During a status conference Thursday in Sheriff Joe's never-ending contempt case, federal Judge G. Murray Snow laid some much-deserved wood to Arpaio and to his chief deputy, Jerry Sheridan, blasting them for ginning up a "bogus conspiracy theory" against his court.
According to Snow, the conspiracy theory resulted from Arpaio's use of Dennis Montgomery, an alleged Seattle-based computer guru, whom the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office employed as a confidential informant in an unorthodox, convoluted investigation.
Sources tell me that investigation lasted more than a year and involved spending as much as $500,000 to $1 million in county funds.
Reading from a prepared statement, Snow addressed the "great number of documents" unearthed from the MCSO's Seattle operation and mentioned about 50 given to him by the MCSO's court-appointed monitor, "that cause me great concern."
Snow said they revealed "an attempt to construct a conspiracy involving this court" and various other entities and individuals, including the U.S. Department of Justice, former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, former Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon, and ex-MCSO Executive Chief Brian Sands, among others.
These alleged conspirators intended to "covertly investigate the MCSO," according to Snow's version of the bizarre plot.
Montgomery supposedly claimed to have reconstructed e-mails between the DOJ and Snow and told the office that he could "track telephone calls between this court and the DOJ."
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Additionally, the documents alleged that in 2009, when then-U.S. District Court Judge Mary Murguia (now at the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals) recused herself from Melendres v. Arpaio, the court's method of picking another judge somehow was subverted so that Snow became the trial judge.
In an excess of paranoia, Arpaio, et al., also believed that the federal court was attempting to tap their phones, Snow stated.
Snow noted that both Arpaio and Sheridan had admitted in previous testimony that the documents received from Montgomery ultimately were found to be "not credible" and that Arpaio had agreed with Snow's characterization of the material as "junk."
The MCSO should have been using the money spent on the Seattle investigation to comply with his orders in Melendres, Snow opined.
Instead, Arpaio's agency wasted it by concocting a "bogus conspiracy theory to discredit this court."
Sound familiar? It should. That's the drum I've been banging since I first wrote about Arpaio's Seattle escapade in June of last year.
Thing is, when Sheridan was questioned by Snow during a four-day hearing in April about Montgomery and the Seattle investigation, the chief deputy denied that the probe had anything to do with an alleged conspiracy theory involving the judge.
On day four of that hearing, Snow asked Sheridan if he ever had heard the sheriff describe Montgomery's work "as an investigation of a conspiracy...between the Department of Justice and me?"
Sheridan replied in the negative.
Snow then asked if Sheridan ever heard Arpaio describe Montgomery's work as an investigation of the judge to anyone at the MCSO?
"No," he said. "As a matter of fact, I made quite sure...in the presence of the sheriff, with Sergeant [Travis] Anglin and Detective [Brian] Mackiewicz when this information came forward...I told them that this is a direct order from me. `You are not to investigate any information involving Judge Snow.''"
(Mackiewicz, Anglin and Cold Case Posse commander Mike Zullo were flown to Seattle numerous times by the MCSO as part of the investigation.)
On the stand in April, Sheridan reluctantly confirmed many of the details of my initial June 2014 column exposing the MCSO's Seattle snipe hunt.
Yet at one point in his April testimony, when asked by defense attorney Michele Iafrate if my article was accurate, Sheridan brusquely replied, "Absolutely not."
What a difference a couple of weeks makes.
When I looked over at Sheridan as the judge admonished him Thursday morning, Sheridan's glazed-over eyes seemed to be watching his law enforcement career ebb away before him, along with any credibility he may have had.
Snow's latest bombshell is one of many dropped during the civil contempt trial, which began in April and will continue in June for at least two weeks.
In it, Arpaio, Sheridan and three more current and former MCSO bigwigs face allegations of defying the court's orders in Melendres.
Sheridan and Arpaio have admitted to civil contempt. Observers anticipate that Snow eventually will refer the case to another judge for criminal contempt proceedings.
Revelations concerning the Seattle inquiry and a separate probe into alleged statements made by Snow's wife, Cheri ,have raised the prospect that other federal laws may have been broken by MCSO satraps, including perjury, obstruction of justice, depriving civil rights under the color of law, and intimidation of a federal judge.
At Thursday's hearing, Snow also spoke to revelations that emerged last year in the wake of the alleged suicide of ex-MCSO deputy Charley "Ramon" Armendariz, whose home was found to have IDs and other property seized from Hispanics who had been stopped by MCSO deputies.
These were members of the "plaintiff class," Snow said, and were "commonly exposed to deprivations" not discussed during the 2012 trial in Melendres.
Such seizure practices were "widespread" in the MCSO, according to Snow, and the internal investigations the MCSO conducted following Armendariz's suicide were compromised by the MCSO's making Captain Steve Bailey head of its internal affairs division, now known as the Professional Standards Bureau.
Bailey previously headed up the MCSO's Special Investigations Division, which oversaw Arpaio's notorious Human Smuggling Unit, of which Armendariz had been a part.
Snow said there was an attempt by the sheriff's office to keep these internal affairs investigations "in the hands of relatively few people."
The judge also mentioned that evidence had been destroyed, and that investigations were run "to exonerate those [the MCSO] wished to clear."
Since the Seattle operation was an attempt to improperly influence the court in Melendres, Snow said that his monitor Robert Warshaw has the authority to investigate all matters involving it.
In fact, the monitor has "been busy" trying to "follow the money trail" of the Seattle investigation, the judge said.
Iafrate objected to the expansion of the monitor's bailiwick, complaining that the contempt hearing was "morphing," and that the due process rights of her clients could be trampled as a result.
Snow told Iafrate that her clients could always plead the Fifth Amendment if the monitor came calling.
In another development, Snow shot down an attempt by right-wing attorney Larry Klayman of the organization Freedom Watch to intervene on behalf of Montgomery.
To this end, Klayman's fellow attorney, Jonathon Moseley, applied to the court to be admitted temporarily, or, pro hac vice.
Moseley would need to appear pro hac vice in order for the court to consider a motion to intervene or a request that Snow disqualify himself from the case.
Snow said he invited Moseley to attend Thursday's hearing by telephone. But Moseley was a no-show.
The judge pointed out that Freedom Watch represented Arpaio in a federal lawsuit challenging President Obama's immigration policies.
But in Melendres, Freedom Watch wanted to intervene for Montgomery, over material Arpaio had agreed was "junk."
"I'm going to deny his [motion] to appear pro hac vice because it would create a conflict in this case," Snow said.
Snow also ordered that the motion to intervene be stricken from the record. Ditto a motion for Snow to recuse himself.
On Tuesday, the Ninth Circuit handed Klayman a similar defeat, denying the attorney's request to compel Snow to recuse himself from the contempt hearing.
Like Snow, the Ninth Circuit told Klayman no, advising him, "No further filings will be entertained..."
Lastly, both Iafrate and Snow said in court the CIA was aware of a letter sent to the intelligence agency at Snow's request, asking if the CIA had any proprietary interest in the two terabytes of data dump Montgomery gave the MCSO.
Snow said he would allow the CIA another week to reply.
The status conferences in the case are now weekly, leading up to the June hearings.
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(Note: This article has been altered slightly from its original version for clarity.)