Never doubt for one moment — notwithstanding his staged Reagan-esque gaps in memory under oath and his on-the-stand avowals of delegating authority — Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s total control over the MCSO.
Take the following example, borrowed from the transcript of MCSO Lieutenant Kim Seagraves’ recent deposition in the ongoing federal contempt trial of Arpaio, Chief Deputy Jerry Sheridan, and three other current and former MCSO honchos.
Seagraves, a 22-year veteran of the Sheriff’s Office, told attorneys what she knew of the MCSO’s Seattle operation, wherein computer consultant Dennis Montgomery served Arpaio as a paid confidential informant.
The ridiculous probe was an effort by the sheriff to undermine federal Judge G. Murray Snow, the jurist overseeing the big civil rights case Melendres v. Arpaio.
At the time, Seagraves was working under Captain Steve Bailey, who reported directly to Sheridan as commander of the Special Investigations Division.
Bailey was responsible for signing off on secret payments to confidential informants from county RICO funds, and according to Seagraves, the captain was concerned about the amount of money paid to Montgomery, as much as $10,000 a month at one time.
“Money was running low in the RICO account,” Seagraves explained.
Bailey told Seagraves that he went to the sheriff directly to express his doubts about spending more money on what seemed like an epic snipe hunt.
But Arpaio did not take this unsolicited information well.
“[Bailey] told me that the sheriff said, ‘I don’t care. You need to get the fucking money,’” Seagraves testified.
There has been no accounting yet of the total cost of the Seattle investigation, though my sources estimate that when all the man hours, plane trips, expenses, and direct payments are tallied, it could reach $1 million.
Montgomery himself was paid at least $120,000 by the MCSO.
It wasn’t the only time Arpaio was challenged by subordinates on this questionable caper.
The three investigators who had been spending a lot of time in Seattle with Montgomery during the yearlong investigation were Sergeant Travis Anglin, Detective Brian Mackiewicz, and a civilian, Cold Case Posse commander Mike Zullo.
Anglin similarly had reservations about what Montgomery was doing for the MCSO and about Montgomery’s ties to Zullo.
So not unlike White House counsel John Dean’s approaching President Nixon about “a cancer on the presidency,” Anglin went to Joe.
“Travis Anglin told me the sheriff wanted this so bad and [Anglin] told him he should distance himself from Mike Zullo and from Montgomery,” Seagraves remembered.
“The sheriff told [Anglin] something to the effect of . . . ‘Who the hell are you to tell me what to do?’”
No surprise what happened next.
“Travis was telling [Arpaio] that the [Seattle] investigation was not fruitful, [that] it was a waste of money,” Seagraves said.
“Mike Zullo was telling [Arpaio] the opposite. And so as a result of that . . . Sheridan called him and said, ‘You’re off the investigation.’”
Seagraves said Bailey also told her that early on in the probe “the sheriff had donated $10,000 of his own money” to the Cold Case Posse so Zullo “could use the money to travel to Seattle.”
Given that Arpaio is known for being notoriously cheap with his personal money, you have to wonder where that $10,000 came from.
During the April phase of his contempt trial, Arpaio averred under oath that he had not been in charge of the Seattle investigation, specifically the Judge Snow aspect of it.
As we can see from Seagraves testimony, this clearly is not true.
Nor do we have to rely solely on Seagraves’ memory.
There also are the memories of Bailey, Anglin, and, most damning, Arpaio’s ex-lawyer in Melendres, Tim Casey.
These men also were deposed by the plaintiffs in anticipation of the second round of hearings in Arpaio’s trial, scheduled to begin Thursday, September 24.
Parts of their recent testimonies are in the court record. I revealed some highlights from these transcripts in a recent blog post.
Casey was ordered to testify by Snow, over the objections of Casey’s attorney on the grounds of attorney-client privilege.
Arpaio’s former mouthpiece told of a meeting at the MCSO’s old headquarters, either in late 2013 or early 2014.
The Montgomery investigation had begun in September or October 2013.
Present at the meeting, according to Casey, were Deputy County Attorney Tom Liddy and Arpaio’s attorneys on a parallel lawsuit brought by the U.S. Department of Justice, John Masterson and Joe Popolizio.
On the speaker-phone were two MCSO employees calling from Seattle who apparently explained what Montgomery had unearthed: an anti-Arpaio conspiracy gleaned “from some sort of NSA/CIA data dump” to which Montgomery, a former CIA contractor, had access.
Flow charts and timelines of the conspiracy, apparently created by Montgomery, connected Judge Snow to the U.S. Department of Justice, former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, the law firm of Covington and Burling (which represents the plaintiffs), and numerous others.
“Hogwash” was what the lawyers in the room thought of the conspiracy theory, Casey said.
“I remember talking to my co-counsel [Liddy],” Casey stated for the record. “It was a dead issue in my book. It was worthless. It was vindictive. And we would have no part of it.”
But Casey said there was one person in the room who believed Montgomery’s tall tale: “My client, Joe Arpaio.”
Anglin recalled a similar meeting in January 2014, with Arpaio and some of the same people present, but with Montgomery calling in from Seattle this time.
The conspiracy flow chart was part of the discussion. Anglin asked Montgomery how he had come up with it.
Montgomery gave those attending his regular spiel about it coming from American citizens’ information “harvested” by the CIA, for whom he’d once been a contractor.
Arpaio had an odd question for Montgomery, according to Anglin: “I specifically remember [Arpaio] asking Montgomery [that] if all of this information is true, and [if] he had in fact taken items from the CIA that proved that [the CIA was] harvesting information illegally from the U.S. public, [then why hadn’t Montgomery] been assassinated.”
Anglin further testified that extensive travel to Seattle and back by himself, Mackiewicz, and Zullo was “ordered by Sheriff Arpaio.”
Both Anglin and Bailey recalled in their depositions that they challenged Arpaio on the legitimacy of the Seattle probe, to no avail.
During his April testimony, Snow asked Arpaio about the Seattle operation, as first revealed by New Times in June 2014, asking the sheriff about the article’s assertion that Arpaio had been investigating Snow as part of some wacky conspiracy.
“It’s not true,” Arpaio swore, while confirming most of the other information in the piece.
Sheridan backed up Arpaio in April, trotting out a cover story that the investigation had to do with the CIA’s hacking 50,000 Maricopa County bank accounts.
Total malarkey, belied by the MCSO’s attempts at a coverup, which included filing Montgomery’s 51 hard drives of work product (i.e., the alleged CIA-harvested info) under “found property,” where it would not easily be located.
As with a separate investigation of Snow’s wife for a comment she allegedly made (that her husband wanted to end Arpaio’s career) in a Tempe eatery in 2012, one goal for Arpaio was conflicting Snow off the case.
Both investigations were cited by Arpaio’s attorneys in a motion to have Snow recuse himself, a motion rejected by Snow and denied by the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
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But there was another motive on Arpaio’s part: revenge for Snow’s 2013 ruling against him in Melendres, wherein the judge found the MCSO guilty of racial profiling and placed it under the watchful eye of a court monitor.
Hence Casey’s use of the word “vindictive,” to describe the Seattle probe.
There are other words that could describe these and the sheriff’s other monkeyshines in Melendres.
Perjury, criminal contempt, and obstruction of justice — to name a few.