In my line of work, it doesn't get much better than a federal judge's handing your column to a public official, and getting the accused pol to confirm the column's facts, one by one, under oath.
This is what happened on day three of Sheriff Joe Arpaio's civil contempt trial, when, at the conclusion of Arpaio's testimony, U.S. District Court Judge G. Murray Snow told Arpaio he wanted to ask him a few questions, based on one of my columns from last year.
The result? Admissions by Arpaio that he had been using a confidential informant in Seattle, Dennis Montgomery, and paying him from RICO and confidential-informant funds to do an investigation of a vaguely defined conspiracy theory involving the U.S. Department of Justice and various judges, including Snow himself.
Arpaio also copped to having his "counsel" investigate Judge Snow's wife, hiring a private detective to look into a statement that the judge's spouse allegedly made at a restaurant, to the effect that Judge Snow wanted to "make sure" Arpaio's not re-elected.
Though these were shocking revelations to many in the courtroom Thursday, they may sound familiar to you, if you're a regular reader.
The first article I wrote on the subject wasin June of 2014, when I detailed the Dennis Montgomery investigation, on which Arpaio has spent at least $100,000, and probably much more, in public funds.
See also: -Joe Arpaio's Investigating Federal Judge G. Murray Snow, DOJ, Sources Say, and Using a Seattle Scammer To Do It -Arpaio's End Game: Judge Snow Sets the Sheriff's Contempt Hearing for April, but Joe Has Some Tricks Up His Sleeve
The MCSO has paid for $50,000 in computer equipment for Montgomery, a generous stipend that sometimes was as much as $10,000 a month, and travel expenses to and from Seattle for two MCSO personnel and for Cold Case Posse honcho Mike Zullo, best known for his involvement in the investigation of President Barack Obama's birth certificate.
I've asked Arpaio about the investigation in the past, and he's never denied it.
Currently, I have a number of nearly year-old public records requests that have been denied because they regard what the MCSO calls "an ongoing investigation."
But on Thursday, under gentle but firm prodding by Snow, who had Arpaio under oath following a grilling by plaintiffs in the ACLU's big civil rights case, Melendres v. Arpaio, the sheriff told all, validating my June 2014 column.
Snow wondered if Arpaio had read the article, and Joe said he may have. The judge handed Arpaio a copy to review.
Arpaio then confirmed, by name, that Montgomery was a paid, confidential informant for the MCSO.
Montgomery has an unusual history, to say the least.
In 2010, he was the focus of a fascinating Playboy expose titled "The Man Who Conned the Pentagon," which details how he sold the U.S. Government on a purportedly bogus computer program that he claimed could decipher hidden messages to terrorists embedded in broadcasts of the Al Jazeera Media Network.
The article's author, Aram Roston, reported that millions were shelled out by various government agencies for the software, but Roston claims the Pentagon got taken and the software didn't work.
What was Montgomery doing for Arpaio? Well, Arpaio told Judge Snow that Montgomery had been "investigating the DOJ."
The investigation had something to do "with computer tampering" and "bank fraud."
Was Arpaio investigating him, Snow asked?
"There was info about many judges being infiltrated," Arpaio told Snow, his voice unusually soft.
Montgomery had told the MCSO that judges' phones were being "tapped" by the DOJ, and that the e-mails of local attorneys, judges, and others were being "penetrated."
"You were one of the judges," Arpaio told him.
The sheriff said a local law firm working on the DOJ lawsuit, MCSO Chief Deputy Jerry Sheridan, and the sheriff himself also were targets of this activity, or so Montgomery told him.
Arpaio confirmed that MCSO Sergeant Travis Anglin and Detective Brian Mackiewicz had, like Zullo, traveled to the Washington State area to assist with whatever Montgomery was doing for the MCSO.
The sheriff said it was "possible" that computers were purchased for Montgomery.
Arpaio seemed unclear as to the funding, stating, "I don't know if it was RICO funds or other funds."
He also had no idea of the total cost.
My information is that Montgomery was assigned Confidential Informant number 1437 by the MCSO and paid for by CI funds, which can be tracked only by that number within the agency, save for the few with access to the CI's identity.
Zullo had a vendor number with MCSO, P6980. In January 2014, both Chief Deputy Jerry Sheridan and former Deputy Chief Scott Freeman approved funding for Zullo's air travel to and from Seattle, and more than a month of traveling expenses, including a $71 per diem.
Someone sold Arpaio on the idea that Montgomery could gain access to e-mails related to the DOJ lawsuit against Arpaio, e-mails from those involved in the Melendres case, and perhaps from Judge Snow himself.
That was the pitch, allegedly. But sources tell me Detective Mackiewicz briefed Arpaio around three weeks ago, telling Arpaio that the outcome of the Montgomery investigation was "bullshit."
Snow asked Arpaio about the result of the Montgomery investigation being "junk."
Arpaio agreed with that assessment but said the investigation was still ongoing.
"It's almost finished," he offered, meekly.
In January, I wrote about a possible MCSO investigation into Snow's wife, because "Snow's wife allegedly said some things about her husband's despising Arpaio, thus prompting the investigation."
An MCSO spokesman categorically denied the allegation. My information was that the Maricopa County Attorney's Office somehow was involved.
Questioned about this, County Attorney's spokesman Jerry Cobb told me that his office could not "confirm, deny, or comment on possible investigations by our office or any other agency."
Cobb essentially repeated this response when I asked again on Thursday.
"We don't confirm or comment on investigations, particularly in instances when nothing has been presented to us to review," Cobb e-mailed when I queried him.
When Snow asked Arpaio on the stand about any investigations into members of Snow's family, Arpaio admitted there had been an investigation into Snow's wife, concerning comments she allegedly made at a restaurant.
What did she supposedly say?
"I think it was that Judge Snow wanted to do everything to make sure I'm not [re-elected]," Arpaio stated.
The sheriff said his "counsel" had hired a private detective, who confirmed the story.
"I believe it would be Casey," Arpaio stated, meaning Phoenix attorney Tim Casey, who removed himself from Melendres in November.
Asked about Arpaio's statements, Casey's ethics attorney, Karen Clark, issued the following statement from Casey:
Mr. Casey represented Sheriff Joe Arpaio and the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office for many years. Sheriff Arpaio and MCSO are his former clients. Because of this, Mr. Casey has continuing ethical obligations to Sheriff Arpaio and MCSO. Those obligations mean that his ability to respond to what happened in court today is limited.
Mr. Casey is confident that when the evidence the Court's monitor is gathering is reviewed, it will reveal that Mr. Casey was never involved in an investigation of Judge Snow or his family.
MCAO attorney Tom Liddy removed himself from Arpaio's defense on Tuesday, citing an unnamed ethical conflict.
I asked Liddy Thursday if he knew about any such investigation into Snow's wife. He would neither confirm nor deny knowing of it.
Arpaio's criminal attorney, Mel McDonald, promised reporters that all would be revealed once Arpaio's chief deputy Jerry Sheridan testified today.
Nothing against Mr. McDonald, a former U.S. Attorney, but I highly doubt that.
When I called former U.S. Attorney Paul Charlton for his assessment, he said he believed federal laws may have been broken concerning the intimidation of a sitting district court judge and possible obstruction of justice.
Nor was Charlton, an Arpaio critic, a bit surprised by the developments. He noted that Arpaio "has a history" of intimidating critics and opponents, including sitting judges.
Though this is Arpaio's first federal judge. (Um, that I know of.)
Charlton said the FBI should investigate, and it should. But the FBI has investigated Arpaio in the past, and the U.S. Attorney's office punked out on prosecuting the sheriff.
Hopefully, the U.S. Attorney's Office will see things differently this time around.
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