Feathered Bastard

ACORN Subpoena at Odds with Joe Arpaio's Statements; MCSO Claims ACORN Was Served Properly

ACORN's passed along to me this subpoena that Sheriff Joe Arpaio's been bragging about to the media, and though it's a clear fishing expedition on the part of Arpaio's attorney in the Melendres v. Arpaio case, let's just say that it doesn't exactly jibe with what the sheriff's office has asserted in its Thursday press release concerning the order.

As I mentioned in a recent blog post, the MCSO's statement makes it seem as if Arpaio's legal beagle Timothy J. Casey is subpoenaing financial records from ACORN. He is not. Rather, he has subpoenaed "e-mails, written correspondence, and/or documents of any type" between ACORN and the Department of Homeland Security, ACORN and ICE, ACORN and the U.S. Department of Justice, ACORN and the ACLU, ACORN and MALDEF, ACORN and Mayor Phil Gordon, and ACORN and Somos America.

Casey's asking for all correspondence going back to January 1, 2008, regarding Maricopa County, the MCSO, Sheriff Joe, the Melendres suit, Joe's 287(g) authority, and so on. Casey even includes a check for $40, apparently for copies. That's somewhat ironic, considering that Joe's griping about the possibility that ACORN's "funding the protesters outside my office." (You can read the entire subpoena, here.)

What's the point of Casey asking for these communications to and from ACORN, when they are not a party to, in any way, the Melendres v. Arpaio claim? Well, if ACORN complies, Joe might be able to find out what ACORN's told the feds about him. Also, who's to say Casey wouldn't float some subpoena like this just to please his clients? Arpaio would love to jump on the bash-ACORN bandwagon, and a subpoena like this helps him do it.

The MCSO issued yet another press release on the matter today, claiming that they did serve the D.C. office of ACORN (even though that's not the corporate headquarters of ACORN). The MCSO statement says that a woman by the name of Denise Johnson accepted service in D.C. But ACORN's attorney Arthur Schwartz told me that Johnson is actually an employee of the American Institute for Social Justice. Seems AISJ shares an address with ACORN, a phone system, and may even be in the same suite. Giving the process server the benefit of the doubt, this sounds fairly confusing. Still, the bottom line is that the subpoena didn't go to ACORN's national office, insisted Schwartz.

"Yesterday, a process server left a copy of a subpoena in the [Melendres] case," wrote Schwartz in a letter to one of Arpaio's attorneys, "with an employee of the American Institute for Social Justice in Washington, D.C. ACORN has a satellite office in Washington,but it is an Arkansas Corporation, with its principal offices in New Orleans, Louisiana."

Schwartz stated, "We are not looking to contest service if we can find out what it is exactly that you are looking for." Schwartz recounts some of the "fact-based allegations" in the Melendres case, and then lays down the law.

"If your request is for any documents which might address specific incidents similar to those alleged in the complaint, we will search our records," Schwartz advised Arpaio's attorneys. "If you are looking for something broader, we will move to quash [the subpoena]."

I spoke again with Monica Sandschafer, head organizer for ACORN in Arizona, and she said that despite Joe's latest media statement, the local offices of ACORN have not been served. I asked if Arizona ACORN might have been served without her knowing about it, and she said she didn't think so.

"I've talked to all of my staff, and no one signed for it," said Sandschafer, who noted that the newest MCSO release doesn't mention a local name for someone accepting service. She also noted that serving ACORN locally made no sense.

"That's like serving one Carl's Jr. location, instead of serving the corporate headquarters for Carl's Jr.," she observed. "Our corporate headquarters are in New Orleans. You can find that out with a Google search."

Schwartz informed me that ACORN's "records custodian" is in New Orleans, not D.C., because ACORN's HQ is in the Big Easy. Apparently, there's one thing that ain't easy for the MCSO and Joe's legal lapdogs -- serving subpoenas. But those of us here in Maricopa County already knew that: The sheriff's department has an estimated 40,000 unserved felony warrants.

"If they are seeking information from ACORN about incidents that ACORN knows about where he or his office violated someone's rights, we will cooperate," ACORN attorney Schwartz reiterated to me. "Discovery in a lawsuit isn't a way to wage a political or p.r. fight , it is supposed to be a way to get information relevant to the allegations in a lawsuit."

Yeah, but what Scwhartz may not be aware of is that when it comes to Joe, it's all about the PR fight, the media stunts, the ego-stroking. Everything else is just pish-posh to our megalomaniacal sheriff.

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Stephen is a former staff writer and columnist at Phoenix New Times.
Contact: Stephen Lemons