascinating Playboy expose titled "The Man Who Conned the Pentagon."
The chief deputy initially told the court, under questioning by defendants' attorney, Michelle Iafrate, that Montgomery had information about "computer tampering crimes" and purported to have evidence that the CIA had "hacked into 50,000 bank accounts in Maricopa County, and had the names and dollar amounts."
Sheridan told Iafrate that he and Arpaio had informed the Arizona Attorney General's Office, apparently under former AG Tom Horne.
Montgomery was hired as a confidential informant, paid for with the MCSO's RICO funds, Sheridan said.
Those involved in the investigation reported to Sheridan, and Arpaio was informed of the investigation's status.
Sheridan said he received "weekly updates," sometimes as many as twice a week, and that MCSO detectives Travis Anglin and Brian Mackiewicz were sent to Seattle for long periods of time at public expense.
(Note: So, too, apparently, was MCSO Cold Case Posse honcho Mike Zullo, as Arpaio indicated previously on the stand.)
When Snow took over the questioning, he wondered why detectives were sent to Seattle?
"We wanted to be there when [Montgomery] found something," Sheridan said.
Also, he said, Montgomery seemed to work harder when the deputies were around.
Montgomery told them he had data left over from his time doing work for the government, which the pseudo-guru promised he could "mine" with "super computers."
Sheridan also confirmed that the MCSO purchased computer equipment for Montgomery, but claimed it was never delivered.
Snow asked about Arpaio's testimony that the investigation involved U.S. Department of Justice wiretaps of Snow and other judges.
Sheridan said "the DOJ was on our radar" at one point and mentioned that an e-mail from the DOJ to Snow was part of the investigation -- , but he claimed that Montgomery did not have the content of the e-mail.
The chief deputy said Montgomery showed them "wiretap numbers that were my phone and the sheriff's," and he claimed that certain law firms doing work for the sheriff "had been breached."
A "sitting judge," who was a member of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act Court, informed the MCSO that such government wiretaps were routine, Sheridan stated.
"We were worried about the CIA tapping our phones," Sheridan testified.
But Montgomery ultimately gave them nothing usable.
"We finally realized he was stringing us along," Sheridan said.
So the MCSO no longer paid him, Sheridan claimed.
Snow asked if the MCSO had investigated "improper collusion between me and the DOJ," but Sheridan denied it.
Why designate Montgomery a CI? Why not hire him as a computer consultant?
Snow speculated that there was less potential for disclosure for a CI and that a CI's identity can be shielded.
Sheridan agreed, but he said "someone leaked" this CI's identity so that secrecy was no longer viable.
How much did this massive snipe hunt cost the taxpayers?
My sources suggest that it could be as much as $500,000 to $1 million, all told.
Tough for me to confirm that when the MCSO is denying my public-records requests on all things related to Dennis Montgomery.
It's happened before, this waste of MCSO money on some investigation into a tall tale told by a CI.
I'm thinking of a bogus death threat against Joe, which laughably, was supposed to involve the Minutemen, a well-known civil rights activist, and a drug cartel.
The MCSO investigated this nonsense to the tune of $500,000.
When I wrote about it back in 2007, I noted that the crackpot investigation involved,
...taking out a dairy ranch in the west Valley; flying to Simsbury, CT to interrogate the staff and students of the Ethel Walker School, a prep academy for girls; and taking pics in Mexico in a futile attempt to locate the mysterious "green house," where the plotters were reputedly receiving $1.5 mil up front in a suitcase of 100-dollar bills.
Sigh, chief deputies come and go, but some things never change.
My information is that Snow definitely was one of the targets of the Seattle investigation involving Montgomery. And Sheridan's bizarre mish-mosh of an explanation does not contradict that information.
There's much more that occurred on Friday, almost too much.
For instance, concerning the actual civil-contempt at issue, plaintiffs' attorney Cecillia Wang crushed Sheridan's credibility on direct examination, leaving it flattened like roadkill in the wake of a Cadillac Escalade.
During his colloquy with Sheridan, Snow also delved into the botched MCSO investigation of deputy Ramon "Charley" Armendariz, who committed suicide in May of last year.
Snow confirmed that some of the property belonging to others found at Armendariz's residence -- including credit cards, IDs, passports, debit cards, and gift cards -- had been obtained by other deputies.
Also, Snow signaled that the investigation had been closed too early -- and left the impression that the MCSO's investigations of its own wrongdoing on this subject are little more than whitewash.
More on these topics at a later date.
There will be another four days of testimony in June. Snow is not expected to rule until after that time.
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