Stephen Lemons Column

Arpaio Sought Assistance From Former AG Tom Horne's Office in Dealing With Confidential Informant

Ever wonder why Sheriff Joe Arpaio endorsed ethically-challenged former Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne during the 2014 GOP primary?

Four years earlier, Arpaio had backed now-disbarred former County Attorney Andy Thomas over Horne in the 2010 Republican primary for AG, with the sheriff's spending some of own campaign kitty to run ads labeling Horne as pro-amnesty.

But after Horne won in a squeaker, Arpaio dropped Thomas like a sack of hot rocks, supporting Horne in the general.

Arpaio likes to have a prosecutor in his pocket, if he can. And when Horne eked out a win in 2010, Uncle Tom took up residence alongside Arpaio's spare change, toenail clippers, and executive washroom key.

When Horne, weighed down by his own corrupt practices — like hiring his mistress as an assistant AG and running his re-election campaign out of his public office — faced erstwhile state gaming director Mark Brnovich in the 2014 GOP primary, Arpaio stuck with his tried-and-true flunky, whom Brnovich trounced, leaving Arpaio prosecutor-less.

Brnovich so far has steered clear of the sheriff, who despite remaining popular with wingnuts, is on the downward path to perdition, as evidenced by recent contempt proceedings before federal Judge G. Murray Snow in the ACLU's big racial profiling case, Melendres v. Arpaio.

See also: -Judge Snow Rips the Lid Off an MCSO Riddled With Corruption

Both Arpaio and his Chief Deputy Jerry Sheridan have admitted to civil contempt of Judge Snow's 2011 order, enjoining them and their army of beige-shirted gendarmes from enforcing civil federal immigration law, which the MCSO had been using to round up Hispanics.

However, Sheridan and Arpaio insist that they did not disobey Snow willfully, which is the bar for criminal contempt.

Their actions speak otherwise: like using a private detective, hired through their attorneys, to investigate Judge Snow's wife, supposedly for making an offhand comment at an East Valley restaurant to the effect that the judge despised Joe and wanted to cook his proverbial gander.

Sounds more like something out of the former East Berlin than the East Valley, but such Stasi-like moves are par for the course for Comrade Arpaio.

What about Arpaio's other madcap caper: employing Seattle computer guy Dennis Montgomery, dubbed "The Man Who Conned the Pentagon" by a January 2010 Playboy exposé, to probe a paranoid conspiracy theory involving Snow, the CIA, the U.S. Department of Justice, illegal wiretaps, and the bank records of 50,000 Maricopa County residents?

On the stand, Sheridan and Arpaio copped to spending untold amounts of RICO funds to hire Montgomery as a confidential informant, purchase computer equipment for him, and send three Arpaio lackeys — Cold Case Posse "commander" Mike Zullo and MCSO deputies Brian Mackiewicz and Travis Anglin — to watch over Montgomery at taxpayer expense.

Sources suggest that Montgomery was at one time paid as much as $10,000 per month by the MCSO and that $50,000 in computer equipment was purchased at a store in Seattle, apparently using a county credit card.

Under oath, Sheridan claimed this equipment never was delivered.

The final price tag for the Seattle investigation could be as much as $500,000 to $1 million in public money, sources say.

According to Sheridan, the MCSO believed Montgomery "had information that the CIA hacked into [50,000] individual bank accounts," and that the DOJ "was wiretapping our phones, going into the e-mail accounts of our counsel," and somehow infiltrating the e-mails of judges, including Snow's.

In reality, sources tell me the dubious probe was a way to dog Snow and tie him into some nonexistent plot with the DOJ, to compromise him, dig up dirt on him, just as the investigation into Snow's spouse was meant to do.

"We went to the Arizona Attorney General's Office with [Montgomery's] information," Sheridan averred in his testimony.

This rings true, because when I first looked into the Montgomery affair more than a year ago, I heard that Montgomery actually had gone into the AG's Office under Horne for a meeting and had been given a "free talk" letter by the agency, a free talk being a conversation with a prosecutor, wherein the prosecutor is limited in how that information can be used.

At the time, I had asked for a copy of this letter from Horne's press person, who replied that there were "no records responsive" to my request.

This is flack-ese for, "We have what you want, but you can go pound sand."

The Brnovich administration at least has been more direct in its denial.

Don Conrad, current chief of the AG's criminal division, informed me in a letter that the info related to my request was "confidential."

Brnovich's top flack, Ryan Anderson, confirmed that there was a meeting on December 11, 2013, at the AG's Office, while Horne still was in command..

Present were Montgomery, an assistant AG, and Sheriff's Office representatives.

"We have no idea what the sheriff got out of it," Anderson told me.

What's Montgomery up to now?

Well, according to a lawsuit filed by Montgomery against New York Times reporter James Risen, author of Pay Any Price: Greed, Power and Endless War, Montgomery currently lives in Miami and has secured the services of Arpaio's pal, lawyer Larry Klayman, to sue Risen.

In his book, Risen devotes a couple of chapters to regurgitating much of the same material addressed by writer Aram Roston in his Playboy piece, to the effect that Montgomery, while working for the Nevada company eTreppid in the early 2000s, convinced the Pentagon that he had developed software that could decode secret messages from Al Qaeda embedded in Al Jazeera broadcasts.

Read Dennis Montgomery's claim against NYT reporter James Risen and Risen's publisher, filed by Montgomery's attorney Larry Klayman.

Risen labels the situation an "elaborate hoax," which persuaded the administration of George W. Bush to "ground a series of international commercial flights" in 2003 and had the Bushies at least discussing the possibility of "shooting down commercial airlines over the Atlantic."

As with the Roston article, Risen contends the Pentagon eventually got wise to Montgomery, but not before doling out millions.

Montgomery's lawsuit, which is seeking more than $470 million in compensatory and punitive damages from Risen and Risen's publisher, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, insists that Montgomery's software was legit and that any claims to the contrary are defamatory.

In fact, Montgomery asserts that Risen and his publisher have been "used as tools by the CIA, NSA, and other government agencies and their affiliates to maliciously destroy plaintiff Montgomery because he came forward as a whistle blower."

The exhibits for Montgomery's amended complaint include a recent article about Arpaio's woes with Judge Snow and letters from Seattle doctors stating that Montgomery underwent aneurysm surgery on May 16, 2014, complicated by multiple strokes that left him with impaired vision and weakness on one side of his body.

These letters state that Montgomery was in rehab until late June 2014 and so was not able to "testify out of state."

His medical condition is cited in minute entries to a still-open superior court criminal case in Clark County, Nevada, where Montgomery was charged with multiple felony allegations from 2008 of allegedly passing bad checks.

The trial in that case has been continued indefinitely because of Montgomery's ailing condition.

Was Montgomery getting paid by the MCSO after his strokes?

According to my sources, he was paid as a confidential informant by the MCSO till at least December 2014, but the MCSO continues to refuse my records requests on this subject, supposedly because the investigation remains open.

This, though Arpaio agreed under oath with Snow's statement that Montgomery was giving the MCSO "junk."

I contacted Montgomery's lawyer, Klayman, who has worked with Arpaio on lawsuits related to President Obama's birth certificate and currently represents Arpaio in a suit contesting Obama's executive orders on immigration.

But Klayman, who unsuccessfully sued New Times for defamation in the recent past, refused to comment, claiming our publication is "not reputable or honest."

You know, as opposed to the sheriff.

E-mail [email protected].

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