Arpaio and Hendershott Order Troops to Seize County Computers Containing Data That a Judge Ruled Arpaio Couldn't Have

The county feud took what is perhaps its ugliest turn yesterday as deputies with the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office seized county computers with data a court already ruled the sheriff couldn't access.

UPDATE: We just found out (2:35 p.m.) that the computers seized by the sheriff's office don't provide access to those e-mails. Back to original post:

County Manager David Smith called Sheriff Joe Arpaio a "thug" in an Arizona Republic article this morning about the raid, which took place Wednesday morning in a county building at 6th Avenue and Madison Street.

The raid, as described by Republic reporter Michael Kiefer, appears to have fallen well outside standard legal practices:

In April, the Sheriff's Office filed a lawsuit demanding control of the system, and the suit is working its way through court.

Nonetheless, Wednesday morning, deputies took control of the computers, housed at Sixth Avenue and Madison Street, and told the staff to leave under threat of arrest. Then, according to Wade Swanson, an attorney for the supervisors, sheriff's personnel began changing passwords and locked down the computer rooms.

No search warrant, even. It sounds like something straight out of the Ayatollah's playbook.

Kiefer's article states that the database seized by the sheriff contains the very same e-mails sought by Hendershott that the Arizona Court of Appeals ruled unanimously that Arpaio's office could not have.

If we were one of the appellate court judges with the jackboot prints on our faces -- boy, would we be pissed. (Again, we later found out from the head of the county ICJIS computer department that the sheriff's office can't access those e-mails with those computers).

County management has asked a Superior Court for a restraining order; the hearing on that should happen is set to occur at 1:30 p.m. today in the courtroom of Judge Joseph Heilman.

But it's probably already too late.

Chief Deputy Dave Hendershott's son, the hardest working computer forensic technician at the sheriff's office, has probably already copied the memory banks.

The county has already created its own civil litigation department. Maybe it needs its own army, too.

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Ray Stern has worked as a newspaper reporter in Arizona for more than two decades. He's won numerous awards for his reporting, including the Arizona Press Club's Don Bolles Award for Investigative Journalism.