Joe Arpaio's Birther Buddy in Court, While Joe Whines for Cash

Sheriff Joe Arpaio's birther-prober, Mike Zullo, attended a telephonic hearing before federal Judge G. Murray Snow on Tuesday, phoning in to a nearly deserted courtroom to discuss pending issues in Arpaio's ongoing contempt trial. 

Zullo was on the line with about 16 attorneys for the various parties in the case. Snow asked if Zullo was representing himself, and he said he was.

"Not that I really want to be," Zullo told the judge. "I want counsel."

According to recent pro se court filings, the sheriff's Cold Case Posse commander also wants Maricopa County to pay for his lawyer, saying that Arpaio's attorneys — John Masterson and Joe Popolizio of Jones, Skelton, Hochuli — only recently informed him that they do not represent him, despite public comments they've made to the contrary.

But it's not just the Jones, Skelton law firm that's cutting Zullo loose. Maricopa County's counsel in the contempt trial, Richard Walker, has filed a notice with the court stating that the county will not pay for Zullo's attorney.

Walker was present via phone at the courtroom teleconference on Tuesday and restated the county's position.

Snow told Zullo that he "didn't see any purpose" in ruling in favor of Zullo's request for an extension of time, since the county was not inclined to provide counsel for him.

Plus, Zullo is not named as a defendant in the case, Snow observed.
Currently, Zullo is the last witness for the plaintiffs. He has yet to be deposed, because when he appeared at what was supposed to be his October 23 deposition, he invoked his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination, refusing to be questioned until he obtained a lawyer.

Zullo says Popolizio told him two days before the deposition that Jones, Skelton does not represent him. He claims that Jones, Skelton misled him, telling him he was represented by the firm, when he wasn't.

"I feel like I'm in limbo," Zullo told the court. "I've basically been abandoned."

Zullo continued, stating that it was "unnerving" to appear by telephone "with lawyers of this caliber."

Masterson, who was also on the phone, said he disagreed with Zullo's characterization of his firm's actions. That's when Snow had a come-to-Jesus moment with Zullo.

"It seems to me pretty clear," the judge told Zullo, "if you're going to have a lawyer, you're going to have to pay for it yourself."

Regarding Zullo's motion for a protective order on 87 documents in the possession of Jones, Skelton, which have yet to be made available to the plaintiffs, Snow told the posse man that the plaintiffs had responded to his motion, and that he was giving Zullo until noon Friday to reply.

Snow also scheduled oral arguments on Zullo's motion for Friday, 3:30 p.m., after which he will rule. 

The rest of the teleconference was taken up with further scheduling. Snow suggested November 9 for Zullo's deposition, and both the plaintiffs and Zullo seemed open to that. (Since then, that date has been finalized, according to the court record.)

Snow also set the contempt trial to reconvene on November 10, while November 12 and 13 are being held open, in case they are needed. (November 11 is a federal holiday.)

The defense intends to call Captain Russ Skinner of the MCSO's court compliance division, and re-call Chief Deputy Jerry Sheridan, who is suffering from back problems. 
Masterson spoke cryptically of Sheridan's condition.

Without mentioning a name, Masterson said, "The witness is having the procedure as we speak" and was "under general anesthesia."

Still, the attorney said the "witness" would be ready by the end of next week. Otherwise, a replacement witness will be found.

It's anticipated that Skinner and Sheridan, or whomever replaces the latter, will testify about how hard the MCSO has been working to comply with Snow's orders. No joke.

Final oral arguments in the contempt trial previously had been scheduled for November 10, but the Zullo situation and Sheridan's condition have gummed up the works.

Meanwhile, as Joe-loyalists like Zullo worry about paying for an attorney and MCSO Lieutenant Joe Sousa is reduced to begging for money to pay his criminal defense lawyer through a GoFundMe account, Arpaio sends out almost daily e-mail appeals for cash for his legal defense fund.

And, no, the sheriff ain't sharing.

Joe and his amoral moneyman Chad Willems know there's a sucker born every minute. In the latest e-mail, Joe complains that he's just a "county sheriff, not some super-wealthy celebrity attorney."

"I simply do not have the personal wealth to pay the fees for my defense against these lawsuits," reads the mass e-mail.

"It seems to me pretty clear," the judge told Zullo, "if you're going to have a lawyer, you're going to have to pay for it yourself."

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Thing is, Arpaio does have the personal wealth to pay for his criminal defense. He and his wife Ava are millionaires, wealthy landowners, with high-priced properties in Scottsdale.

Moreover, the county is picking up the massive tab for Arpaio's civil defense attorneys, not Joe. 

For good reason, the county does not pay for criminal defense attorneys. So Joe's on his own there, though he fails to explain this nuance to the chumps on his e-mail list.

The only reason Arpaio needs money for legal beagles is because he faces the prospect of prosecution for federal crimes — everything from criminal contempt of court to perjury to obstruction of justice to the commission of so-called inchoate crimes, like the purchase of material believed to have been stolen.

Let this be a lesson to those who follow Joe: When it comes to Arpaio, mafia rules apply. That is, everyone is expendable, save for Don Arpaio, who always has a battery of lawyers at his beck and call, unlike his underlings, who must fight for just one. 
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Stephen is a former staff writer and columnist at Phoenix New Times.
Contact: Stephen Lemons