Subpoenas Show Arpaio's Woes in Contempt Trial Just Beginning

Given current events, Sheriff Joe Arpaio should consider changing his theme song from Frank Sinatra's "My Way" to the Beatles' "Yesterday."

Two subpoenas issued by lawyers for the plaintiffs in the federal contempt trial of Arpaio, his chief deputy, Jerry Sheridan, and three other current and former MCSO big-shots, signal that Arpaio's troubles are here to stay.

One of the subpoenas recently was served on its target, Cold Case Posse commander Mike Zullo, demanding his presence at an October 7 deposition and his testimony during the contempt trial at an undetermined date.

Per the same subpoena, the birther Inspector Clouseau will have to fork over to the plaintiffs e-mails and other written communications, electronic and otherwise, that mention the MCSO or related matters, such as Arpaio's highly paid confidential informant, Dennis Montgomery.

During the first two days of hearings, which resume this morning, Sheridan testified that the so-called Seattle investigation, of which Montgomery was at the center, cost taxpayers (at least) $250,000.

He's also admitted authorizing the purchase of $50,000 in computer equipment for Montgomery, and signing off on flight and travel expenses for Zullo and two non-civilian investigators, MCSO Sergeant Travis Anglin and Detective Brian Mackiewicz.

Additionally, Sheridan said on the stand that he okayed the rental of a four-bedroom house in Seattle for 44 nights for Mackiewicz and the boys.

Given all this, you can see why I think the estimate of $1 million total for the Seattle operation, offered by my sources, remains credible.

Totals aside, where did the money for this largesse come from?

Mostly from the MCSO's RICO account, money resulting from asset forfeitures.

Though it's public money, Arpaio has treated it like a personal slush fund to pay for controversial projects.

You know, like ginning up a bogus conspiracy with which to undermine a federal judge.

Sheridan also testified that at least some of the money for the investigation was siphoned from grants to the MCSO provided by the federal High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area program.

As for the MCSO's RICO account, Sheridan affirmed under oath that Special Investigations Captain Steve Bailey once expressed concern that the Seattle probe was costing too much money — and was “exhausting” the agency's RICO account in the process.

“I don't care,” Arpaio told Bailey, according to one deposition. “You need to get the fucking money.”

Asked about the quote in court, Sheridan would not say that Arpaio dropped an F-bomb, but he admitted that the “sentiment” of the quote was correct.

The most explosive testimony this week probably will come from Tim Casey, Arpaio's former attorney, who took himself off the case late last year.

As reported previously, Casey's already given his deposition, during which he was ordered to testify by the jurist in the case, U.S. District Court Judge G. Murray Snow.

In that deposition, Casey described a meeting in late 2013/early 2014 attended by himself, Arpaio, and other attorneys.

Appearing by phone was Montgomery, who outlined a fantastic anti-Arpaio conspiracy involving Snow, the U.S. Department of Justice, and various others.

Casey said the lawyers' consensus was that Montgomery’s spiel was “hogwash.”

As for himself, he judged the fake conspiracy aimed at Snow and the DOJ to be “vindictive.”

But Arpaio, of course, was all for it.

Which brings us to another subpoena recently issued by the plaintiffs, ordering that the phone/Internet provider Level 3 Communications turn over phone and fax information for an address in Bellevue, Washington once owned by Dennis Montgomery.

The subpoena also inquires about a Bellevue phone number recently mentioned by plaintiffs' counsel in the contempt proceedings.

Stanley Young of the firm Covington and Burling, which along with the ACLU represents the plaintiffs in the underlying court case, Melendres v. Arpaio, described during the first day of the trial a fax to Arpaio that came from this same Bellevue number.

The fax, “received and reviewed by Sheriff Arpaio,” Young said, is a timeline of the supposed conspiracy, “with references to members of the [DOJ] and to the Melendres case.”

Attached to the fax, and part of a two-page exhibit, is “a typewritten document by Sheriff Arpaio,” Young said, which “refers to a November 6, 2013 telephone call received by the sheriff.”

Young's colleague, Cecillia Wang of the ACLU, followed up with Sheridan about the exhibit during her merciless two-day interrogation of the chief deputy.

Sheridan confirmed to Wang that Arpaio uses a manual typewriter, like the one used for the second page of the document and that the handwriting at the top of that page resembles Arpaio's.

The typewritten page has yet to be made public. But documents apparently produced by Montgomery, such as the timeline mentioned above and a flow chart of the conspiracy, have been published in the court record.

The exhibit discussed by Young and Wang could well be a smoking gun, proving that Arpaio was aware that the Seattle probe was an investigation of Snow, the DOJ, and others.

Why is this important? After all, Arpaio has retaliated against and investigated judges before and gotten away with it.

Because during the first round of Arpaio's contempt hearings in April, Arpaio testified under oath that he had not investigated Snow or a conspiracy involving him.

Though he clearly did just that.

I should point out that the Seattle investigation is but one part of the contempt hearings. 

Still, the Seattle job goes to Arpaio's state of mind and his hunger for revenge, of which anyone who lives in Maricopa County is well aware.

The endgame here is not proving civil contempt. Both Arpaio and Sheridan copped to that before the trial got under way in April, in a gambit to avoid trial.

But that gambit failed, and Snow asked both men about the Seattle investigation during the April hearings.

Ditto an investigation of Judge Snow's wife – for allegedly telling an acquaintance back in 2012 that Snow despised Arpaio and wanted him out of office.

It's Snow's call as to whether he refers the Arpaio contempt case for criminal prosecution, in addition to any civil remedies he may order.

Snow can and probably will impose fines. And the plaintiffs' detailed examination of how the MCSO handles, or better said, mishandles internal affairs cases, could lead to enhanced power for the court-appointed monitor over the MCSO, Robert Warshaw.

Indeed, the plaintiffs' attorneys have demonstrated that the MCSO's IA process is corrupted through and through with cronyism and incompetence.

For example, Sheridan admitted under questioning that he never ordered that a criminal IA be opened into the cache of drugs discovered at the residence of former Deputy Ramon “Charley” Armendariz.

Heroin, cocaine, marijuana, and meth were found at Armendariz's house, some of it still in MCSO evidence bags.

Other MCSO employees could have transported drugs to the residence, since it's known that some of the hundreds of other improperly seized items at Armendariz's home had been taken there by others working for the MCSO.

But after Armendariz's death by suicide, why would the MCSO want to investigate itself criminally? Whitewash is so much easier.

In fact, according to Sheridan, just one major case of discipline came out of the Armendariz affair, and the chief deputy on the receiving end was promoted to “executive chief,” while an administrative IA (as opposed to a criminal one) still was under way.

Arpaio, Sheridan, and the MCSO as a whole should be worried.

Plaintiffs' counsel are going to put everyone they can on the stand: Casey, the IA investigators, Zullo, Mackiewicz, and of course, Arpaio, who likely will testify Wednesday.

Methodically, the plaintiffs are laying the groundwork for Snow to make a referral for criminal contempt for Arpaio, Sheridan, and perhaps others.

When they are finished, Snow will have little reason to stay his hand.

Arpaio's only hope is that the case goes to the U.S. Attorney's Office, which has proven spineless in the past when it comes to holding the sheriff accountable.

A better option would be the appointment by Snow of a special prosecutor, which is possible under the law, so Arpaio and his lackeys could be hit with the criminal punishment they deserve.

For live Tweets during breaks in the contempt hearings, follow @StephenLemons or search #ArpaioContempt on Twitter.
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Stephen is a former staff writer and columnist at Phoenix New Times.
Contact: Stephen Lemons