Stephen Lemons Column

As Arpaio's Trial Approaches, More MCSO Shenanigans Pop Out of the Woodwork

During an August 28 status conference in Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s never-ending contempt proceedings before federal Judge G. Murray Snow, one of Arpaio’s many lawyers, the sly, irrepressible John Masterson let drop two tidbits, each suggestive of revelations to come.

Both involved new documents Masterson said he’d just been informed of, so he was informing the court of same.

The first was a two-page memo from two former employees of the super-secret National Security Agency who were retained as experts by the MCSO to suss out the legitimacy of 50 hard drives of data given to the Sheriff’s Office by Arpaio’s paid confidential informant, Dennis Montgomery.

The MCSO alleges that Montgomery, a supposed Seattle computer guru, told the MCSO that these 50 hard drives contained material culled by the CIA from tens of thousands of ordinary citizens, including banking records, e-mails, and records of phone calls.

For his work regarding this data, Montgomery was paid more than $120,000 by the MCSO in an investigation that my sources tell me may have cost about $1 million total
As I first revealed over a year ago, this investigation was part of an effort to flesh out a whack conspiracy theory to “get Joe” involving a list of perceived enemies, including Snow, other judges, former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, the U.S. Department of Justice, former Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon, ex-MCSO executive chief Brian Sands, and the starting lineup of the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Okay, that last one was a joke, but the D-backs wouldn’t have been noticed in the scrambled flow chart Montgomery produced for the MCSO, according to court records.

Masterson summarized the newly discovered memo, dated November 2014.

“It says there’s basically nothing here,” Masterson told the court.

This may explain a reference to “NSA advisors” in a 2014 e-mail string published in court records that included Montgomery, MCSO detective Brian Mackiewicz, Cold Case Posse commander Mike Zullo, and Montgomery’s attorney Larry Klayman.

In one e-mail, Mackiewicz mentions that the MCSO used unnamed experts to look into Montgomery’s 50 hard drives, but they found bupkis.

“Dennis Montgomery represented the hard drives contained classified and sensitive information that he obtained while working . . . as a CIA contractor,” Mackiewicz wrote in one e-mail.

He continued:

“When our experts examined the information contained on the drives, not only did the numerous drives NOT contain any classified or sensitive information, they [instead contained] data dumps of . . . hours off video feeds for Al Jazeera news . . .”

Now, why, if the MCSO knew this data was bogus, would it hide the existence of the 50 hard drives from Snow’s monitor over the MCSO, Robert Warshaw, eventually causing Snow to order U.S. Marshals to seize the evidence in July?
After all, both Arpaio and MCSO Chief Deputy Jerry Sheridan agreed when they testified during the first round of contempt hearings in April that what Montgomery had given them was “junk.”

One reason: The hard drives might be evidence of what former U.S. Attorney Paul Charlton called an “inchoate crime,” in this case, perhaps purchasing what was believed to be classified material, even though it wasn’t classified.

Add to it, the hard drives could be evidence of possible criminal contempt by Sheridan and Arpaio, in that the two men apparently believed Montgomery’s wares might help them conflict Snow off the ACLU’s big civil rights case, Melendres v. Arpaio, which Arpaio lost in May 2013.

At the very least, hiding these hard drives would go toward further demonstrating a pattern of ongoing resistance by the MCSO to Snow’s orders in Melendres.

The second revelation was one Masterson reluctantly brought up at the end of the August 28 status conference.

Seems more than 60 IDs, confiscated from Latinos by MCSO deputies, mysteriously had “showed up” and been given to Masterson.

This is in addition to the 1,500 such IDs that Snow had ordered seized by the marshals at the same time they secured these 50 hard drives.
And it’s in addition to other caches of IDs that have been uncovered since an investigation into the illicit activities and alleged suicide of ex-MCSO Deputy Ramon Charley Armendariz.

That investigation revealed Armendariz’s own immense stash of IDs, wallets, purses, and other property that he swiped from Latinos while a member of Arpaio’s now-disbanded Human Smuggling Unit.

Remember when the MCSO told us Armendariz was a “rogue” law enforcement officer?

In fact, Armendariz was representative of many in his agency.

So much so that periodic eruptions of undisclosed evidence surprise even Arpaio’s lawyers.

And embarrass them. Masterson was clearly chagrined, since Judge Snow previously has ordered all such evidence be turned over, time and time again.

Indeed, Masterson’s colleague on the defense table, Michelle Iafrate, informed the court that day that she had six employees reviewing nonstop the tens of thousands of documents that already were due to be given to the plaintiffs.

This is why Masterson’s suggestion during the status conference that the defense and the plaintiffs possibly could hammer out a settlement in time to avoid the second round of hearings to begin September 22 was so ballsy.

Or ridiculous, depending on your point of view.
Stanley Young of the law firm Covington & Burling, which has partnered with the ACLU in Melendres, quickly threw a bucket of sand on Masterson’s firecracker, noting that the plaintiffs had not gotten all requested documents from the defendants and still were scheduling times for depositions.

Young shared that lawyers for the plaintiffs had been receiving “a lot of information relevant to any remedies” to Arpaio and Sheridan’s civil contempt of the court.

In other words, good try, John.

Arpaio and his attorneys did everything in their power to avoid the April hearings, even going so far as Arpaio and Sheridan’s admitting to civil contempt of Snow’s court and offering $100,000 from Joe’s own pocket as a fine.

But the April hearings proceeded and proved very damaging to Arpaio and Sheridan, with their having to admit both to the Seattle operation and to the investigation of Judge Snow’s wife over an offhand comment she allegedly made at a Tempe eatery in 2012.

In a previous status conference, Masterson told Snow that he didn’t want “any surprises” in round two of the contempt hearings.

But that’s exactly what we’ll probably get, and Masterson knows he cannot control what will happen in Snow’s court. 
Nearly a continent away, before a federal judge in Florida, Montgomery is suing New York Times reporter James Risen over allegations he made in his book Pay Any Price: Greed, Power and Endless War, which Montgomery claims are libelous.

Seems Risen’s attorneys want copies of the software Montgomery supposedly wrote when he was working on behalf of the CIA and the U.S. military.

Risen’s allegations are that Montgomery’s work product was no good, so the defense wants to see if the vaunted software works.

But in a recent evidentiary hearing, Klayman told the judge that Montgomery no longer had the software and had just turned it over to the FBI, receiving a promise of some sort of immunity in the process.

Klayman claimed federal Judge Royce Lamberth, former head of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act court, had been involved in an advisory capacity in this process.

Lamberth, as I’ve written previously, is the federal judge believed to have met with Montgomery, Klayman, Mackiewicz, and others regarding the Seattle investigation.

The judge has declined comment on the matter.

This is the sort of stuff that will continue to bubble to the surface, both in the Risen case and in Arpaio’s contempt proceedings.

Plus, once the civil portion of the contempt proceedings are done, and Snow, as many anticipate, refers a criminal contempt allegation against Arpaio and Sheridan to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, there may be criminal proceedings.

Where, Lord willing, even more of Joe’s dirty deeds will be exposed to the light of day.
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Stephen is a former staff writer and columnist at Phoenix New Times.
Contact: Stephen Lemons