It's every man for himself at Sheriff Joe Arpaio's version of the Andrea Gail, where the perfect storm of his contempt trial threatens to take down lieutenants and chief deputies alike.
Civil defense costs for Arpaio and his four co-defendants are getting picked up by the taxpayers of Maricopa County, naturally.
But these current and former MCSO bigwigs are on their own when it comes to criminal defense attorneys, who may be needed should federal Judge G. Murray Snow decide to refer the civil case for possible prosecution of criminal contempt.
Arpaio and Chief Deputy Jerry Sheridan have admitted to civil contempt of Snow's orders. Their three co-defendants have not. Though it's likely that just Arpaio and Sheridan will face criminal contempt allegations, the others still have to worry about the possibility.
Arpaio's criminal attorney, Mel McDonald, who belongs to the same law firm as Arpaio's civil lawyers, will not say how he's getting paid for services rendered.
Still, the sheriff has appealed to the public via fundraising e-mails for donations to his legal defense fund.
But Arpaio does not share the wealth, according to the GoFundMe account for MCSO Lieutenant Joe Sousa, former commander of Arpaio's notorious Human Smuggling Unit.
The recently created account notes that Sousa is an 18 1/2-year veteran of the Sheriff's Office, and it takes Arpaio and Sheridan to task for not helping those a little lower down on the law enforcement food chain.
The page offers the following explanation:
Initially, Joe was told by the Chief Deputy, "we are all in this together", and that the Sheriff's Legal Defense Fund would cover his attorney fees, which began incurring the early part of 2015. However, two months ago, Joe's attorney was notified that his fees would no longer be covered by the Legal Fund. Upon speaking with the Chief Deputy for reconsideration of that decision, Joe was told that there was barely enough money in the Fund to pay for "me and the Sheriff".I asked Sousa about the account after court on Thursday, telling him that I planned to write about his GoFundMe page. He said thanks but would only reply "no comment" to repeated questions.
Due to this extraordinary circumstance of having to pay his own legal fees for following the direction of the Sheriff's Office in furtherance of his duties, Joe is attempting to raise $20,000.00 to cover his current and future legal expenses.
I have not yet had a chance to ask Arpaio or Sheridan about the account's claims.
Interestingly, Judge Snow has suggested cutting Sousa loose from the trial, but the parties have yet to stipulate to this, and Sousa remains under the gun for now.
If the situation is portrayed accurately by the fundraising effort, it appears unfair.
However, there were times when Sousa gave press conferences claiming the MCSO doesn't use racial profiling. He also was vocal in telling public officials and community leaders critical of Arpaio's sweeps in Latino neighborhoods to "shut up."
In the days before the HSU was disbanded, the MCSO's immigrant-hunting "suppression" sweeps spread fear throughout metro Phoenix, sometimes literally separating children from their mothers and otherwise ripping families apart.
Even Latinos whose families have lived in this state for generations had to be concerned about harassment from the MCSO.
Does Sousa now feel sympathy for the people his men terrorized in the days before the federal court intervened, declared the MCSO guilty of racial profiling, and put an end to the HSU's activities?
He hasn't said so.
For live Tweets during breaks in the contempt hearings, follow @StephenLemons or search #ArpaioContempt on Twitter.