Feathered Bastard

Arpaio's End Game: Judge Snow Sets the Sheriff's Contempt Hearing for April, but Joe Has Some Tricks Up His Sleeve

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As you know, Arpaio and his office were found guilty of widespread racial profiling in 2013 and are under the judge's order and the watchful eye of Snow's appointed monitor, Robert Warshaw.

Arpaio and some of his henchmen face civil, and possibly criminal, contempt charges for a persistent pattern of thumbing their noses at the court's dictates. Snow has scheduled a hearing for April 21 to 25 to explore civil contempt violations.

At a dramatic December hearing, where Arpaio and his criminal attorney, Mel McDonald, appeared before Snow, the judge said criminal sanctions were "a very real possibility" if he cannot find a civil remedy and is forced to enlist the U.S. Attorney's Office to prosecute the case.

In the face of the upcoming hearing in April, what's a sheriff to do?

Pull out a page from his old playbook, evidently.

Because Melendres has been going on since 2007, only serious students of the case will recall an issue regarding Snow's brother-in-law, attorney Keith Teel, who is a partner at the Washington, D.C. branch of Covington & Burling, which took over representing the plaintiffs from the firm Steptoe & Johnson in 2010.

When his brother-in-law's firm entered the case, Snow has said that he considered whether this connection presented a conflict of interest.

Snow decided that since Teel doesn't work on Melendres or derive any real benefit from it, no recusal was required.

In 2012, the plaintiffs raised the issue of Teel, so Snow held a status conference, where he noted that "all parties argued that recusal in this matter was neither mandated nor appropriate."

Indeed, Arpaio was quoted in the Arizona Republic as stating that he had no problem with Snow as judge.

"I'm confident in this judge and the judicial system, and I'm not asking for the judge to be removed from this case," Arpaio said.

What's changed? Well, Arpaio long since has lost the case and is staring down the double barrel of possible civil and criminal charges.

A third source has told me that Snow's wife allegedly said some things about her husband's despising Arpaio, thus prompting the investigation.

How Arpaio would know this is not yet known.

I asked the MCSO whether it was investigating Judge Snow or his wife.

An MCSO spokesman issued a seemingly categorical denial.

"We are not and have not investigated any member of the Snow family," MCSO Lieutenant Brandon Jones told me.

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