I recently obtained paperwork related to the MCSO's July 30 arrest of Phoenix civil rights leader Salvador Reza. The file is chock full of absurd, asinine attempts by the sheriff's office to deflect criticism for this outrageous, thuggish collar.
One involves Fox 10 News reporter Miriam Garcia. The MCSO report suggests that Garcia relayed crucial information to sheriff's deputies, information that the MCSO claims justified Reza's arrest.
You'll recall that an MCSO goon squad crossed four lanes of traffic to pinch Reza, who was observing an act of civil disobedience by a group of protesters outside the entrance to an MCSO facility near 35th Avenue and Lower Buckeye Road.
An outspoken, persistent critic of Sheriff Joe Arpaio, Reza had been arrested the day before along with several others in civil disobedience outside Arpaio's Fourth Avenue Jail. On July 30, he was preparing to leave a parking lot across the street from where Joe had established his command post for the MCSO's latest anti-immigrant sweep. That's when the bulls strolled across the thoroughfare and nabbed him.
Following Reza's false arrest, the MCSO claimed in its probable cause statement to the court that Reza had violated the terms of his release on the July 29 arrest. (You can read the probable cause statement and the other docs, here.)
Reza was not to "initiate contact" with "alleged victims" or "arresting officers." The MCSO argued that Reza had done this, even though he was across the street from them.
However, both the judge and the prosecutor on hand for Reza's initial appearance agreed that there was no probable cause for the arrest.
After all, the MCSO instigated contact with Reza, not vice versa. Days later, Maricopa County Attorney Rick Romley agreed that there had been no probable cause to arrest Reza, based on footage of the arrest and on the MCSO's own description of it. The charge that Reza had violated the terms of his release was dropped like a hot rock.
Video of Reza's capture went viral on YouTube. The New York Times denounced the arrest as "a scene from another decade or country." Currently, Reza's attorney Stephen Montoya, the first lawyer to attack SB 1070 in oral arguments before district court Judge Susan R. Bolton, is preparing a lawsuit on Reza's behalf, which he says will be filed soon.
So perhaps it's not surprising that the MCSO would want to play a little defense in its report on the incident. In it, Garcia is essentially used as a shield.
MCSO flack Brian Lee states in a supplemental report and an e-mail to other sheriff's office honchos that Garcia approached him before the July 30 civil disobedience took place and told him that Reza had tipped her off that something was about to go down.
"I think that it is important," Lee wrote in the e-mail, "given the fact that a prosecutor claimed that there was no probable cause to arrest Reza that Miriam Garcia from Channel 10 approached me Friday just before the incident and stated that Reza told her that they may want to stick around because his people were about to block our entrance and try to get arrested."
Lee repeats this line in his supplemental report. And in the main MCSO report, Deputy J. Clapper uses Lee's statements to bolster the MCSO's Third World-style police action.
Clapper says Reza "committed a criminal act by assisting with the facilitation of blocking the exit to the MCSO training facility." How does the MCSO "know" this? Because of what Garcia supposedly told Lee.
But according to the people who actually blocked the facility, the civil disobedience was spontaneous and was not planned by Reza.
One of the protesters, Sarahi Uribe, told me that she and the others decided to block the MCSO entrance "about a half hour" before it happened. And Reza's participation in the civil disobedience?
"He had absolutely no involvement in the planning or coordination of it," she explained.
I should note that all charges against Uribe and the others involved in this particular action were dropped. Even if Reza had some advance knowledge, it would not justify his arrest.
Hell, if Reza had organized it, which isn't the case, there's this little thing called the First Amendment, and that trumps the MCSO's ridiculous conspiracy theories.
I called Garcia yesterday, asking for her response to what Lee says in the MCSO docs. She told me she wanted to check with her boss at Fox 10 before saying anything. I left messages for her on her cell phone and her office line today, but have yet to hear back from her.
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Since a legal action on his behalf is pending, Reza referred me to his lawyer Stephen Montoya. Montoya didn't want to comment on the specifics of the MCSO report.
"I'll be happy to comment when our lawsuit is on file with the federal court," Montoya told me. "And it won't be long."
I'm sure that the MCSO framed its report in anticipation of just such a lawsuit.
But that lawsuit can't come fast enough. The MCSO's arrest of Reza on July 30 was vindictive and typical of the agency. One should expect that they will attempt to gin something up on Reza again. Particularly when Arpaio's boy Bill Montgomery becomes County Attorney in November.